Apple's New 'AirPod' Wireless Headphones Are a Total Disaster
We expected better. Much better.
Apple knew everyone would freak out when it introduced the new iPhone 7 without a headphone jack, which is why we figured it'd come to its big annual event with solutions that would pleasantly surprise us.
What Apple gave us instead is more expensive, less convenient, and an all-around crap fest: a converter for your current headphones that hangs off your phone like a white rat tail, and a pair of earbuds that connect to the Lightning port and make it impossible to charge your phone and listen to music simultaneously.
They're prohibitively expensive. Like, $159 expensive.Apple has never had trouble convincing its diehard fans to pony up a pretty penny for new devices. Their signature marketing genius could get us to overpay for a piece of pocket lint thoughtfully molded by Jony Ive. However, asking people to pay an additional $159, on top of the cost of a new iPhone 7 ( $649) or iPhone 7 Plus ($769) and a case ($35 -$45) means you're putting down roughly a grand for a phone. That's crazy.
They're going to get lost so fastGetting your headphone cord all tangled up in itself is a pain in the ass, but removing a cord altogether poses some big problems. First of all, did somebody say choking hazard? Second of all, most wireless headphones on the market today are tethered to one another, both to improve audio quality and to keep them from disappearing entirely if and when one drops out of your ear. You can argue this makes them look lame, but they serve an undeniably functional purpose.
As the Guardian's Julia Carrie Wong so eloquently points out: "The beauty of the headphone cable is just like the beauty of a tampon string: it is there to help you keep track of a very important item, and help you fish it out of whatever nook and cranny it might have fallen into."
People have long complained that Apple's earbuds don't fit right and pop out regularly, which is annoying but not disastrous. What happens when an AirPod pops out? Does it drop in your lap? Through a sewer grate on the street? On the sticky floor of a subway car? Think of how many pairs of regular, wired headphones you break or lose in a year, then multiply that by $159. Are you really willing to hemorrhage that much money on these things? This won't be the first time Apple's commitment to aesthetics over function bites us in the wallet.
Charging them will be a nightmareAll wireless headphones must be charged, but how the AirPods do it is... different. The AirPods have a battery life that supports five hours of music -- after that, they need to be recharged inside their special carrying case... which could easily be mistaken for a pack of dental floss, and also looks like something I would immediately "misplace." But then you also need to keep recharging the carrying case -- which holds 24 hours worth of charging for the AirPods -- via its Lightning port. All in all, that's two separate components that require a charge. Something about this just doesn't add up.
They're no better than what we had beforeYes yes, it's very impressive that these will automatically connect to any Apple device you own, with no buttons or pairing required. It's cool that they "know" whether you're listening or talking to them, automatically turn off when you remove them, and cue up Siri with a simple tap. The notion that you need to put in little-to-no effort for these to function is keeping with the Jobsian motto, "It Just Works." But you know what else "Just Works"? A pair of normal microphone-equipped Bluetooth wireless headphones (connected with a cord to one another so they're less likely to get lost) and... a pair of traditional Apple earbuds you have to *GASP* plug in.
Update 12/13/16: Apple Airpods are on sale now, but delivery for pre-orders might take awhile.
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