I live in a four-iPhone family, with a fifth on the way, that is ruled by a consistent theme: everyone is always losing and destroying their earbuds.
Well, all except for me. I don’t lose or destroy mine, I just give them to someone who has and replace them with inexpensive SkullCandy earbuds that I buy two or three at a time to have a reserve for when a family member comes to me with a tales of loss or destruction.
This experience leads me to be beyond sceptical of Apple’s new EarPod design for the iPhone 7, with its elimination of the traditional headphone jack and connector, and the new Bluetooth AirPods, which have already been widely ridiculed for getting lost before they have even shipped.
We already know that the Apple Lightning charger design is awful. We’re lucky to get a few months out of the Apple units, before the cords fail. Over the past few years, I think we’ve spent at least an new iPhone on dozens of charger replacements. And that’s after we squeeze a few extra weeks out by using electrical tape to make a temporary repair.
So with the iPhone 7, I’m looking forward to not just constant charger replacements, but EarPod replacements as well — EarPods destroyed and useless for a new but not unfamiliar reason. I’m also wondering what will happen with the charge port as it goes from accepting a charger a few times a day to having EarPods incessantly plugged in and unplugged.
The pain of EarPod replacement isn’t that bad — they only cost about $30. The pain of AirPod replacement is going to be far worse, even if a single lost AirPod can be replaced for less than the $159 sticker price.
What are earbuds for?
And about that sticker price. I understand, thanks to Jonny Ive’s video presentation on the Apple website, that AirPods are meant to be what I’ll call a “nodal” device: another link the the chain of Apple devices being used — iPhone, Apple Watch, AirPods, all operating in wireless unity.
But despite the fact that you can tap your AirPods to trigger Siri, all “Star Trek” style (And who wouldn’t want to be seen doing that in public?), it seems to me that most folks use their EarPods to perform two main tasks: make calls; and listen to music.
I’ve always thought the call quality on iPhones is mediocre, headphones or not, so let’s not worry about that.
But the sound-quality thing is an issue, and I always figured it was one of the reasons Apple bought Beats — to capture revenue from those customers who aren’t satisfied with Apple EarPods. However, the new AirPods, given their price, ought to improve Apple’s own reputation on this front.
Obviously, nobody has yet given the AirPods a thorough listen. So perhaps we should give Ive the benefit of the doubt when he declares that they sounds splendid. For the price, they really should sound pretty good.
But I doubt it, mainly because I’ve been shopping for a pair of new earbuds in that price range, and I wouldn’t touch Bluetooth with a ten-foot iPhone 7 traditional headphone jack dongle adaptor. And I don’t have to. I have no intention of buying an iPhone 7 or Bluetooth anything on the earbuds score. I’m probably going to upgrade my old iPhone 5 to a 6 and get a pair of Grado iGe earbuds.
Other members of my iPhone clan are likely to advocate for different setups, entailing Apple products. I can already see the grief looming. And I’m really not happy about it.
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