Saturday, October 01, 2016

The pluses of AirPods

The iPhone 7 was release 3 weeks ago, so I'm late to this party. But I have been watching the coverage and I'm a little surprised by how universally negative the coverage of the switch to wireless AirPods has been. I am an avid podcast listener, so I use the earbuds on my iPhone 6 at least an hour every day. The biggest disadvantages to earbuds are: (1) that fucking wire ties itself in a knot every time I take them off, making me spend precious seconds of non-listening time trying to untangle them, and (2) as I'm moving around the wires often get caught on stuff, causing them to be wrenched violently out of my ears.

#2 happens to me all the time. The wires catch on something on the seat in front of me as I get out of my seat on the train, or they catch on the knobs in my kitchen as I do the dishes or cook, etc. They catch on everything. A few times the sudden extraction of the earbuds has broken the jack plug, leaving half of it lodged in my iPhone. One time I managed to fish out the stub of the jack myself. But the other times I had to pay someone to do it for me. It was an expensive pain in the ass.

Which is why the people who assume an AirPod without a cord will fall out of their ears strikes me as so miguided. The cord is not what holds my earbuds in my ear. My earbuds never fall out on their own. They only fall out if they are yanked out by the cord. No cord, means no yanked out buds. In other words, Conan O'Brien's parody of the classic iPod commercial is misguided.

Meanwhile, in exchange for losing a headphone jack, the new iPhone is water-resistant and can be fully submerged. As someone who wrecked his first iPhone by dropping it in the toilet, a water resistant phone is a big deal. Ever since that toilet incident I have been overly cautious if my phone is ever in the vicinity of water, or even just during the rain. The opportunity to relax would be most welcome. And this can't just be me. At least three of my friends have also admitted toileting their smart phone. When it happened to me I googled "dropped iPhone in toilet" to see what to do and I got thousands of results. (I just did it again and google says there are 526,000)

I'm not saying that the loss of a headphone jack is all good. I do wonder about sound quality, whether the wireless setup will be an extra drain on the battery, the ease of losing the little wireless pods, and the cost of the new AirPods. But the sound quality will probably improve and the cost will go down, so I expect at least two of my four concerns will be at least partially, if not fully, remedied before I get around to getting a new phone (next year at the earliest, if not in 2018).

Trading the jack for water resistance and not having an easily tangled catchable cord is clearly the kind of cost-benefit analysis that different people might reach different conclusions over. I'm just surprised that the people writing about it are so focused on the cost with so little attention to the benefits.