Monoprice now sells the cheapest Apple-certified Lightning connectors for newer iPhones and iPads, at $12 for three feet. The review from iLounge is in: “a sturdy cord that does precisely what it’s supposed to do.”. This is what Monoprice does: they make the most reasonable tech accessories for those who know how to find them.
One of Monoprice’s claims to fame is their 6-foot HDMI cable, which comes with a lifetime guarantee and costs $3.50, or just $3 if you buy, say, 50 of them. The kinds of cables you find at electronics stores, right next to the TV you just bought, go for much, much more: $82 for 4 feet, as Monster prices one Ultimate High Speed model. But as science (and some hilarious faux-reviewers) will tell you, digital cables that meet the HDMI standard basically work or don’t work.
Monoprice is often in the position of offering a sanely priced, tested, and guaranteed alternative to proprietary or overpriced goods. When Apple made the move to Mini Display Ports on their laptops, us poor schmucks who still had to hook up our computers to projectors and non-Apple monitors needed Mini-to-VGA and Mini-to-DVI adapters. Apple charges $30. Monoprice charges $13.43. The same goes for Nintendo adapters, Android accessories, and other facets of gadget inter-connection.
But lots of outlets offer cheap cables, so what makes Monoprice so special? For one thing, they test and report serious specifications for most of their gear, because they know what they sell, and they know the competition at their price point has some uncertain offerings. For another, they are remarkably invisible. They are not, like NewEgg, seeking to expand their brand awareness and possibly going public. They are very quietly cornering a very smart part of the market.
The only thing third-party writing I could find on the web about Monoprice’s founding, culture, or background is a micro-profile in Inc. about the founders, for a feature on the “Top 10 Asian-Run Companies.” The founding story sounds about right: two tech industry insiders, Jong Lee and Seok Hong, turn a very efficient $6,000 and a Los Angeles apartment into an entirely 99-cent eBay reselling operation in 2002 (hence the name “Monoprice”) . A November 2012 press release cites 81 percent traffic growth and 141 percent revenue growth over the three previous years, and total revenue of $93 million in 2011. There’s more about their recent expansion and future marketing plans, but Monoprice remains, as their own PR puts it, an “in-the-know” phenomenon.
Then again, Monoprice has hit the market recently with a well-liked iPad mini standing case, which goes for $12.28. They locked down The Wirecutter’s recommendation for best cheap headphones. And, like NewEgg, their word-of-mouth fame will likely make them a known entity to more of the buying public soon enough. For those who like to buy things for prices that make sense, it’s hard to see the downside of this.
Read more of Kevin Purdy's Mobilize! blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevinpurdy. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.