Apple AirPods: More than just Headphones

Ben Bajarin / December 18th, 2016

Prior to their going on sale, we had quite a bit of information about the AirPods and what they were capable of doing. We knew they would pair easily and that there were sensors built in that knew when you are wearing them and when you weren’t. But some things just have to be experienced to appreciate their magic and the AirPods are one of them.

First, you will never see a more seamless pairing experience than the first time you pair the AirPods. Open the case, press Connect, and they are instantly paired with all my iOS devices, including iPad and Apple Watch. As soon as you put one AirPod in your ear, subtle sound lets you know they are on and ready to be used.

Perhaps my favorite feature is when you take one AirPod out, the music automatically pauses. Put it back in and it resumes flawlessly. This is useful when someone is talking to you and you need an ear free to listen and respond. I have some context with this experience, having used the Plantronics BackBeats Pro 2 which offer a similar smart sensor that pauses your music when you take off the headphones. For whatever reason, I found taking one AirPod out much more convenient than lifting the entire headset off my head. Perhaps just preference, perhaps not. In either case, the seamlessness of this experience is fantastic.

Whenever you need to know the battery level of the AirPods or the charging case, simply open the case next to your iPhone and this screen instantly pops up. Apple is using some sort of close proximity solution because, if you move the case even one foot away and open it, nothing happens on the phone.

img_0819

I’ve been using Bluetooth headphones for years, so the awesomeness that is wireless headphones was not new to me. But, these were the first I’d used which are independently wireless — not connected to anything. With sports Bluetooth headphones you notice and feel the wire on the back of your neck as you move. Similarly, with over the hear wireless headphones like the Bose QuietComfort or Beats Wireless or similar ones, you feel the band that goes over the top of your head. The point is, they don’t disappear. I was surprised and delighted by how comfortable the AirPods are in my ears and how easily you forget they are there. Interestingly, I feel the same way about my Apple Watch. It seems the theme with both of Apple’s wearable computers (and yes I consider the AirPods to be wearable computers) is comfort to the degree of making them feel as though they disappear. This may be ear-shape dependent so my statement may not be true of everyone but it is with me.

Many others who have tried them have commented on how well they stay in your ears. I found this to be true. I used them while doing light exercises like yoga and even some living room cardio (via the Apple TV app Zova) and they stayed in perfectly. The lack of a cable makes a difference in helping them stay in your ears. I took it one step further and played a singles tennis match with my playing partner. I’m sure Apple wouldn’t recommend them for an intense run or similar activity, but I figured I’d try it. I’ve tried every form of sport Bluetooth headphones and, because of the wire behind my neck and some of the violent movements of tennis, they all fall out regularly. Here again, not having the wires attached made all the difference in the world. Maybe the AirPod shape fits my ears like a glove but they didn’t fall out one time during my match. In case it matters, I’m a fairly high level (by USTA ranking) tennis player, so I go at it pretty hard.

When I was tweeting my thoughts about AirPods, I got resistance from some saying, “Aren’t they just wireless headphones?” Apple’s AirPods are just wireless headphones about as much as the Apple Watch is “just” a watch and iPhone is “just” a phone. Nothing makes this more apparent than the Siri experience.

Siri in Your Ear
It is remarkable how much better Apple’s Siri experience is with AirPods. In part because the microphones are much closer to your mouth and, therefore, Siri can more clearly hear and understand you. I’m not sure how many people realize how many Siri failures have to do the distance you are from your iPhone or iPad, as well as ambient background noise and the device’s ability to clearly hear you. Thanks to the beam forming mics and some bone conduction technology, Siri with the AirPods is about as accurate a Siri experience I’ve had. In fact, in the five days I’ve been using the AirPods extensively, I have yet to have Siri not understand my request. Going further, the noise canceling built into the AirPods is impressive as well. I’ve intentionally created noisy environments to test the AirPods and Siri to see how it handles loud situations. Perhaps the most intense was when I turned my home theater system to nearly its peak volume, blasted Metallica and activated Siri. Remarkably, it caught every word and processed my request.

Furthermore, having Siri right in your ear and available with just a double tap on the side of either AirPod profoundly changes the experience. In many ways, the AirPods deliver on the voice-first interface in the ways I’ve been impressed with Amazon’s Alexa.

There is something to not having to look at a screen to interact with a computer, especially in a totally hands-free fashion. The AirPods bring about an experience which feels like Siri has been set free from the iPhone. This was Something that enhanced the experience but also pointed out some holes I hope Apple addresses.

Voice-First vs. Voice-Only Interfaces
There is, however, an important distinction to be made where I believe the Amazon Echo shows us a bit more of the voice-only interface and where I’d like to see Apple take Siri when it is embedded in devices without a screen, like the AirPods. You very quickly realize, the more you use Siri with the AirPods, how much the experience today assumes you have a screen in front of you. For example, if I use the AirPods to activate Siri and say, “What’s the latest news?” Siri will fetch the news then say, “Here is some news — take a look.” The experience assumes I want to use my screen (or it at least assumes I have a screen near me to look at) to read the news. Whereas, the Amazon Echo and Google Home just start reading the latest news headlines and tidbits. Similarly, when I activate Siri on the AirPods and say, “Play Christmas music”, the query processes and then plays. Where with the Echo, the same request yields Alexa to say, “OK, playing Christmas music from top 50 Christmas songs.” When you aren’t looking at a screen, the feedback is important. If I was to ask that same request while I was looking at my iPhone, you realize, as Siri processes the request, it says, “OK” on the screen but not in my ear. In voice-only interfaces, we need and want feedback that the request is happening or has been acknowledged.

Again, having Siri in your ear and the ability to have a relatively hands-free and screen-free experience broke down when you asked Siri something which required unlocking your phone. For example, one of the most common Siri actions of mine is to use Siri to locate a family member. Particularly my daughter who takes a bus home from school that has a variable drop off time due to traffic or student tardiness. Nearly every day I ask Siri to locate my daughter. But, when I do so via the AirPods and my phone has been off long enough to lock, it says I need to unlock my iPhone first. I hit this wall due to Apple’s security protocols, which I appreciate greatly. I wonder if, in the future, we can have a biosensor in the AirPods which authenticates with me and thus gives me security clearance to process a secure request like reading email, checking on a family member or other sensitive requests, without having to unlock the phone first.

There were cases where Siri assumes I can look at my iPhone to deliver the request. There are certainly plenty of queries where Siri, in a voice-only experience, works — when you ask Siri to read your new emails, or set timers, appointments, ask what time a sports game is, etc., but the sweet spot here will be when you can thoroughly use Siri and not need any screen for the full experience. I’m confident Apple will increasingly go in this direction.

Creating the Siri experience to be more than just voice-first but voice-only will be an important exercise. I strongly believe that, when voice exists on a computer with a screen, it will never be the primary interaction input with that screen. Take the screen away and things start to get really interesting. This is when new behaviors and new interactions with computers take place and it’s what happens when you start to integrate the Amazon Echo or Google Home into your life as both are voice-first experiences.

Looking Ahead
There is a great deal to like about the AirPods. Those who buy them and use them will be pleasantly surprised and delighted by their performance as wireless headphones and impressed with the upside of Siri in your ear. I consider the AirPods an important new product in Apple’s lineup and in the same category as the Apple Watch regarding importance for the future. Here is a significant observation of both the Apple Watch and the AirPods worth pointing out. Apple has a tendency to push engineering limits at times to learn or perfect a technique they believe is important for the future or to learn from it in order to integrate into other products. While iPads and iPhones are getting larger, the Apple Watch and AirPods are pushing the limits of miniaturization. Something that is key when we start thinking about future wearables where companies will pack tremendous amounts of technology into extremely small objects. The exercise of packing sensors, microprocessors, batteries, and more into extremely small objects and manufacturing them at scale is an incredibly important skill set to develop for the future. Both the Apple Watch and AirPods are key engineering milestones to build on for where I believe Apple is headed in the future.

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio
  • Richard Windsor

    The only problem is that I would rather have Google Assistant in my ear because Siri is thicker than a whale omelette. Unfortunately the pods don’t seem to let me do that..Will have to buy some Google Home Pods instead.

    • benbajarin

      This point entirely depends on whose ecosystem your are commited to. I have a Google Home and its entirely useless to me, in fact my Alexa is 100% better than the Google Home for me. Siri works dramatically better than Google assistant for me becasue of how much iOS is being tuned to unique things about me plus I’m in Apple’s ecosystem.

      • klahanas

        Which is exactly why I hate walled gardens. Should any one of us get “knocked on the head” (especially you) and want out, then your stuck with a series of binary decisions, each costing you money and freedom.

        This is exactly why I favor modular systems. Modular can be integrated, since it’s a superset. Vertical is monolithic and immovable.

        • benbajarin

          To each his own, but this is a minority viewpoint. Most people just care that it just works and simplifies their life. Hence the trend to swing back to closed. I’ve articulated this before how the driver of this trend is because of the mainstream. Companies swing back to closed once the larger non-techie markets come into the picture because you can guarantee a better QOS when intergrated.

          • obarthelemy

            Mostly disagree:
            1- the threshold is crazy high. To get to that “integrated” point, you’ve got to be 100% full Apple (iphone, ipad, macbook, mac, aTV, ipod, iwatch). I gather you are, but who else ? Especially outside the US ?
            2- modularity and interoperability don’t seem that undoable: transport layer is standard BT, just make sure 2 good codecs (voice and music) are supported, then command and sync protocols. It’s the same issue as with dlna and Airplay: Apple whittles down the flexibility to make sure things Just Work, and sneak in a proprietary lock in the process. The whittling down is understandable, the proprietary is greedy.

          • iBeginner4

            just work = now
            standarts (usb type-c, dlna, etc.) = 3-5 years from now.

          • obarthelemy

            Except
            – in the case of earbuds, the Hints were 3 yrs ago;
            – and I’m fairly sure dlna was earlier then AirPlay (which is basically a proprietary and restricted variant of it)
            – USB-C is unclear: Micro-USB was significantly smaller and more versatile than 30-pin in its time; then Lightning was physically better then Micro-USB but functionally equivalent, now USB-C pulls ahead again for versatility

            So contrary to popular belief, Apple is mostly late, and with features which are proprietary variants of standards. That’s good for them (lock-in !), it’s just weird that buyers don’t seem t be aware of it.

          • benbajarin

            To them the pros of it just works outweighs the cons, to which many are not even aware nor care.

            Also you get the award for the first mention of DLNA in at least two years on our site 😉

          • obarthelemy

            People may not be aware of it, but anything that streams (*) is using dlna, unless it’s Apple (or there’s a straight network share, whic is rare and more complicated). xbox and Playstation use dlna to stream network media, all NASes include dlna servers, android phones use it to stream as a client (and there are server apps ^^).

            Branding issue again, nobody has a stake in building the brand of a shared standard. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Or isn’t innovative ;-p

            (*) precision: locally. that streams media over LAN. Works over WAN too, that’s how my Synology does it, but I think it spoofs a LAN.

          • benbajarin

            While I don’t believe Google will do this, but why are you not as hard on the clearly integrated approach Google is taking with Pixel by makign assistand only on their phone? They are going down a path very Apple like in locking in experiences to their hardware. This is my point, you provide a better QOS when you control the experience and both Amazon and Google and Microsoft understand this now and will continue that path.

            Don’t believe – meaning Google takes assistant to other OEMS. Although I can make a strong case for either.

          • obarthelemy

            First, Google is currently doing that for *one* feature out of their gaggle of apps and services that are available not only to full-Android OEMs, but also to AOSP OEMs and even forks via sideload. Granted, the gAssistant is an important feature not so much now but looking forward, but 1 data point does not a trend make. Apple does not share anything with anyone, never has, never will. Still VERY different.

            Second, the gAssistant is available in the Allo app on all Android/AOSP/Forks handsets. So it’s not so much the feature that is unavailable, as one way to access it.

            Third, let’s talk again in 6 months, I’m sure gAssist will be most everywhere.

            Fourth, the hardware it runs on barely has any impact on gAssist quality, as long as the battery and microphone are OK. I think headphones are a bit more hardware-dependent, but again the transport is BT, the rest is mostly software. So not *that* different.

          • benbajarin

            I’m just saying watch this trend. I meet with all the execs at these comapnies and the questions they ask me are quite telling. The industry will swing back to more integration than you probably like. While there are still going to be open solutions, they will always be more hassle than they are worth to most poeple.

            THere is a lot of industry history about swings in closed-to open-then back to closed in every segment historicallly. We are simply seeing a decades old pattern now show up in consumer tech. Again the reasons why are clear. Most people don’t want the hassle of open.

          • obarthelemy

            I’m not saying OEMs wouldn’t love to have added value, differentiation, and lock-in. And I understand that’s what they’re probably consulting with you about . The fact they’re consulting kinda confirms they don’t know how, though , maybe ? ;-p
            I’m saying
            1- it’s almost impossible to pull off this late in the game (because critical mass, network effects, different skillset). Look at Samsung: their road to restored domination (fireworks aside) was via shiny design, not apps/services (KNOX, multiwindows, their smorgasbord of apps and store…), not even unique HW features (pen, AMOLED, water resistance…)

            2- and in the long term, it’s user-adverse: see Apple prices vs Android prices, keep in mind most people at most play Candy Crush on their smartphones. I’m aware the iElite do complex stuff that needs an iDevice, not most buyers though.

            Because AI/assistants haven’t crystallized yet, I’m sure OEMs will try on that front, again. Then it’ll turn out that theirs is worse than Google’s; that switchers to/from will stay with what they know; that it’s hard to make money off it at a smaller scale…

            I’d bet ditto VR: developers, developers, developers. For Samsung 20% or Google’s 80% ?

            Most people do want the prices and richness of open. Windows vs Mac. Pc vs pre-PC. Media formats (HW and SW). Is there a single example of people preferring closed ? Consoles ? They’re holding up, but losing gaming share ( https://newzoo.com/insights/articles/global-games-market-reaches-99-6-billion-2016-mobile-generating-37/ )

          • benbajarin

            Actually to your last point I think they want price. We have tons of research on the “why” behind people’s buying habits and even when we test sentiment around phrases that reflect a desire for openness very few mainstream consumers select this. So I’m confident they aren’t self aware of their desire for open they simply want lower prices which tends to skew toward open solutions due to market competition.

            In PCs this easy to understand because they didn’t do much with them besides a few things so there wasn’t much effort put into connecting and customizing, and they just tolerated all the junk, driver issues, and host of other things that happened with Windows. Less passion for the product led to compacency and price the driver not because they desired the things that come with open.

            In phones many are becoming a bit more selective since they use them more and care about simplicity, it just works, etc., and there is more passion behind the smartphone than the PC.

          • obarthelemy

            Indeed, I’m sure openness isn’t consciously valued, but rather its side effects ie competition on prices, competition on features/services, ability to switch.

            I think your perception of Windows is outdated and/or partisan. I haven’t managed to find crash statistics, but I know that my PC crashes less than my Brother’s Mac, and I haven’t had drivers issues since Windows switched driver models (Win7, which I skipped), and indeed crashing Video drivers for a couple of weeks after Win10 (not system crashes mind you, Win10 just froze 5 seconds and informed me that the video driver had to be restarted).

            On the Android/iOS side, I seem to remember app crashes on iOS only got down to Android levels last year, they were higher (ie, worse) before that ? Haven’t read that in depth, but here goes: http://bgr.com/2016/08/25/iphone-vs-android-reliability-comparison-study/ (first relevant link when googling “is iOS more reliable than Android ?”).

            So, what’s your source for the “just works” claim ? Or, for that matter, for the simplicity claim ?

          • benbajarin

            mountains of qualitative and quantitative data. Over the last few years we have gotten pretty good and integrated a flavor of behavioral economics into our survey techniques. Quite enlightenting and really accurate in terms of how markets have been playing out via consumer behavior. But we also do job to be done qualitiative interviews in front of each of our studies. All the way through we are focusing on seeing things from their point of view around why they do the things they do.

          • obarthelemy

            Oh, so it’s not not objective but perceptions, basically ppl saying “I love iOS because it crashes less”, when data says it crashes more ? And saying “I love iOS because it’s easier” when there’s no data on that ? And “Obama is a muslim” when… wait, I’m getting off track. But not by much.

          • art hackett

            But don’t you know? Apple – bad. Google – good.
            Thanks for the comprehensive post. If the EarPods worked for me, I’d be seriously leaning towards these in spite of the price, rather than my seriously irritating Sony over ear Bluetooth headphones, that won’t even connect to either of my high end Sony TVs.

          • klahanas

            “While I don’t believe Google will do this, but why are you not as hard on the clearly integrated approach Google is taking with Pixel by makign assistand only on their phone?”

            Very good point, and I agree. The Pixel deserves to be criticized. Point is, in every other OS, other than Apple’s OSs, there is recourse, and competition. Lot’s of it, in all aspects and directions.

          • Narg

            I wouldn’t call it a “minority viewpoint” at all. People do want things to “just work” and by far, that’s what so many things do these days. Apple has shown they don’t always work either, and it’s hurting their sales. People want things to “just work” AND “work well with others” too. THAT is the majority view. Plus, you’re view on Alexa vs. Google Home is wrong. You’ve spent time with Alexa, you have not with Google Home (easy to figure out due to your reviews of both, lots on Alexa, little on Google Home.) I’m an iPhone/Alexa user too. But there are features on the Google side that I can’t help but see would be far better if compared properly. I’m waiting to make any changes though, but unless Apple gets moving the change for me may not be that difficult in the future.

          • benbajarin

            I have a Google home, and didn’t want to hit it negatively too hard. I’m not in Google’s ecosystem and don’t use any of their services so I have had a bad experience with it.

      • How are you using Google Home and Alexa on your iPhone? Aren’t you talking about two different products. Siri may make the trivial things easy but it makes the more involved things impossible.

      • obarthelemy

        WinSuperSite ran a sample of basic queries of Siri, Cortana and gAssist. I found it enlightening.
        http://winsupersite.com/windows-10/battle-brains-cortana-vs-siri-vs-alexa#slide-0-field_images-81121

    • PhilipGBaker

      It’s hard enough for one ecosystem to get everything working well together. Apple’s synching of its iCloud is a case in point. So expecting them to provide compatibility with other ecosystems is likely a much lower priority. If that’s what you want you may find products from other companies not a part f an ecosystem to be more compatible. I recently reviewed the Plantronics 5220 cellphone headset and it does work with Google Assistant and Siri.

  • DarwinPhish

    Do you think the AirPods will fit a wide variety of ear shapes and sizes? I know too many people who don’t use the wired EarPods because of fit and comfort and I am very surprised Apple is releasing the AirPods in only one size.

    • Corey O’Brien

      Exactly, the seal of in-ear headphones is crucial for the quality and comfort as well as the fit.

      • benbajarin

        These aren’t targeting those who want high end, custom molded, in ear headphones/monitors. These are targeting the rest of the 99% of the consumer base.

        • Would the that “rest of the 99% of the consumer base”, be happy with the wired EarPods? Is the AirPod a luxury item?

          • jfutral

            I think this is a relevant question. In light that a lot of people buy non-Apple earphones (I can’t remember Ben’s own numbers from around the announcement, even though his spin was to make it sound insignificant, it was fairly substantial IIRC), how many of those purchases are “upgrades” and how many are spending as little as possible, like around $10-20?

            And although I get Ben’s point that he is countering the notion of an audiophile being a targeted customer for these Airpods (although I disagree with his assessment that the only alternative to Apple’s design for in-ear is some fabricated extreme of custom molded in ears, as DarwinPhish points out. I use Etymotic’s standard in-ear fittings for the noise _isolating_ feature—not to be confused with noise canceling—with greater comfort and success than I ever had with Apple’s design, never mind better fidelity), how many non-audiophiles will spend that much on earphones? There are a lot of people who care about their music that I would not immediately assume they are “audiophiles”.

            At some point, if Apple’s goal is really all that Ben suggests (and I can see how it is) then the Airpods will have to be included with the iPhone and not simply an up-sell, especially if the primary purpose is verbal control and not audio playback quality.

            Joe

          • At some point, if Apple’s goal is really all that Ben suggests (and I can see how it is) then the Airpods will have to be included with the iPhone and not simply an up-sell, especially if the primary purpose is verbal control and not audio playback quality.

            That makes sense to me.

          • jfutral

            But I agree with you. If I’m paying premium prices I want premium audio, too, not simply “good enough”, since that is still an important part of earphones. I don’t have to be an audiophile to have that expectation.

            Joe

        • DarwinPhish

          I think there is enough variance in the size and shape of the 99% of consumers Apple is targeting to expect one size not to fit all. Expecting multiple size options is not the same as expecting a custom molded option.

        • Narg

          I have to disagree, $159 is not the 99% market. At best is barely 50% of the market, probably far less. You’ll see 3rd party devices at much cheaper price points gain the majority. And yet, even with the removal of the audio jack, the original wired pods are still selling the most for the iPhone 7 (along with the dongle of course…) Apple messed up. Big time. And, it’s showing.

          • benbajarin

            In terms of core technology, experience, price, and features (being the deeply integrated expereince) these are great for the price. I’ve treid the Samsung but they only work with Android, and plenty of other bluetooh headphones where the voice integration (siri) has way to long of a delay to be useful. Apple’s integration is the key to the differentiated experience here which many of their customers will value. A good analysis of Apple needs to understand their user base is not like that of other ecosystems, even as they get consumers who span the adopter spectrum.

            Anyone in the market for BT headphones, who has an iPhone, is likely to strongly cosnider there. And my 99% point was specifically to audiophiles. Most consumesr are not audiophiles that was all I was saying.

    • Glaurung-Quena

      Wireless is going to be inherently more comfortable than wired because there’s no weight of wire dragging things down and out of your ear.

      I suspect a lot of people who have formed opinions about how uncomfortable wired earbuds are for them will have to recalibrate their expectations when dealing with fully wireless earbuds like this

      • obarthelemy

        Not my experience: you’ve got to fit the battery and the controls on the actual earpiece.

        • klahanas

          And the accessory magical string to tether them to prevent loss. :-p

          This isn’t a matter of fault, it’s the nature of the beast. People lose earrings for goodness sake, and they’re thumbtacked in.

        • art hackett

          You’ve already got a set then? In your experience.

          • obarthelemy

            Yes, I’ve already got wireless earbuds, have for 10+ years. Which I never use because charging, comfort, and general pointlessness. I’m not using assistants much though, so there might be that.

    • jfutral

      Apple doesn’t surprise me. What is annoying is this “If it isn’t a problem for me, then it isn’t really a problem” attitude of so many Apple fans, or at least the most vocal, including many tech writers, but at least not everyone:

      http://www.theverge.com/2016/12/20/14016568/apple-airpods-wireless-earpods-earbuds-review

      “The problem was the weight of the wires” is on the level of “Don’t hold it like that”. While maybe true enough for some situations, it is too reductionist to be helpful for those that have legitimate issues. There are a lot of earphone designs that the wires are not a problem. I own a pair. They stay in my ears quite well.

      So maybe it isn’t _just_ the weight of the wires. If the wires on Apple’s EarPods are a problem, then that is due to Apple’s design choices, not the user. Just own up to it. It is neither good nor evil, it is just how Apple chose to design them. I don’t think anyone _wanted_ to have this problem. Accept that it will be an issue for many people. Not everyone. The majority? Probably not. But certainly not some abhorrent fringe.

      Joe

  • jfutral

    I am curious about non-verbal control of things like skip or volume or even pause other than by taking an earphone out. Also, while auto-pausing when removing one ear piece sounds interesting, when I fly, until we take off or are about to land, I usually keep one ear piece in and one out so I can still listen to music but easily hear announcements. Is there an option control for that?

    Joe

    • Glaurung-Quena

      Other reviews of the airpods (loop insight blog, I think) have said that if you wear just one, it automatically delivers a mono downmix of your music, so yes, they work for music when wearing only one. You probably have to take both out and put one back in to switch from stereo to mono.

      • jfutral

        Cool. Thanks,

        Joe

      • rattyuk

        You just insert the second and it starts streaming in stereo. There is a small pause.

    • art hackett

      Unfortunately many controls we’re used to, like skip back or forward and volume (voice controlled?) appear to be unavailable at this stage. Tap to pause/play is it.

  • Corey O’Brien

    What about sound quality? My biggest problem with the current wired Apple headphones is their actual sound quality. I can buy a $15 pair of in-ear headphones, ones that seal in my ear well, and the sound kills the sound on Apple’s. They didn’t seem to take quality of sound into account when making these and they didn’t seem to make the sealing of the ear canal even possible.

    Any comments? Your review didn’t touch on any of this.

    • klahanas

      Since we need to provide our own counterpoint, or at least let someone else do it…

      http://www.businessinsider.com/apple-airpods-vs-earpods-wireless-headphones-2016-12/#price-1

      • Corey O’Brien

        And that doesn’t even include the sound as a problem. I read an article when they first were demoed that said that the sound was the same as the EarPods, meaning they won’t sound that good to those of us who like to hear all the music notes. Don’t remember who the review was from though.

      • Narg

        That was awesome.

    • benbajarin

      I’m not an audiophile so sound quality was plenty good for me.

      • rattyuk

        Same here, but it does the one thing I wanted them for which is wearing one in bed to listen to audiobooks. I’m a very happy camper.

      • So … the AirPods are $160 cordless headphones that don’t produce superior sound? If someone figures out how to make $50 in-ear headphones that produce similar quality sound, the only value provided by the AirPods will be easy of pairing. Is ease of paring worth $100?

    • Gest2016

      I have read they are noticeably better than the wired Earpods, and have a little more bass. So, I think they will be adequate for my needs for listening to music while exercising.

      • Narg

        Funny, I’ve read the opposite. They are good, but not great. And weaker than the wired versions.

        • art hackett

          Funny, I’ve read the opposite – that they’re better quality audio than the wired and noticeably more comfortable than the wired ones, largely because wires aren’t dragging them out of position and the posts allow for better balance. Useless for me though as the wired ones fall out of my ears almost immediately due to their incompatible shape, which also means the sound is poor as they don’t seal/sit in my ears. Beats for me then I suppose, as the quality Sony over ear Bluetooth with notice cancellation are so infuriating to try to connect between devices, never mind that they regularly default to mid or low quality transmission.
          If I hold the EarPods in my ears, the sound quality is very good, but that’s not a very practical use scenario.

          • Space Gorilla

            Have you heard of EarSkinz, they’re a cover for Earpods that helps them fit better and stay in, and they also claim to improve sound quality by directing the sound and sealing better.

          • art hackett

            No, thanks for that.

  • klahanas

    “But, these were the first which are independently wireless — not connected to anything.”

    Except maybe these…
    https://www.cnet.com/news/11-alternative-wireless-earbud-headphones-that-arent-the-apple-airpods/

    You did provide some very nice in-use touches the Apple product provides. Since you completely ignore any of the other products, it’s impossible you could report on those.
    In other words, it’s an opinion piece. One sided at that.

    • benbajarin

      I’d think you have read anough of my product related pieces to know you dont’ read my stuff for a “review” but I always talk about it in context of what is interesting and where it may go in the future.

      • klahanas

        But “first which are…” is erroneous and contributes to false impressions.

        • benbajarin

          I changed it, I mean first ones I have tried.

          • Space Gorilla

            Yeah, I think we all knew you meant the first ones you have tried. Seemed obvious.

          • klahanas

            I don’t know what kind of mental gymnastics made it obvious, since one can’t get them in the first place…

            Oh, I see, Mr. Bajarin is “connected”. I wonder how that is…

          • Space Gorilla

            It was obvious that Ben always meant “these were the first I’d used which are independently wireless”. Now it’s *more* obvious.

          • klahanas

            You do realize that when you cut the branch you are standing on, you fall down, not the tree, Right?

          • Space Gorilla

            What a strange comment to make, all I did was point out that most people already understood Ben meant “first I’d used” and not that Apple made the first independently wireless earbuds.

          • benbajarin

            I thought you engaged in more intelligent dialogue than that. My bad for thinking the best.

          • klahanas

            Mea culpa, I got dragged down. I did not mean you got paid, I though that would be “obvious” 😉
            Well, how did you get them, if not by a privileged position?

          • benbajarin

            Obviously nobody gets paid for this kind of stuff. Priveleged yes just because apparently folks care about my opinion on things. Comes with the territory of industry analysis.

          • klahanas

            And that’s all I meant. To me, that is not obvious.

          • klahanas

            The following is sarcasm, for those not inclined to see it:

            Well then, no grudge against you (that’s sincere), how come Apple didn’t care enough about ‘my’ opinion?

          • benbajarin

            they do, that is why they send out surveys to their customers ; )

          • klahanas

            Wonder if Dvorak gets one! 🙂

          • benbajarin

            Nah he is done. He has lost all crediblity in our industry.

          • klahanas

            I meant a survey…

  • Shameer Mulji

    What are the chances that Apple licenses the W1 chip to 3rd party accessory makers?

    • Glaurung-Quena

      Probably minimal to none. The fact that they named it as an apple made chip says that they’re positioning it as something you get only with Apple devices. If you want better sound than the airpods deliver, but want the convenience of the W1 chip, then your recourse is to buy some wireless headphones from beats.

      • freediverx

        I don’t expect Apple to license W1 tech to competitors anytime soon. But proprietary naming isn’t a factor, given that Apple has a history of licensing other branded technologies including the Lightning connector and AirPlay.

        • Vadim Dumin

          I didn’t know Apple licensed their technology. I wonder why and if they license the technology “as is” or just the patented pieces of it. Although I did not hear about any vendor who uses Lightning connector and AirPlay besides Apple.

          • obarthelemy

            They license Lightning. One could conceive of whatever layer they’re running atop BT for the headphones to be conceptually similar to a wireless Lightning. Probably hard to re-implement independently though, both the HW and the SW. So it maybe boil down to Apple selling bare metal W1+SW tools… it will be a test of how willing they are to be a bit open. We might see some major+premium OEMs in on it, say for stereos, AV… ?

          • Vadim Dumin

            Wait, are you saying we may see wireless Lightning from licensees based on W1+Apple SW tools soon?

          • obarthelemy

            I have no info whatsoever. But using the past as a pattern, it might happen: Apple is not against sharing their interfaces, as long as they get paid for it.

          • Vadim Dumin

            “Apple is not against sharing their interfaces, as long as they get paid for it.” That would make sense unless they had a better way to use it and stream some additional worthy data upstream through it. I would be surprised if they wanted to license iCloud to someone.

          • obarthelemy

            iCloud does have APIs, can’t these be seen as a limited license ?

          • Vadim Dumin

            Sorry for being unclear. I meant they would never license the mechanism that allows sync up of multiple devices to a single independent cloud storage. I may be wrong, but licensing of APIs means they are happy to consume whatever data the 3rd party service gives them to Apple very own storage.

          • Vadim Dumin

            Do you know if Apple licensed only patents for Lightning or the actual implementation? I would be very surprised if they licensed W1 out, but not so much if they licensed the patents only: there is a long way from patents to the actual implementation and their licensing out the patents may mean (not necessarily though) that Apple are about to obsolete the actual Lightning implementation soon.

          • obarthelemy

            I don’t know, and I wouldn’t expect Apple to license the W1, but either the protocols, or sell a W1 subsystem as a black box.

          • Vadim Dumin

            Apparently they license Lightning as a part of MFi program to allow to 3rd parties making accessories for iPads and iPhones.
            http://appleinsider.com/articles/14/02/07/apple-lowers-mfi-lightening-licensing-fees-paving-way-for-more-affordable-ios-accessories-

            AFAIK there is no proprietary chips in Lightning, just the connector, so it is different for W1 chip and its wireless protocol.

    • I doubt it. The “new Apple” seems interested in making products that appeal to the “average” masses that can’t easily be made to appeal to the ones who want to do more.

      So instead of supporting AptX and allowing for a truly better wireless audio experience for ALL, Apple has ensure that better wireless audio is only available via Apple AirPods.

      I can download better app when I outgrow the native iOS camera app. I can download a better email client when iOS Mail no longer meets my needs. I can replace the calendar with more suitable options. But … I can’t use better wireless options to exceed the limitations of regular Bluetooth because Apple hasn’t supported what’s already available (AptX) or licensed their “superior” tech.

      When can we expect @benbajarin:disqus “impression” of the Beats Powerbeats3?

      • obarthelemy

        “”They’re magic !” ;-p

    • Narg

      They already have, just not delivered yet.

  • Vadim Dumin

    It would be nice if AirPods used a voice signature for the authentication. Some of the banks are already using this technology for their customer service.

    • freediverx

      I wouldn’t use banks as a reference point for good security practices, especially when it comes to proper and timely implementation of current technology.

      • Vadim Dumin

        I usually don’t like banks authentication either. They are usually far behind the rest of the tech. But in this particular case a voice signature seems like a convenient way to authenticate. It can be stolen, true. The same as a fingerprint. But it seems like a good technology, a fair beginning.

      • The challenge with two-factor authentication and online bank accounts is that most accounts have only a single login even for joint accounts. For a married couple, that means that one spouse creates the account and has to share the login credentials with the other spouse. When you add multi-factor authentication to that mix, you essentially lock the other spouse out of ever using the account. For very good security reasons, you don’t want to link a single account to more than one token.

        As for other online accounts, the same problem applies. If I were to die, my wife could never access my iCloud account, email account, etc. without access to my iPhone. If that iPhone is destroyed in an accident, she’s SOL.

  • Years of buying iPhones and iPods for myself, wife and kids, have left us with dozens of Apple in-ear headphones. We found them all uncomfortable. We alll have over the ear headphones.

    • obarthelemy

      I’ve found in-ear to be randomly incompatible with some people. I’m fine, my brother hasn’t found something that fits and stays. It’s a bit hard to shop around too? I wouldn’t use a demo model ;-p
      Though anything works for me, I’m best pleased by models with switchable soft plugs. You’ve got to choose the slightly smaller one and really push the thing in ^^ The Xiaomi Piston line is generally considered excellent value: http://www.geekbuying.com/Search/?keyword=xiaomi+piston . Even the cheapest ones have several plugs. They don’t go utterly upmarket though.

      Edit: Oh, if you’re an Apple household, I’m not sure the remotes work. Earphones usually have a separate Apple variant.

      • We are a 100% Apple household and have been that way for a while. 27″ iMac (mine), MacBook Air (wife), Four iPhones, four iPads, Apple TV, AirPort Express x 3. But I’m a technologist so I often evaluate what’s being elsewhere. For example, we recently purchased a TiVo Bolt. It supports 4K so 4K videos on YouTube or Netflix, supports Amazon Prime video and allows me to stream TV shows to any of my devices. All things the Apple TV does not do.

        So while I like the integration between all my Apple devices, it comes at a cost — sometime I get less functionality than I would if I used another product.

        • klahanas

          This is what I find to be the most frustrating thing with Apple. YOU must conform.

          These are computers, one of the most important things about computers is flexibility and control. Apple is an IT department which you pay, but you don’t control.

          • jfutral

            In theory you are right. In this universe, I haven’t found any computing platform that offers both flexibility AND control in a usable form. Something is ALWAYS sacrificed. So, you educate yourself and pick what you think will work best for you and give up the rest. Or you do like my brother and buy into everyone’s platform. I don’t make that much money.

            Joe

  • Claus Hoewe

    Thanks, I was hoping someone would review these…I’m thinking they’re a must have & a bargain at $159

    • Narg

      I’d rather pay Apple $159 to put the jack back in the iPhone…

  • obarthelemy

    What’s strange is the enduring disregard for anything not happening in the iBubble. That’s over 80% of the market, and generally provides an early look at all the innovations in the Mobile space.
    We get treated to utterly self-referential reviews of each iPhone vs the previous one (it’s better ! whoddathunk ? ), of each Apple gadget in a competitive void (it’s unique ! kind of axiomatic ?).

    Nothing much from those is different from 3 year-old Moto Hints, except 3 years of technological progress. The concept was there, the design was better, the functionality is basically the same… http://gizmodo.com/moto-hint-review-the-first-bluetooth-headset-i-wasnt-1645744079

    • klahanas

      And disruption theory!

    • Gest2016

      Your post is boring and angry.

      • obarthelemy

        Is it untrue though ?

        • Narg

          It’s because Apple provides special consideration to reviewers that paint an overly pretty picture of it’s products. And, does it’s best to attack those who don’t by removing things like early access, and special information privileges, which are key to well accepted blogs these days. Heck, they even take legal action against some for negative reviews, warranted or not. It’s basically a scam.

          • klahanas

            Thank you!

            Didn’t they force Ellen DeGeneres to apologize a couple of years ago?
            Those censorious… &^&&^%&*^kers!

          • Space Gorilla

            Man, you’re so angry at Apple. Ellen did a bit, which wasn’t all that funny, and then she did a follow up bit on her own, which was perhaps a tad funnier. I’m quite sure Apple reached out to Ellen’s folks but she wasn’t forced to do anything, she saw an opportunity for a follow up bit and took it, as comedians do. You should watch the apology bit, it’s quite clear she isn’t taking it seriously.

          • klahanas

            I thought it was hilarious. Still not the point.

            http://www.pcworld.com/article/195671/Apple_Scolds_Ellen_Over_iPhone_Ad_Parody.html

            Apple cared enough to confront her, and was effective.
            I will allow my anger to paint a picture of what I stand for, and your acceptance to paint you.

          • Space Gorilla

            Heh, you’ve completely missed the point. Ellen wasn’t forced to apologize, she simply took an opportunity to do a follow up bit. We know Apple contacted her people, but that’s probably the extent of it. Ellen then saw a great opportunity to ‘apologize’, as in sarcastic air quotes ‘apologize’. That’s clear if you actually watch the follow up ‘apology’ bit. I would guess Apple is a lot more relaxed these days about this sort of thing, it was Jobs who was much too sensitive at times, and that culture likely carried over to whoever decided to contact Ellen’s people about the parody. Everyone makes mistakes, but it is a fabrication to frame this as Apple forcing Ellen to apologize. If you can’t see from the video that Ellen is *joking* about apologizing, I can’t help you.

          • klahanas

            I will let fellow readers draw their own conclusions.

          • Space Gorilla

            I’m quite sure any normal person who doesn’t hate Apple the way you do will see that Ellen was simply joking about the apology. It made for a good follow up comedy bit, that’s all.

          • art hackett

            Isn’t Ellen sponsored by Microsoft?

          • Space Gorilla

            No idea, but she uses Apple gear and talks about it from time to time. If memory serves she used an iPhone backstage at the Oscars but used a Samsung device while hosting because Samsung was a sponsor.

          • benbajarin

            Apple gives products to lots of folks who don’t paint rosey pictures also. They recieve quite a bit of warrented critique from their community and others.

            But as analysts, and the audience we have which is not mainstream consuemrs, we always focus on the bigger picture vs. try to tell people what to buy.

          • PhilipGBaker

            As a reviewer, I can confirm Ben’s comments. In spite of my being critical about some Apple products, the company is easy to communicate with, professional, and usually willing to provide loaners. In contrast, Microsoft is extremely stingy with loaners, their PR people often lie, and it’s impossible to get them to loan a new product unless you are in the top tier national press.

          • obarthelemy
          • klahanas

            Do not take this personally.
            Rosey is a very relative term.
            When Jerry Pournelle ran his column, each and every posting clarified that the products were on long term loan, and some reviews were blistering. Enough for my impression of Apple to have pulled support.

          • benbajarin

            Real point is some people can critisize constructively in a helpful manner and some can just compain. Which do you think is most helpful?

          • klahanas

            Those are your filters, and that is the arena within which you play. It makes sense, and you certainly don’t need my validation.

            My filters are purely from a well versed customer’s point of view, and that is the arena from which I play. The only money involved is my own, the only freedoms are those of users.

            We serve a different cause.

          • obarthelemy
    • The Moto Hints article that you linked to was very interesting and I agree that it is very similar to the AirPods. Having said that though, the fact remains that even Google who I recall still owned Motorola at that time, was not interested (maybe too busy with Google Glass). There simply wasn’t enough interest.

      This is the main problem with throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks. The reality is that even the best ideas don’t stick at first, but need heavy marketing, continued development etc.

      Motorola and Apple both saw the same idea. Motorola just threw it at the wall. It didn’t stick. Apple thought that with enough marketing and development, they could make it stick.

      People take Apple new product introductions seriously exactly because of this. Because they know that Apple has done the thinking and testing, and that consumers aren’t being asked to be guniea pigs.

      Therefore, instead of complaining that the mainstream media is in an iBubble, I would suggest that tech companies stop prematurely hurling stuff to walls and start thinking seriously about developing, promoting and nurturing their products.

      • obarthelemy

        I wasn’t talking about mainstream media but specifically techpinions. Mainstream media at least mentions price and cost/benefit, and often even context/alternatives. Those headphones cost as much as a midrange phone, and replace $20 wired headphones, they better be majorly extra-useful.

        As for hurling stuff prematurely… yes and know: as a user of a product, it always pays to wait for v2 or v3. As an analysts of an in dustry, I’d be looking into the innovative (for the real definition of innovative) stuff, wondering hat might make it to the big leagues (maybe by adding a bit of sexy + easy ^^). If not actually reviewing v1, at least aware they existed at some point, maybe having earnestly tried them. What bothers me most here is the lack of perspective. Of product non-reviews feel like Apple PR, straight down to the PR buzzwords.

        Edit: also, I’m wondering about the “sexy” part of Apple’s equation. I see the easy, but the sexy is very much missing, those look like white plastic ? Is Rose Gold planned to get re-purchases next year ?

        • I get your point, and I agree that the Moto Hints should have been given at least a mention maybe. If Google had pushed the product though, I’m sure that Ben would have mentioned it.

          As for sexy, I’m not really sure how sticks coming out of your ears can be sexy, and I don’t think rose gold can help. Fashions change though.

          • obarthelemy

            Google is pushing the Pixel hard. The mention is “Google’s potential strategic blunder with the Pixel” ;-p

          • Apple gets the”iPhones would sell more if they only sacrificed thinness for more battery life” treatment as well. Armchair analysts like to fantasise what they would do if they could teach the CEOs of the most valuable companies on the world. Techpinions analysts do more real analyst work, but there still is the temptation (and having the word “potential” in there is significant).

            The point I’m making is that at least the tech press did not ignore the Pixel, although they did ignore the Moto Hints.

        • jfutral

          I think then, the question is why is Apple seemingly more successful than Motorola was with a very similar product? While the rest of the Apple press is quite annoying and obviously favored to Apple since their success as a publishing platform is directly tied to Apple’s success, I do think Ben and Techpinions are more interested in Apple, not just because they are happy users, but also Apple’s usually less conventional approach, turn around success, and ability to affect markets beyond their share is unparalleled. There is reason to focus analysis on Apple and their products that don’t exist with many other companies.

          Was Motorola’s intent with their product 2-3 years ago on making it an important part of an ecosystem or was it simply to sell optional bluetooth headphones?

          Joe

          • klahanas

            I do think the author, and Techpinions in general, are sincere. We come here for the dialogue. Though I agree with what you say, it’s only part of the story, and being interested in one aspect of something does not absolve you from being equitable in your reporting.

            There is definitely a “Progress was made in Syria…but is it good for Apple?” thing going on. 😉

          • obarthelemy

            In this specific case, I think Moto was trying to differentiate and add value. Those were not regular BT headphones (they sucked at music, to start with), and the advanced functions only worked with Moto phones at the beginning. It wasn’t a one-off either, they updated the Hint at least once, they had a specific Moto Assistant… It was much earlier so the assistant was more limited, it did get lost in the ownership shuffle – I’m fairly sure Google never intended to keep Moto, and Lenovo seems to be having a hard time getting into the “sexy + easy” groove so different from their core pro PC business (though they manage it with their excellent + different tablets… life is mysterious) .

            I think a big part of the issue is what we’re seeing here: Apple gets a lot of “free” PR (not so free, they clearly use access to people/events/early units as a reward for positive write-ups). In hindsight, the Hint (and Samsung’s Notes, and KNOX, and Android’s modularity, and the excellent cheap phones we’ve been getting since last year, and…) get incredibly little coverage, for stuff that’s as momentous or as innovative as this. Where’s the piece on the Pixel ?

          • jfutral

            Hmmm. I feel like you just made Ben’s argument about integrated vs modular.

            [eta: there were at least three articles focused on Pixel since September 30th.]
            Joe

          • obarthelemy

            How so ? Every OEM dreams of “integrated” in the sense of added value -> differentiation -> lock-in (by order of increasing monetary value). In the Hint case it didn’t work because distractions… and because integration: it never reached PR nor market critical mass *because* it was Moto-exclusive. Now that Google offers the same software (and, I’m sure, soon the same hardware/earbuds), we’ll see if it catches on at the Android level.

            And I count 2 articles on the Pixel:
            – “Google’s Potential Strategic Blunder with Pixel” (probably not a fluff piece similar to the present non-review ;-p; not a product presentation/advocacy piece)
            – “Pixel and Surface: Comparing Google and Microsoft’s Hardware Game Plans”, not pure Pixel, not a non-review
            (3rd one on the Pixel C, not the same device)

          • jfutral

            I think that’s part of the point, the difficulty in trying to create an integrated model within a modular system is almost impossible. Those distractions are an intrinsic part of being in a modular system. There are only two leaders in the larger Android system—Samsung and Google. Right now, those are the only ones who can pull this off without seeming like an optional accessory.

            Joe

          • obarthelemy

            How has Samsung pulled it off ? They can’t. Because buyers don’t want it, even if they’re not conscious of it, in the end they gravitate towards the open solution, because switching, lower prices, better quality….
            And Google pulls it off because they make it modular by making it available to all OEMs.

          • jfutral

            I wasn’t aware that Samsung had tried to create something akin to Hints/Airpods., which is why I think they _could_. But if they had and failed, again, this is intrinsic to a modular system. You just can’t create an integrated model in a modular system, no matter how hard you try.

            Joe

          • obarthelemy

            At what level ? Apple created an integrated system over a modular Intel HW platform + BSD SW layer. Amazon created the integrated Fire ecosystem over the modular AOSP ecosystem. Today’s walled-garden VR ecosystems are grafted onto modular Windows/Android ecosystems.

            The issue is not that you can’t axiomatically build “lock-in” above “open”, it’s that OEMs have no idea how/what for, nor required skills. I’d submit two half-successes as examples it can be done: Amazon’s Fire, and nVidia’s console-ish Shield ecosystem.
            – That last one particularly, because it substracts nothing from the experience: it’s full Google-Android w/ PlayStore, gApps, the whole shebang… , but *adds* gaming-specific stuff (more powerful GPU, gaming remotely on a PC, cloud gaming, bespoke game pads…).
            – Fire is a bit more compromised as an example: it is built atop AOSP not gAndroid, ie porting apps is easyand the HW is the same, but there is some porting to do for Cloud stuff since AOSP has none and Google’s not in AOSP. And the shop is different. Still, integrated, and built atop the epitome of modular, ie fully Open Source.

            PS: I wasn’t talking about Samsung AirPods, but about any and all attempts by Samsung to add to Google’s stuff. Their custom UI/Launcher just reached the point where some don’t consider it a nuisance… after 10 years ^^

          • jfutral

            I think at the only level that matters, the whole. Shared _parts_ underneath are not the same as a modular model. Right now and since its inception “Android” has deliberately been a totality of an ecosystem. That is the obstacle no one can overcome. Even Amazon’s attempt to build an integrated system within a modular system has mostly faded.

            Joe

          • obarthelemy

            1- The modular model is all about shared parts. Macs benefit wildly from the Intel HW ecosystem, the x86 software ecosystem… not being able to run Windows (for games and verticals) would hurt Mac.
            2- Even at the end-result level, you can have an integrated part on the side or atop of a modular part. See nVidia Shield, FB, SAP… The issue is these are mostly not at the hardware level, but at the software or cloud level, and OEMs are bad at that. Shield seems to be doing OK at its small scale; Fire fluctuates with HW refreshes and promos, but is not disappearing (they did have a major misfire with their weird phone), I’m curious if RIM is succeeding with their Android OEM phones + RIM security&services…

            To me, saying you have to get out of Android/Windows to succeed is like saying you have to forgo all standards and ports to succeed in AV (trying to speak to your heart here ^^). The common/modular stuff is the baseline on top of which you add your value. Blaming that base for having no value to add is weird. My cars are not selling… so let’s reinvent the wheel ?

          • jfutral

            At a micro level, you are correct. But none of that is the point. For Android OEMs the important part is “Android”, not Motorola, HTC, or LG. Samsung has done better than the others, but still at the mercy of “Android”. When I overhear people at cell phone stores they ask about Android phones, not just smart phones, much less Samsung or Motorola.

            You’ve already explained everyone’s failure to to create an integrated system in Android. So which is it? Can it be done or not? Is there an example somewhere that you can show success? Parts are not the same thing. That is not about integrated or modular models in the context of this discussion. That’s a non-sequitor. You may as well have said “Well, yeah, but water!”

            Joe

          • obarthelemy

            I think OEMs are failing to differentiate within Android for the same reasons they failed to set up a competing ecosystem before that: network effects, developpers x3, and, above all, they’re bad at the ecosystem stuff: software and cloud and politics and content and monetizing, even simple branding and design for some/most of them…. It’s like asking Boeing to be an airline or even a travel agent.
            So my answer is: it can be done. It has been done in a handful of cases (nVidia Shield, Amazon Fire, maybe RIM). But it mostly won’t get done because the very reasons OEMs had to fall back to Android instead of their own rent-rich exclusive ecosystem makes them unable to even find one niche/feature-silo in which to get valueadd, exclusivity, lock-in. It’s not the game that’s rigged, it’s the players that are bad. There’s *one* OEM app that sometimes gets mentioned in “best-ofs”: Asus’s File Manager. Let’s build an ecosystem starting from that shining star….

            And there are a bunch of counter-examples of integrated failing hard: Palm, Nokia, RIM, probably Nintendo, pre-PC OEMs. So now that all integrated OEMs are dead, there’s nothing left to talk about other than how modular is bad. It’s so bad they’re the only ones left standing ? I’d say better bad than dead. Or Apple, OK, everybody should be Apple (but not Palm, not RIM, not Nokia). Except it’s too late and they didn’t know how to then, and wouldn’t know now.

          • jfutral

            I disagree that your examples of modular failures were failures. In their day they were the quite successful. Their failure was not the integrated model, except as much as their particular model wasn’t sufficient enough to compete with the new form of smartphone introduced through Apple.

            But remember, before Android hit the market the other players were actually growing. Again, this just further illustrates Ben’s point about swings through modular to integrated and now the Android OEMs trying to figure out modular to survive and Motorola’s difficulty that started this discussion. Android did to phones what Windows did to PCs. Now MS has to move to an integrated model to remain relevant, and we see Google starting down the same path, even if in a modified form.

            Joe

          • obarthelemy

            We’ll see if Google 0.5% share of smartphones and MS’s 0.x% share of PCs turn into any kind of tsunami. I’m not sure how integrated getting vaporized every time modular pops up is a sign of integrated’s strength. You mean it does manage to pop up for a short while before being vaporized ? Hey, I’ve got a sugar bridge for sale, before the next tide. It’s bigly strong ^^

            BTW, a big slice of business being un-integrated is contracts. Even in the US, unsubsidized phones are making headway. In that area, I’m curious if Project Fi will perdure, and will remain Nexus/Pixel-only. If I were an OEM, especially one with no US presence yet and a hard time breaking into carriers (or with several brands), I’d be trying like mad to get in on that.

            PS: I think you meant “I disagree that your examples of **INTEGRATED** failures “. I didn’t convince you but at least I got you confused ! Now, about iOS being better than Android … ;-p

          • obarthelemy

            Also, with Windows Phone, MS did go from modular to integrated. Seems it solved all their problems. Oh, wait …

            You think HTC, Sony, LG (which bought WebOS/Palm) would do better than MS, starting from an even lower base (ie, nothing at all) ?

          • jfutral

            I’m not sure you can count what happen to Windows Phone as “integrated”. It certainly shows the tenuousness of modular, though, when all your OEMs but one ditch you for another modular ecosystem. If MS expands their Surface line to include phones, then we’ll see what happens.

            Joe

          • obarthelemy

            Just spent 2 hrs setting up my elderly uncle’s new WinPhone. I should sue the seller for “abuse of weakness” which is a concept in France.
            It’s usable, it’s just not nice. Slow, and the Live Tiles are mostly sad and empty. And the finger acrobatics required to unlock the phone then pick up incoming calls means he misses half of them. And I couldn’t sync his phone’s pics to his One Cloud for some reason.

          • klahanas

            Any standard, ecosystem, etc. that defines the rules of engagement and participation has these attributes. Like I said before, you CAN make a “vertically integrated” ecosystem using modular parts. The vertical is a subset of the general.

            What matters is the size of the ecosystem and it’s governance and openness to participation. This affords economies of scale, playing well with others, and all the other synergies that benefit the user. This was the main benefit of the PC, which mobile has taken away.

        • benbajarin

          We aren’t a mainsteam media site that is why. Our audience is mosly in-industry business people looking for the analysis part not influencing what people buy. That is why I spend more time analyzing the interesting bits and making points about where it may go in the future.

          • klahanas

            Sounds like a bookie to me… 😉

          • benbajarin

            never heard industry analysts likened to that before but ok ;). Just to be on the same page you do understnad the role of the industry analyst in the industry right?

          • klahanas

            It does sound pretty apt to me.

            I do believe prediction of markets to be gambling, the moment investments are made at risk. What else but the role of odds maker to the analyst?

            BTW, a legal and often honorable activity! 😉

          • obarthelemy

            Which rekindles the question: why nothing on the Hint 3 yrs ago ?

          • benbajarin

            Didn’t think it was helpful.

          • Vadim Dumin

            It would be interesting to compare the specs though. For one I am doubtful that the wireless reception is as good on Hint as on AirPods since AirPods have a bigger antenna due to the their “hockey stick” shape.

      • jfutral

        “People take Apple new product introductions seriously exactly because of this. Because they know that Apple has done the thinking and testing, and that consumers aren’t being asked to be guniea pigs.”

        I was with you on every thing except this. Apple has had its share of failures that sure seemed guinea pig like—Ping, even iCloud still, Cube, just to name the few that com to mind the quickest. Or in the case of the original iMac sans floppy drive, I don’t know anyone who bought one who felt less a guinea pig. It was more they saw the promise of life without it—who really wanted to store more floppies and the whole “Step three… there is no step three”.

        Joe

        • At least Apple stuck to its guns. That’s because they had conviction that it was the right thing. Even regarding Ping, they’ve again added social stuff to Apple Music so they haven’t entirely given up. Apple does fail, but they tend to fail with a conviction. They aren’t just testing but instead are stumbling hard to reach their vision.

          That’s how I see it.

          Remember that the Mac too was a flop at first.

  • John Miller

    Question about the remove-from-ear pausing for when you’re watching video: if you remove one airpod, does the video also pause? If not, what happens, does the audio pick up where it paused, thus now being out of sync with the non-paused video, or does it stay in sync (thus only silencing the audio while out-of-ear)?

  • Narg

    So, again, Apple shows problems with wireless. Wireless is a nice feature to have, but it should NOT be the sole feature available without compromise or special tools needed. Jack-less smartphones were not ready for prime time. Apple goofed big time here.

  • Space Gorilla

    Fascinating that any article saying something positive about Apple almost always gets over one hundred comments. Other articles about tech, pretty much crickets.

    • Glaurung-Quena

      In the basement of one infinite loop Apple has a Portal to the home of Cthulhu, from which they siphon psychic energy and bake it into all their products. Some humans, on being exposed to the psychic energy of an Elder God, become mindless sheep who who cannot buy enough Apple gear. Other humans respond to the psychic energy by becoming irrationally violent and aggressive anytime they see or hear Apple mentioned.

      • Space Gorilla

        Hey, thanks for clearing that up 🙂

      • klahanas

        That was good…
        Really good!

Protected by Gerben Law