Apple’s AirPod Mistake

AirpodsYesterday Apple introduced AirPods. What a mistake.

While I appreciate the uniqueness of these headphones, I predict that in a year or two, they’ll have gone the way of the gold Apple Watch Edition.

You know how you’re walking or running and one of your earbuds falls out? You grab the cord, reel it in, and put it back in your ear. And then you go on walking or running. With AirPods, one of them will fall out, and you’ll watch as someone steps on it, or as it falls down a subway grating.

I can also see that, as you get on a bus or subway, someone grabs at one of your AirPods to snatch it, and you’re listening only to one channel of music for the rest of the day.

It is admirable, nay, courageous, to introduce a product this unique. But it simply won’t work. There is an advantage to having a wire between the two ends.

A lot of people are criticizing the 5-hour battery life. That’s not really a problem, since the case contains a battery, and brings to total battery life to 24 hours. I have a Bluetooth headset (one ear only, for calls) that works like that; its case has a battery, giving it several days of battery life. It’s a good idea.

No, the real problem is the fact that they’ll be so easy to lose. I can’t understand why Apple would release a product like this. Unless it’s just because they can.

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32 thoughts on “Apple’s AirPod Mistake

  1. I agree, Kirk, there are so many uses for that head-out jack not serviced by bluetooth. However, the headphone jack is the waterproof killer — a nice 8th inch hole into the inside of the unit. What they should have done is develop a waterproof headphone jack, and left it there for all those other uses.

    • I suspect there is a way to do so, but they obviously didn’t want to. This said, think of the licensing fees they could get if they patented something like that.

  2. There are ways to waterproof 1/8 sockets. Among other things this is in part of way of liberating some space inside the phone. It may seem like little space but it’s worth a lot in terms of extra battery.

    I think it’s a huge mistake. It’s a mistake for, at least. I’m not likely to buy an iPhone in the future to replace my 6+. Of course, if the rest of the industry follows suit, then I’m screwed.

  3. I’m hearing impaired and must use a headset (not a specialized one, just a good Plantronics) to talk on the phone. If I listen to music, I pretty much need to use headphones or upset the neighborhood. I long ago discovered the beauty of Bluetooth audio… or at least the magical idea that everyone believes it can be. For instance, once you use wireless headphones, you’re be more agitated at headphone cords than you can possibly imagine. However the audio QUALITY and volume -has- left a lot to be desired. But out of all my usage, over 10 years!, one thing has been consistent: Bluetooth A2DP Audio has been TERRIBLE on Apple devices. If I take the -exact same- headset or headphone to another device (certain Android, or older Sony phones), with ANCIENT A2DP specs and Bluetooth 2.1, they work fine. (To be fair, there have been “bad” Android versions too.) But universally Bluetooth Audio on all my Apple devices has sucked. My wireless headphones STILL don’t work on my 2009 MacBook Pro. Audio cuts out and OS X does bizarre things with the Audio channel in Messages. I’ve filed bugs… they never get fixed. Take the same headphones to my iPad with iOS 9.3.3, work great, no audio drop out. But that was NOT the case with iOS 8.1 on the same iPad! Apple is just all over the map with Bluetooth audio. I went through three or four Jawbone headsets with iPhones over the years, without a doubt the iPhone 3GS was the last, best, most consistent device. Even to this day, when people complain about “robot voice”, if I unpair a headset and pair it with my 3GS, slap in the SIM, and call, problem gone. It is SO BAD that quality problems will CONSISTENTLY crop up on PHONE calls, but then will not with FaceTime Audio. That’s probably radio interference, right? Apple doesn’t fix, sometimes for months of an iOS release at a time. Auto owner forums are FILLED with people who have audio issues with iPhones, but when they pair an Android device everything works OK. Apple blames the manufacturer. Then, three months later, Apple drops an iOS update that works for about a third or a half of those affected. Magic.

    It is crap. That tells me that Apple’s Bluetooth stack is junk.

    When Apple released the Apple Watch I was hopeful that its reliance on Bluetooth would FORCE them to fix their stack. Instead, the forums are about with Apple Watch customers with problematic and sporadic syncing issues. Ditto for OS X and Handoff and Continuity. Apple has made Keyboards and Mouses and Trackpads work, because they RELY on them, they HAVE to; beyond that, Apple didn’t sell Bluetooth audio devices so they didn’t care. Now that lackadaisical attitude was impacting their bottom line. The Beats acquisition was #2 point that I got my hopes up that Apple would fix their Bluetooth Audio; iOS 9 has mostly been a mess. (9.3.3 FINALLY fixed 3 BT audio-related bugs I had filed: 8 months later).

    So here we are at #3. Apple’s solution, instead of FIXING their software, is to come out with “secret sauce” and basically imply everyone else is deficient. That’s what bothers me most about these AirPods. The price is OK (a single Plantronics Voyage Edge is $129 MSRP). The form factor is “meh”, and I’m sure they won’t be comfortable in my ears (Jabra gels, Etymotic in-ears, or Plantronics earpieces all have it figured out), and I doubt anyone will really find the AirPods workable for running or activity since they aren’t “sticky”. Whatever. The tech with the case is clever! But beyond ALL of that, Apple isn’t making for a better Bluetooth Audio MARKET. No, instead, they’re disguising their own QA malfeasance, shipping a brand new untested wireless chip, and using marketing to imply the competition–who has suffered under said malfeasance–were at fault. In the end, I don’t think it will end well for AirPods or Beats. If Apple’s Bluetooth stack doesn’t improve for ALL Audio devices, then the few number of AirPods buyers shouldn’t expect Apple to listen to their gripes and feedback. I’d love for these to be great. I -believe- that wireless audio input is the way forward; putting a brick to my face to talk into is SOOOO pre-Uhura. I doubt the AirPods will be loud enough for my needs. But I NEED NEED NEED Apple to foster a healthy, open wireless audio marketplace, with competition, in order to see that future happen. This announcement does not give me hope.

  4. 1) I’ve never heard of these wireless headphones thieves. are they the same guys who chop off fingers to use w/ stolen TouchID iPhones? oh yeah, that never happened. nor will this doom scenario.

    2) if these don’t stay in-ear running, they may i suggest one of the sporty BeatsX models shown yesterday? or some other forthcoming brand’s product?

    3) as an office worker, these will be just fine. perhaps even perfect for my use case.

    it sure is getting harder to hate on apple these days, isn’t it.

    • Well, chopping of fingers is a bit extreme. But you have probably heard of the people waiting for people playing Pokemon Go, and stealing their phones?

  5. Really? You went there? While I personally plan to purchase a pair of AirPods their usage is hardly mandatory. You don’t have to buy and use them if you don’t want to. But more importantly, it appears in your rush to criticise Apple you’ve overlooked the fact that a wired pair of EarPods and and a headphone jack adapter is included in every box. Sorry Kirk, but this is not one of your better posts in my opinion.

    • I pay a substantial premium for the finely designed iPhone. In exchange I don’t want to be forced to use a dongle hanging from the Lightning port in order to use my preferred headphones or earphones. It mars the design and becomes another external item to lose, as well.

      • Well then connect the “dongle” to your head phones that already have a wire that will now just be 3 inches longer.

        As for your stupid tripe about the AirPods.
        1) Stealing one with out the case would be useless, it might not even be able to be synced because it is linked to your AppleID. Besides I don’t know of a rash of people stealing the millions of wireless bluetooth head sets like they one you mention YOU ALREADY USE that go into one ear so why would these be targets?
        2) My head phones don’t fall out they are pulled out by my headphone wires. No wires no falling out.

        I have owned half a dozen bluetooth headsets (one ear) and all of them were of limited use. Not charged, unreliable paring, difficulty paring to multiple things (paring and un paring is annoying) intermittent sound quality.

        Apple says it has addressed these concerns. If they have these will become my #1 have to own gadget and stocking stuffer for my mac/ios friends and family. The caring case will be less hassle than the wires on my current headset to carry and will charge my headphones/headset to boot. I don’t know anyone who would put up with headphones in their ears for 5+ hours so battery life sounds incredible. If sound quality is good and if the multi device syncing works like they say, I’m hooked!

        I don’t love the price but I’m willing to pay it.

  6. I don’t see myself getting the AirPods, but I’ll note without further comment that a Macworld reporter said that she was able to dance around and the AirPods didn’t fall out.

    • Ears come in different sizes. AirPods do not. The EarPods, which are the same size, don’t stay in my ears long, and I’ve heard from lots of people who cannot use them because they’re not the right size.

      • Agreed, Kirk. The earbuds from my iPhone 6 went right back in their pretty white box after a couple of frustrating days trying to use them and having them constantly loosening and/or falling out. These EarPods, sadly, look very similar. I imagine people who like this design don’t care much about sound quality or consistency because this form factor shifts around on my ears (and those of so many others) and, thus changes things like the perceived quality of bass response as they move about. As has been mentioned, there are so many better sounding and better fitting options out there. This is just not a good design.

        • Bummer for you that the earPods don’t fit your ears, but surprise! They do fit mine and many others too (unfortunately not my wife’s). Ears, heads, people in general are different. If these don’t fit you, buy something else. But don’t pee on the cornflakes of those of us who they do fit well for. The features of these are amazing and lets hope Apple makes additional models or licenses the W1 chip to other vendors (beats?)

      • My wife will not be getting AirPods because they don’t fit her ears well, but it is surprising how many people I know who they do fit well. Here’s hoping they license the W1 chip to Beats and other headphone vendors or that they make a version of their in-ear headphones in this same style to satisfy even more purchasers.

        Remember, these are 1 option of thousands of bluetooth headphones. If they don’t float your boat, don’t buy, but come up with better reasons to call them a flop before they even ship. These are a beautiful solution to the annoyances I have had with bluetooth headphones/headsets.

      • So you haven’t tried them Kirk, maybe you should wait creating an article like this until you have more than pure speculation. You may be right you may be wrong. But as long as you haven’t tested them, this article is worth nothing and in my view discredit you. There is another article by someone else that had the same concern as you but discovered that they where quite different.

      • Exactly! Bluetooth audio is an awful way to listen to actual music. You might as well take your iTunes library and play it through 1970s car speakers. The sound is compressed and very, very lossy. If that’s your cup of tea, or if you can’t hear the difference when you’re out exercising, that’s fine. But, for every other application, this is a crappy solution to a problem no one actually had.

        • Bluetooth audio is avoided like the plague by music producers for it’s poorer fidelity, high latency, and occasional dropouts.

  7. Actually you won’t be listening to one channel of music. They automatically pause when one comes out of your ear.

    You won’t listen to anything the rest of the day.

    The good news is you’ll have a spare for the second time it happens.

  8. Not one of Apple’s iPod or iPhone ear buds have ever staid in my ears, so although I like the idea they are not really for me. I have been using Bluetooth headphones for years…except on a plane where in Airplane mode Bluetooth is disabled…but then I could use my wired in ear headphones using the supplied adapter. So I am not fussed one way or t’other.

  9. A significant factor causing an earbud to come loose and fall out is the constant jostling and tugging of the cable pulling on it. One can’t simply assume that this problem will be a common occurrence with the wireless Airpods. It’s premature to attribute this problem to Airpods without actual testing.

  10. There will be and after market of cheap colourful lanyards to connect the two together for those who are worried about losing the buds.

    Can’t see the problem.

  11. December 9th, still no sign. They’re not for me, but I have to be concerned when one of the hugest tech companies makes announcements they can’t keep. Very poor show.

    Seems sync’ing audio between the left and right unattached airpods, and maintaining the same power in each, is an issue.
    Already a horrible idea for stereo music listening, fine for phone calls. So not for serious listening.
    Remember the bluetooth earpieces? Ugh, talk about going backwards.
    Whatever….apple just want to chisel their new users….

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