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10-Year Archive

Humanizing Tech

AirPods as the New iPod

Reviewing Apple’s latest wearable with music in mind.

I. Setting the Stage

You may remember our high-level review of the AirPods when they were first announced in September 2016, attempting to predict whether or not they would be successful, and what their future roadmap would hold.

Of course, this was before we had spent any real time with them. So, now that we’ve been using them for a week or so, it felt like it was time to update the analysis into a more real review.

Some reviews that we’ve done in the past have been long-form, but this one is going to cut right to the chase and zoom into the most important aspects of the product.

II. Unboxing Photos

III. The Only Feature That Matters

The first thing I think when I think AirPods is sound. Of course. But that really means only two things:

  1. Sound as music.
  2. Sound as voice.

Apple markets the AirPods as headphones without wires. That is its greatest and most tangible benefit. But then they fail. They push Siri on you as the new interface of the future.

But they forgot about human needs. Far more humans who can afford these pods spend their day on conference calls and listening to music than tapping to ask Siri a question.

Most people just don’t use Siri.

Also, you can’t store music on the AirPods, nor store it on Apple Watch, nor connect the AirPods to the previous iPod Nano. Nor can I connect the new Apple Music to my iPod Nano because there’s no internet connection to check if I’m still a paid subscriber of the service.

So here I am, nearly 20 years after buying my first MP3 player in the late 90s to store 28 songs on a 28MB flash card. But I still have to carry a hulkingly large iPhone to get the latest Apple Music I pay for to stream to my wireless iPods.

And so, in 2017 I still have to go back to wired headphones and an old iPod Nano that’s smaller and clips to my shorts belt when I run or lift weights.

The Apple Watch’s premiere function is as a fitness device. The AirPods being wireless are meant for movement.

And so, as a long-time product person and technologist, I’m left scratching my sweat-beaded head wondering how the hell they F’d this one up so badly.

I get that there are technological constraints. But you’re Apple. You invented the freaking iPhone. Multitouch, video streaming, GPS enabled maps, buttery smooth scrolling. Come. On. Guys.

Let me store 30 songs on my AirPods so I don’t need a phone or a watch or wires.

Let me be free.

There are plenty of other reviews of the AirPods online. And I agree with the consumer sat scores. I love them. But:

  • They don’t last more than a few conference calls without needing to be recharged.
  • I heard a loud buzzing in them once requiring me to restart my computer (how does one reset an AirPod??).
  • They also make my inner ears a bit hotter than the wired version.
  • I’m a bit worried about pumping Bluetooth signals directly into my ear canal and brain for hours at a time.

So there you have it. I love them and continue to use them, but I hate that they didn’t execute on the one most important feature for me, or most of the people who buy wearables. Namely, standalone music.

As DMX said, I’m slippin, I’m fallin, I can’t get up.


IV. Future Roadmap

Eventually Apple will execute against this strategy. It’s most definitely on the roadmap. They’ll put a wireless chip in them to stream Apple Music so they don’t require flash storage or the messy “how do I get songs onto my AirPods” issue that plagued iTunes syncing for so long. The problem is one of battery life and storage space for other components.

So, the two features Apple needs to continue to execute on are:

  1. Minitiarization.
  2. Battery efficiency (i.e., energy harvesting). This by far is the single biggest issue of the next 20 years. The next trillionaire will invent this.

Your Recommended Reading

  1. Roadmap of Fog for Apple’s AirPods
  2. Faces are the New Apps for Watches & Wearables
  3. Sports Wearables: Same or Different
  4. The Moon Collective
  5. The Review Channel

AirPods as the New iPod was originally published in Humanizing Tech on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

from Stories by Sean Everett on Medium http://ift.tt/2qIAMZM