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.