First Click: The agony and ecstasy of Apple earbuds

February 25th, 2016

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I can always tell when my earbuds are about to die. It usually begins with a whimper — some static here, weird fadeouts there — and I can usually fix it with a few delicate twists of the jack. But deep down, I know that worse things are coming, sort of like that hollow, achy feeling you get the day before the flu sets in. Within a few days, one of the earbuds dies (it’s usually the right one, in my experience), and my life is thrown into sonic disarray.

With all the buzz lately about smartwatches and wearables, it’s easy to forget how intimate earbuds actually are. To the best of my knowledge, they’re the only piece of technology that I put inside my body every day; and although they won’t measure my heartbeat or count my steps, they’re far more important to my existence. When I’m walking around the city and one of my white Apple earbuds begins to die out, I feel physically off-balance — like I’m about to tip over.

I’m aware that there are higher-end models on the market, and that they promise both enhanced quality and durability. I’ve tried a few pricier brands, as well, usually at airport shops during boozy layovers. But their lifecycle has more or less followed the same trajectory — a few months of functionality, followed by a slow and agonizing death — and unlike some of my colleagues, I don’t really care that much about the latest hardware or specs. I just want my technology to work and look pretty, and I think a lot of people feel the same way.

As a result, I’ve lately resorted to spending €35 every few months on the ubiquitous white earbuds that come with every iPhone purchase. It’s a ritual tinged with melancholy because I know that it won’t end well — like buying a dog with an extremely short lifespan — but there’s an Apple Store around the corner from my apartment, so it’s the path of least resistance.

Maybe things will change soon. Apple is rumored to be working on wireless earbuds for its jack-less iPhone 7, which sounds kind of cool. I'm sure they'll look pretty, too. I just hope they work.

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