Monday, March 26, 2012
Why the standard-issue iPhone earphones are the best earphones in the world

I think the standard-issue Apple earphones (headphones? earbuds?) you get with the iPhone are one of the most cleverly designed products we have seen in the history of technology.

You are probably thinking or saying one of these things right now:

"The sound from them is dreadful! No bass! So tinny!"
"The white rubber bits get filthy! Mine look disgusting!"
"Are you kidding?! They don't even stay in my ears!"
"They are made so badly! I'm on my fourth pair!"
"What?! They leak worse than a screen door on a submarine!"

And this is where you'd be wrong: They are the perfect commuting accessory. Yes, you heard me. The Apple ones are PERFECT.

When I get the tube to work, I need something that sits loosely in my ears. I have a pair of Sennheiser CX300 II earphones that fit so snugly in my ear that, by the time I get to work, my ears are throbbing.

Oh, and the Sennheisers seal so well I'm oblivious to all other sounds. Has my train been diverted? Is someone calling out a warning? Did I hear that car hurtling towards me as I cross the road? I'd have no clue. With the iPhone headphones I get enough ambient sound to allow me to get one with normal life while Spotify provides the soundtrack.

Oh, and talking of Spotify, the button on the iPhone headphones controls Spotify with one click to stop/start, two clicks to forward a track, and three for back. I can click to stop the track, leave them in my ears, and still order a coffee on the way to work. Even if I'd shelled out for the Sennheisers with the in-line remote I'd have to pull out an earbud to have a conversation.

Oh, and talking of earbuds, I have already lost a couple of the Sennheisers' interchangeable earbuds. The Apple headphones have no such complexity. The hardy little suckers have been through the washing machine in a pocket and didn't bat an eyelid. (Top tip: It solved the newspaper print smudging too.)

Oh, and talking of pockets, the Apple headphones have a rubberised coating which means I spend about a quarter of the time it takes me to untangle the wires compared to my other two pairs. They look neat and tidy when in the ear too, without sticking out for miles, in-your-face branding or unnecessary bling.

To summarise:

So comfortable you can wear them all day
So versatile you can hear external noise without removing them
So tough they can go through the wash and still work
So clever they tangle less than the others
So cheap (they were free with the device)

Sure, if you're a sonic purist in search of perfect noise-cancelling or the widest dynamic range, then the Apple earphones are not for you. But then you shouldn't be listening on a phone, either.

If all of these points don't add up to a design classic, I don't know what would.


(Photo by p_a_h)