I’ve got no strings: AirPods are more than an evil plot

Yes, Apple makes money off of AirPods. It also provides a lot of value.


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The Macalope regrets to inform you that even though it’s late 2019 we’re still talking about the headphone jack.

Writing for NBC, Nicky Woolf says “Apple's AirPods changed everything. They gave the company near-monopolistic power over users.” (Tip o’ the antlers to JoeFoe and Bill in Dallas.)

The Macalope is so old he remembers when AirPods were so overpriced and ugly no one was going to buy them. Now we must buy them because our Apple overlords have made us. Stands to reason, though. They certainly can’t be popular because people like them.

Futurists hate wires: Wires can tangle. They are messy, inelegant, inefficient. To Silicon Valley’s technologists, they are the enemy. Everything that can be made wireless must be made wireless…

You know who else hates wires? People who have to deal with wires.

Also puppets.

Possessed puppets.

Which is redundant because all puppets are possessed. That’s just science.

Particularly galling was that customers who wanted to continue to use wired headphones in new Apple devices had to shell out for a special adapter (which, at least until 2018, Apple wouldn’t let third-party manufacturers make).

This is probably why Apple included a Lightning adapter with every iPhone until 2018.

It’s all about the money, of course.

It’s partly about the money, sure. Apple hopes you’ll buy AirPods, but you can still use wired headphones if you’re all about the tanglin’ or you can buy third-party Bluetooth headphones on the cheap. That’s what The Macalope was doing before AirPods came out. And he’s not exactly a futurist. He’s still using an iPhone SE. Which has a headphone jack. Which he hasn’t used since late 2016 when AirPods came out. Why? Because it’s a better experience. That’s it. That’s the monopoly.

This was starkly illuminated by an industry analyst, Wedbush Securities’ Dan Ives, who told CBS in September that he is expecting Apple to sell 62 million sets of AirPods…

Which people hate, right?

Yes, if there’s one thing we all know about AirPod owners, they resent Apple for forcing them to pay $160 to buy the only headphones available for iPhones.

Of that, Ives predicted, 5-7 percent will be replacements for lost buds and cases…

One thing we know for sure is that no one ever lost a pair of wired headphones. The replacement figure for lost wired headphones is zero.

Wired headphones were working fine.

SCSI ports were working fine. Serial ports are great. Everyone loves VGA. The Macalope categorically disagrees that wired headphones were “working fine” (and not just because of the antlers), but even if they were, “working fine” is a standard no one should aspire to.

…while a good pair of wired headphones can last years and years if looked-after, AirPods … only last about 18 months before their battery degrades…

This is true if you’re the fastidious type who rolls up their headphones after use and puts them in a case, but The Macalope’s spouse used to go through a pair of wired headphones every couple of months by catching them on various objects like the car door or the steps of a ladder being comically swung about by one of the Three Stooges. Over a year after buying AirPods, she’s still on her first pair. Why? Because they don’t have wires. And, yeah, she still has them because they cost more. When you leave a $15 pair of headphones at the doctor’s office, you’ll probably forget them. If it’s a $160 pair of AirPods, you go back. While The Macalope is on his second pair of AirPods, he still has and periodically uses his first pair.

Woolf portrays all of the benefits of AirPods as just being part of Apple’s insidious plan to hook you, as if selling an improved user experience is something companies shouldn’t do.

The mild inconvenience represented by tangled headphone wires was seen not as a human problem that needed to be solved for the good of mankind, but as a potential opportunity to replace a long-standing open and fiercely competitive market with a brand new closed and uncompetitive one…

Wireless headphones are not a closed market. Apple certainly has an advantage in certain features because it owns the full stack but, as Woolf has pointed out, that feature set comes at a cost. You don’t have to look very far on Amazon to find waterproof or noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones (which AirPods are not) that sell for far less than $160. Apple is selling a lot of AirPods, but it’s not like the rest of the wireless headphone companies are going out of business because of Apple’s “monopoly”.

It’s not true that nobody asked to get rid of wires. Is it true somebody asked for over-the-top complaints about headphones almost everyone who owns them really likes?

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