By the Deskthority definition of a clone switch, Alps clone refers to a keyboard switch, not made by Alps Electric, that is interchangeable with Alps SKCL/SKCM series and SKBL/SKBM series switches. Such switches must match Alps's switches as follows:
- Pin layout — switch can be soldered onto an Alps PCB
- Dimensions of housing — switch should snap into an Alps mounting plate and switch should accept the same distance between the PCB and plate
- Alps mount slider — switch should take keycaps from Alps switches
Because many switches are superficially similar to Alps SKCL/SKCM and SKBL/SKBM series switches, and because earlier SKCL/SKCM switches were not visibly branded (the branding was only on the bottom, which faces the PCB), it became common to mistake a wide variety of switches for being "Alps" switches, including Alps clones and the Acer switch.
Alps switches have a very recognisable design, that has rarely been copied, that allows them to be fairly positively identified even when not branded.
Four small tabs:
a four-tab clone
Switches that are merely keycap-compatible with Alps are in simply classified as keyboard switches with Alps mount.
Alps clone switches are internally very different to SKCL/SKCM series. Alps SKCL/SKCM as well as SKCC series use a self-contained contact assembly, a "switchplate". While similar constructions exist in products from other prominent brands such as Omron, Mitsumi and Hosiden, Alps clone switches and other switches derived from Alps, SMK and Omron types typically use simple switch contacts that are secured by grooves in the shell.