I don’t even use an iPhone, but the latest model is likely going to wreck my productivity.
Spills and leaks of the iPhone 7 are gushing across the internet days before its expected announcement on Wednesday. Apple Insider listed a bunch of the new features, including a better display, bigger storage capacities, waterproof design and upgraded camera.
The post also reiterated one of the biggest talkers about the new model: The new iPhone will ditch the standard 3.5-millimeter headphone jack. To accommodate this, the device will come equipped with new EarPods with a Lightning connector (Lightning is what Apple calls its charging port) and a Lightning-to-headphone adapter.
This is terrible news, but not for the reasons you might think. IPhone users who use different headphones than the EarPods may be salty about having to use an adapter, adding a bulky dongle to their phone. But the bigger implication is this:
EarPods as we know them now could be on the way out.
EarPods are arguably some of the best headphones available on the market today. They offer incredible sound quality above others in the same price range. They come equipped with a microphone and three-button controller for muting and volume. They have a unique design made to fit in an ear canal comfortably. And they are only around $30.
This is a big deal for Android users. I’ve seen plenty of them using EarPods on their non-Apple devices. I’m one of them: I used EarPods with every BlackBerry I’ve owned. Up until the Android-based Priv, all three buttons and the mic worked perfectly (on my Priv, the volume buttons don’t work).
As the iPhone has improved, patents show how Apple is also working on headphones. Future models could offer noise cancelling abilities by identifying the difference between a voice and other sounds. Other possibilities include how they could be wireless.
Outstanding features, I’m sure. But right now, I just want to hear my music.
I’m a heavy music listener: It keeps me focused and on task when I’m on deadline at my day job, it keeps me typing during side projects at home and it blocks out terrible music and terrible people when I’m IRL buying groceries. There have been moments where I also perform an arcane ritual called “Eks-Zehr-Seyze,” and this ritual definitely requires musical distraction, but this only happens during certain times of the year when weather and motivational conditions are optimal. I keep an SD card filled with music on my phone, and I turn to streaming services in a pinch when I want to hear a song that’s not in my library.
I’m also both an audiophile and cheapskate. The terrible, muted sounds of most commercial headphones grates my nerves, especially when I can’t hear phrases, sounds and nuances that I know are in the music. If I had tons of money, I’d be one of the people buying some of those high-dollar headphones with abandon. When Wired released a list of wireless headphones options, and not a one of ’em was cheaper than $70, I laughed loudly. YEAH RIGHT.
What’s worse is that all of those expensive options still rely on a layer of rubber to create a vaccuum seal in the ear canal. The rich sound quality depends on that seal, because it creates a little soundbox in the ear. Apple’s EarPods don’t need to do that. The design creates its own soundbox, in a way (I think, anyway: I’ve never cracked open one to see inside). But because it doesn’t seal the canal, I can still hear the outside world. Even when I’m blasting Gojira on a downtown walk, I can still hear people and vehicles around me. Situational awareness is very important to me.
(UPDATE: I found this great teardown of EarPods and it looks like I was right about space in the design. But improvements to the speaker cone and drivers are also featured.)
All that in a pair of $30 headphones make EarPods my favorite headphone right now. I swear by them. But if future models will have a Lightning connector, then I need to either buy an adapter or find a new favorite. Because I’m not switching from my BlackBerry Priv to an iPhone just for the headphones.
Most Android users will feel the same way.
This may be the time to stock up on them while they still have the 3.5 mm jack. Despite their quality, they are not meant to last forever. But the sound they provide for the price makes them worthy of commodity status. Bluetooth headphones sound quality is improving, but I don’t see a massive move to USB-wired headphones for Android devices.