The little white earbuds Apple has been packaging with its iOS devices will be celebrating their 11th anniversary this October, but we don’t think anyone will be going to that party. Not only are they some of the most reviled headphones ever made, but Apple just announced it will be replacing them with what it is affectionately calling the “EarPods,” and it’s about time.
The EarPods feature two obvious changes from their predecessors. First, rather than blasting sound at the outer ear the way the old ‘buds did, the new EarPods will channel sound toward the ear canal. Second, the EarPods are vented to allow air to escape as the little drivers (speakers) inside move back and forth. A vent on the back of the EarPod is said to improve midrange while dual vents at the bottom of the stem is intended to improve bass response.
You can’t tell by looking at the EarPods, but according to a video posted on Apple’s website, Apple performed a 3D scan on hundreds of ears in order to find some commonality among them in order to develop a form that would be suitable for a broad range of ears. “The shape of the EarPod is actually defined by the geometry of your ear,” says Apple’s Senior VP of Design Jon Ive, also noting that the EarPods were not designed to create a seal the way in-ear headphones do. Also different is a conspicuous lack of rubber and metal. The EarPods are made entirely of plastic.
The earbuds made their debut alongside Apple’s first iPod in October of 2001 (yes, it’s been that long). Initially, the white pieces of ear torture didn’t receive much criticism, possibly because folks were so enamored with the novelty of the iPod itself . But once the honeymoon period was over, the public started crying out for something — anything — to replace them. Eventually, Apple’s stock earbuds became the butt of many a headphone reviewers jokes (yours truly included). It’s a wonder Apple didn’t jump on redesigning its bundled headphones years ago just to save itself some embarrassment.
Or is it? One could argue that, like the cheap cables that used to be bundled with our VCRs and DVD players, these “throw away” headphones may have, in a roundabout way, helped nurture what has become a massive after-market headphone market. Whatever the case, we’re glad to say goodbye to the old. Whether we welcome in the new will depend on how they sound. We’ve got a pair of EarPods on our way and we’ll be sure to let you know what we think of Apple’s redesign.