I’ve been using a pair of Jaybird Bluebuds wireless earbuds for over a year now.
It was akin to being let out of earbud jail.
Look at me freely whip my head around like a dope! Look at me merrily tap-dance down the street without getting a cable tangled in a passing bush, fence, or angry pensioner!
They are a revelation. I won’t ever go back to wires.
Having said that, there are still things about the current state of wireless earbuds that annoy me.
First up, I’m constantly forgetting to charge them. This wouldn’t be a big deal if I was more disciplined about charging, but I’m more of a charge-em-as-I-need-em-type of guy.
As a result, I often have my earbuds go dead halfway through a bus ride. That’s a real bummer.
It also really bugs me that I can’t really wear a single earbud only.
This is useful when performing tasks like:
- Getting on the bus
- Riding a bike
- Doing housework
- Writing articles about earbuds
With the Jaybirds, the weight of the unworn bud yanks the connecting cord down, putting undue pressure on my ear canal. Ouchies.
I’ve heard that this year Apple is working on wireless earbuds of their own. With that in mind, here are some of the things that I think they should build.
Requirement 1: Battery life must be at least eight hours (can be supplemented by a charging case, see below). Any less than this and earbuds will go dead too frequently to be useful.
You shouldn’t need to turn them on or off. When not in use, they go into a low-power mode that preserves battery.
Requirement 2: Apple should be bold and go for a truly wireless design. That is, earbuds with no connected wire.
By all reports, this is extremely challenging problem for wireless headphones makers. Our heads are full of squishy meat sauce that tends to interfere with wireless signals dinging from one side of our head to the other. There are only one or two hardware designers (Bragi, Earin) who are trying to tackle this at the moment, and neither of them have made a mass-consumer product yet.
If Apple could successfully ship these alongside the iPhone 7 in September, I think they’d be among the first in the world.
Requirement 3: This product needs to be able to be used with only one earbud.
This probably means a defining a “primary” earbud that can be used solo. If Apple were smart they could build in a sensor that could sense whether you are wearing both together, or not.
If you’re using a single earbud, it should switch audio output from stereo to mono.
While I’m on sensors, they should detect usage. If it’s not in your ear, sound comes out of the phone instead (this should be configurable though).
Requirement 4: A built-in mic, so that you can make and receive phone calls. This mic should also be able to be used with Siri. You should be able to activate Siri using the “hey Siri” keyword, or, activate Siri with the long-press of a button.
Requirement 5: Physical controls to play/pause music, fast forward or skip, rewind or skip back, volume up, and volume down. Activated by either physical button/s or touch sensitive panel/s.
These controls should not be positioned in a way that make you inadvertently pop the earbud out of your ear when using them.
Requirement 6: A charging case. Should have a larger battery then the earbuds themselves, so when you put the earbuds back into the case, they begin charging.
This charging case should have a male lightning adapter, similar to the current Apple Pencil.
Pull a off a cap on the case (or ideally, flip a hinge), plug the case into your iPhone or iPad temporarily, and fast-charge the case. This way, you don’t need to carry around an extra cable in order to charge the earbuds if they go dead.
This charging case should utilize the same charging technology that is found in the new Apple Pencil, the new Magic Mouse, and the Magic Keyboard.
A brief rapid charge of a minute should give you around half an hour to an hour of use.
Requirement 7: These earbuds should be branded Apple, not Beats. This way, Beats does not have to re-think its entire line up of earbuds or headphones in order to make room for this product.
It also means that Apple can re-purpose of the name EarPods — AirPods?
They should come in white, space grey, gold, and rose gold.
Beats will eventually also ship a set of PowerBeats 3 that utilize this same technology.
Requirement 8: These earbuds should be able to be paired up with the Apple Watch so that you can go for a run, or a bike ride, or go to the gym, and all you need is your watch and the buds.
Requirement 9: Adjustable tips (or different sized models, if this isn’t possible) so that they don’t fall out of your ear, regardless of your ear size or shape. I would advise against inner ear wings, outer ear loops, or similar weirdo tricks.
This also means the buds have to be very light, so that the weight of the earbud does not drag it out of your ear.
This requirement may affect battery life.
Requirement 10: A retail price between AUD$300–$500 (around $USD249–$349).
If Apple can hit everything on this list, I’d be first in line.