At its event in San Francisco on Wednesday, Apple introduced "earpods," a set of newly-designed headphones that will replace its iconic "earbuds" of old, which will come bundled with all Apple mobile devices from now on. Because this represents the end of The White Earbud Era, I thought I'd say a few words, to mourn the passing of Apple's stalwart headphones.
What will I miss about Apple's earbuds? It would be easy to answer "Absolutely nothing are you kidding me?": The sound quality was bad; they wouldn't stay put in my ears; they were more prone to tangles than a box of Christmas tree lights; it took almost no force at all to bust them open and render them inoperable. But on reflecting upon this, the day the iconic white headphones will disappear forever, I did come up with a few things I will miss. For example:
- I'll miss the extra exercise I would get when I made the mistake of trying to go running with my Apple earbuds. Because they were so poorly shaped, the buds would constantly fall out of my ears, so that every three steps I would have to lift up one of my arms to shove the dangling bud back into my auditory canal, making it stick for at least another five seconds, until it would inevitably fall out again. This doubtless built up much-needed muscle mass in my biceps.
- I'll miss being able to listen hip-hop and jazz without hearing any bass whatsoever.
- I'll miss having to wait to listen to music for ten minutes while I painstakingly attempted to untangle the incredible knot my headphones had managed to get themselves into while sitting at the bottom of my bag, a tangle so incredible it was as though little gremlins in my backpack had deviously tied everything together while I wasn't looking.
- I'll miss the way that accidentally falling asleep with an earbud in my ear inevitably meant an earache so painful that even a light breeze the next day would send a shock of agony throughout my entire body.
- I'll miss the way that the rigid earbuds would stretch the entrance to my ear canal, perhaps permanently distending the very architecture of my ear.
- I'll miss the way that, whenever anyone said "earbud," it would immediately remind me of "Air Bud," a movie from my childhood about a dog who was really good at basketball. I loved that movie, and I love dogs, too. Just think about a golden retriever dribbling a basketball, and you'll smile, too. Dogs can't play basketball!
Apple's upgrade to these new "earpods" is, in other words, fantastic for the ears of iPhone and iPod owners everywhere, and quite possibly the most exciting announcement I heard come from San Francisco. At its heart, the iPhone 5 represents an incremental upgrade that should have been made last year, with a much-needed boost in display size, the addition of the more current 4G LTE connectivity, and what appears to be a meaningful speed increase in the processor. The iPods Touch and Nano that Apple introduced are enticing, but the dedicated MP3 player feels like an afterthought in 2012, a dying breed of gadget that may not be around much longer. The changes to iTunes, meanwhile, make it a real competitor with WinAmp to top my list of Best Desktop Music Apps of 2003. (Here's hoping that, at the very least, iTunes 11 loads faster than iTunes 1-10).
The earpods, though: The earpods are genuinely exciting. There aren't very many phone manufacturers that include headphones with their phones anymore: It's a bygone perk. Samsung does, though its buds are as equally low-quality as Apple's old ones; HTC phones were shipping with Beats headphones for awhile, but that is apparently out of the plan. It's a small advantage, almost immeasurable, but given the early positive reviews its earpods are receiving, it's a nice one to have. Apple now appears to be the only company sending out quality headphones with its phone; given that most people use their smartphones as a dual phone/MP3 player, count this as a tiny but meaningful upgrade to the iPhone package, and really good news for the tender, tender ears of Americans everywhere (not to mention the audio quality of the music that is pumped into them).