As a bass pumping, head nodding, beat thumping, toe tapping music lover; I have been itching to review these new Apple earphones since they were announcing. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on them with the purchase of my new iPhone 5, which was probably the only way I was prepared to part with my hard earned cash to get them. Priced at AUD$35, which is exactly the same price as their predecessor, there are a few things that come to mind before Earpods in my purchase priority list (especially when standing in an Apple store).
There is no doubt these earphones have some improvements made since the older ones that are also still on sale on the apple web-store, at the time of writing, and have been retailed since early 2006.
Hardware and Acoustics
The Earpods come in the signature white colour, however this time with four vents on either side to deliver sound to your ear. Each vent claiming to enhance or focus on a specific component of your music for example, the two bass vents located on the lower rear of either earphone. Unfortunately three out of the four outlets all point outwards, which to me seems like defeating the purpose of in-ear headphones. Infact, my work colleagues who continuously tell me to turn down my music in our quiet open plan office give me the impression that apple wanted us to share the love of whatever we are listening to. Although these babies leak sound to no end, the sound waves that do make it into your ears are more crisp and clearer in comparison to their predecessor.
The shape of the earphones is a quite different from anything on the market, and in my opinion they are something I would expect to find on E.T.’s spaceship. Apple claims this shape fits better and more naturally on more ear shapes than anyone before has ever bothered to imagine. I for one am glad the folks at Apple cared that much, as listening to my music for prolonged hours leaves no discomfort in my ears. Putting them on does not have the same feeling as before, of say stuffing cotton buds in your ear. Ok I exaggerate but in all seriousness, they sit snugly in my ear and the little to no discomfort to my ears I would imagine is due to the use of the one plastic material to make the ear tips.
Similar to the old Apple earphones, a little further down the right earphones cable is a three control button that allows you to interact with whatever device you are connected to. Besides turning your volume up and down, these controls still let you pause, play, answer calls and activate SIRI – when connected to Apple devices that have it SIRI. The only improvement I can tell there is how less harsh the controls feel with a springy and more forgiving effect added to them. These controls are not available on the iPod version of Earpods.
Right at the end of the ear heads, after the two cables converge into one, is the earphone jack as you would expect. I noticed how it stays in products better and actually requires a fair bit of effort to pull out. So if you drop your phone or mp3 player, you can expect it to, more times than not, bungee and then dangle from the Earpods rather than disconnect and fall to the ground. Heaven knows how many less scratches I don’t have on my phone due to this subtle feature. On the other hand it is quite a challenge to pull out on thinner devices like the iPhone 5, I have had to use my teeth on several occasion which might prove to be an issue if you have sweaty fingers. The “bungee effect” also holds true for the iPhone 4 so it must be the Earpods jack and the plastic material down on that end introducing this eject problem.
With my previous iPod and iPhone earphones, the former has no modal controls on the right earphone cable and the latter does, I subjected them to all sorts of torture which they survived. The most impressive was fully immersing one side in a glass of water while sitting at my desk. Despite losing sound in that side for a day, it magically fixed itself which made me love them more. While I don’t recommend taking a swim or shower with your earphones, the new Earpods seem to be as well made in all regards. With over two months of use now they show no sign of giving up anytime soon and have already outrun the course of some cheapskate earphones I have owned in the past.
If I were Steve Jobs, this is the part I would say “but wait… there’s more.” Apple has provided a nice looking protective case that comes free with the Earpods. This was my personal favourite as more earphones die due to the wear and tear on the wires inside the cabling. The case lets you wrap the cord around the insides of the lower cover, with the top of that cover allowing you the dock earphones comfortably. This well measured and calculated spacing or cable management is completed by a see through plastic top that does as good a job parading the Earpods as protecting them.
Are there enough improvements made to these earphones to keep Apple customers alike reaching for them everytime they want to listen to music or make a phone call. If so will it span another six year, or should we be expecting to replace them sooner than the last ones. My first website mentor once told me a saying that went something like, if you do your job well in Information Technology, it is highly likely no one notices it. When they notice your work, it is usually because there is a problem or something not quite right. I mention that because when you pick up these earphones and use them, the small parts working to give you better sound disappear and you just think to yourself how good the music sounds. Until someone tells you to turn down your music, then you will realise the one thing Apple still has to solve – apart from making them wireless.
While their predecessor raised the bar for earphones for years and were ahead of the pack for majority of that time, in todays market these Earpods are just made better… than the old ones.