How to spot fake batteries

Fake batteries are not good, here's how to avoid them

They are flooding all the markets around the world. And they can destroy not only your equipment, but also your irreplaceable photographs and data.

Just how do you tell the difference between real rechargeable batteries, and a fake ones that will last just one or two charges?

My Experience of fake batteries and Memory cards

I first became aware of the growing problem of fake electronics, batteries and memory cards in West Africa. I bought a few dodgy cable extensions for nearly nothing. They worked, sometimes. A few loose wires, but nothing a screwdriver couldn't fix.

Then my rechargeable batteries went. I bought new ones from a local market. They were cheap and lasted a week.

Then came the USB Flash memory cards. 4 GB on the cheap, they worked for two weeks. Then "Card format errors" or "unrecognized device" messages would pop up.

I went to more expensive stores, the memory cards were a little better, they'd last 6 months now. The batteries about the same; Energizer, Sony, GP, you name it they were all utter rubbish and untrustworthy. Everyone knew they were fake, but there was no choice. The only thing you could do was pick the best of the fake. And hope. Then I met a man ...

The truth behind fake batteries

He was the owner of a computer store. After annoying him for nearly 2 years he finally caved in and told me some truths. The memory cards came from Asia. Some were total fakes, easy to tell. Bad packaging etc.

The others were genuine products; from reputable manufacturers. They were more expensive, because they were real - but, they didn't pass the quality control tests for Europe or the U.S.A. So they were sold out on the cheap to a market that didn't have Quality control tests.

Now after traveling for quite some time. I see them everywhere.

Worst countries for fake batteries and memory cards

Here's my list from where I have been so far that you need to watch out for- West Africa, Iran, India, Nepal, Philippines. There are others, but these were the worst. Where it's downright hard to get something that's not fake. Or rather it's downright hard to get the real thing. But, on my way through Spain, London, and Turkey, I spotted them in some of the more 'back street' markets as well. SEA is full of them too. Rather strangely China, and Pakistan were quite good for getting originals!

Why are fake batteries bad?

(1) If they leak (which they will), they can destroy your equipment
(2) They don't last long
(3) They lose the ability to hold a charge after a few weeks of usage
(4) There have been cases of exploding fake batteries
(5) You end up spending more money of buying extra fakes than a good set

How to spot fake AA/AAA rechargeable batteries

Its all about the packaging! Kind of. If the packaging is color faded, and or blurred, run a mile. The problem starts when you start to see names like Sony, or Eve ready. With these well known brands one is easily tempted to part ways with cash and expect good battery life span. Nope.

Sanyo, Sony, Energizer are all counterfeited to the point where it's hard to get the real thing. Packaging can reveal the worst fakes.
Some tips on what to look out for:
(1) Faded colors
(2) Loose plastic covers
(3) Misspellings
(4) Badly constructed packaging (cheap card etc)
(5) Crazy claims

Most rechargeable AA batteries in Europe and U.S.A. are a maximum of 2700 mAh Meaning their strength. Fakes often make claims to be 3800 or 4000. Avoid these ones at all costs. They won't last a week.

I've also fallen prey to good "brand" name products that don't last long either. Energizer and Sanyo being the worst offenders. Often times the product does not last more than 3 months before they lose the ability to hold a charge for more than a day. When purchased in Europe they lasted a year plus. I can only put this down to extremely good fakes, or, supplies of non Quality Control tested products that have 'leaked' onto the market.

Personally I would stock up on rechargeable batteries in Europe or the USA or Australia before heading out for long term travel. If you can't, take the above into consideration. Otherwise use a brand you have personal experience with.

Fake Regular Non rechargeable Batteries
I have found a difference here. Regular AA/AAA batteries that are brand named. Seem to work quite well. But again, check the packaging for signs of tampering, quality and age.
Other non branded batteries have been very very poor in quality. And are not able to power something like a camera. I found that the lighter the battery, the poorer the quality.

How to spot fake camera and cell phone batteries

It's much the same problem. My phone's battery lost it's charge after a few years. I bought a cheap fake battery It worked incredibly well for 3 months. Then the charge would not last a day or so.

I went looking for the real battery. Again the fake packaging with brand name logos was immense. I opted for a legit store. The battery was expensive, and also did not last as long as the original. I would have been better buying 2 fakes at 1/4 the price.

Strangely after buying a fake phone that came with two batteries, they lasted months without a problem.

Tips I use for batteries while traveling
(1) Use a good re charger - with a discharge option if possible
(2) Let a battery completely discharge before recharging
(3) Recharge only in constant non fluctuating power - or use a stabilizer
(4) Don't stop and start recharging, recharge then for the recommended time
(5) Don't mix your batteries up when charging. In other words charge the 2500 mAh together, not with your 1000 mAh

Does charging under bad electrical conditions effect batteries?

In countries where the electrical output fluctuates, or is lower than the recommended charging rate, will effect batteries? From my own experience in places like Africa and Parts of South East Asia the answer is yes. I have seen my AA and cell phone batteries depreciate faster in countries where the voltage fluctuates. Worse still they don't seem to recover when charged under perfect conditions again.

You can read about buying fake memory cards phones, and movies here

Or have a look at my travel gadget list or my travel packing list here.

Please note the above is based on my own personal experience. I don't endorse nor recommend any products nor procedures. If you find this information helpful, then that's a good thing.