How AirPods will change the world

New to adopt Apple’s wireless earbuds, Ian Bogost indulges in a marvel.

From Apple’s AirPods Are an Omen in The Atlantic:

The moment I put the Apple AirPods in my ears, I feel like I’ve already dropped them in the toilet. They are so small and slippery. The mere act of removing these precious, wireless ear buds from their lozenge-shaped case makes them feel like a futuristic cure to unknown ills. I am late to adopt them, so I indulge a marvel. I take one out of an ear; this time I feel like I’m sure to ingest it, eventually, mistaking it for a space-age apparatus for wellness or transhumanism. My AirPods, I am convinced, are not long for this world.

Worrying about losing something is a good sign that you feel endeared to it. And, like so many others, I am: The Apple AirPods might be the best product Apple has produced in years. By contrast, I’ve dropped my iPhone in the toilet before, but it almost felt like a relief to do so, at least for a moment. I despair holding it in my hand, but there it is in my hand anyway, almost all the time.

Earphones are now mated to that rectangle of glass and compulsion, perhaps irreversibly. What is the point of ear buds except to listen to media provided by a smartphone—and therefore to connect you to the compulsive lure of a life run by devices? And yet, listening equipment has retained the personal solitude that smartphones have partly eroded. They occupy an orifice in your head. They whisper directly to your brain. They fit inside a closed palm like a secret.

But by going wireless, and by doing it so well, AirPods also decouple that intimacy from the tether that generally has signaled it in social circumstances. And even though it seems like a small matter—just a wireless headset—the device could fundamentally alter the way people interact with machines, and with one another.

My take: A nice piece of writing, Ian Bogost, if a bit over-the-top. It seems Apple has not lost the ability to inspire.

8 Comments

  1. David Emery said:
    Am I the only one who finds earbuds really uncomfortable?

    0
    June 17, 2018
  2. Atul Barry said:
    My issue is that they fall out all the time. I’d love having them sit securely, but maybe my ears are different than Mr. Ive’s.

    1
    June 17, 2018
  3. Ken Cheng said:
    Well, there are lots of shapes and sizes of ears, so one should expect some would find them uncomfortable, and others to find them insecure. Mine must be average since my AirPods fit just right.

    0
    June 17, 2018
  4. T R said:
    PSA: I like my Air Pods, now. I bought from Costco, and they were going back because of fit issues. They were always slipping around. Then I found these foam covers over at Amazon. About $3.50 for 100. They’re difficult to slip on. They hold the Air Pods at the position/angle I place them, just the tad bit of friction to hold but not notice, and there is a small benefit of isolation. The shipping took 3 or 4 weeks.

    I tried the silicone ones with the wing, and they did not fit me.

    Freedi 100 Pcs Black Sponge Earbud Soft Foam Headphone Cap Ear Pads Cover Replacement. I just looked and their Price: $0.99 + $1.88 shipping. They have white ones now.

    0
    June 17, 2018
  5. Fred Stein said:
    Ian really helped explain the personal and social implications. Great.

    The technology inside is equally important. Apple’s large investments in chips and hardware integration for the AirPod (and the Apple Watch) put them far ahead. And in both cases because they lead in unit shipments by a wide margin, Apple has higher ROI to future chip and hardware investments in wearables broadly.

    Apple lead in the race for wearable computing devices which are the next generation in computing. We’re at the inflection point in another big S-curve.

    1
    June 17, 2018
    • Jonathan Mackenzie said:
      If I had to pick one feature of Apple the company that illustrated how strong their competitive position is, it would be this. They have scale enough to design their own chips for anything they want to do. They can make SoC design decisions alongside of feature, function, and form decisions in the actual hardware. This gives them an efficiency edge they can strategically exploit.

      Any company can be disrupted by the next Big Thing from out of the blue. But Apple’s devotion to chip design parallel to their product design is about as close to an insurmountable lead as I can imagine.

      1
      June 18, 2018
  6. T R said:
    PS: the Air Pods covers I noted above can stay on and fit into the case.

    0
    June 18, 2018

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