AirPods nano: The future of wireless earbuds is the only reason Apple should make another iPod

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
AirPods nano: The future of wireless earbuds is the only reason Apple should make another iPod
It’s hard to argue with the popularity of the iPhone, which has been the best-selling phone in the world for several years now. But this doesn’t mean Apple doesn’t make other products, which have earned a “mainstream” status.

In fact, if you were to take a walk outside (don’t - it’s scary!) something you’ll (literally) see even more frequently is people carrying (or wearing) wireless earbuds - or AirPods if the person is an iPhone user.

Actually, as I’m typing this, I realize that I liked my first pair of AirPods (the original) so much that I kept and used them for years paired with my Huawei P30 Pro. And no pun intended, but this speaks volumes about how much I like, use, and kinda… need my AirPods.

Fast forward to this day, I now have the latest AirPods Pro, as I waited patiently for the arrival of USB-C to switch from my Huawei FreeBuds Pro. It’s safe to say the AirPods Pro immediately made my Huawei FreeBuds feel and sound like a toy.

So, yes, AirPods are now the one Apple product I don’t seem to be able to leave the house without, which is actually shocking given how awesome and how essential my MacBook is for my job, and how dependent we all are on our phones.

And in case it wasn’t clear, that’s exactly where I’m going with this… I don’t want to need my iPhone (or an Apple Watch) to use my AirPods. And I think I have the solution.

You better grab a pen, Tim Cook.

Apple should build an iPod Nano right into the new AirPods Pro, and no one can change my mind

Recommended Stories
The latest and last 7th iPod Nano launched (and died) in 2012 to make way for music streaming apps, and it seems the world hasn’t looked back since. In the end, no one wants to spend money on and carry a separate device that serves a single purpose. I mean, solving this issue was literally the whole point of the original iPhone.

So, to get this out of the way, the idea of having to buy a different device to pair my AirPods to (which isn’t my phone) so I can listen to music without my phone is crazy, and should stay in 2012. However! This doesn’t mean the concept of the iPod doesn’t have a place in today’s world of streaming.

How come? Well, I might be the minority here, but I don’t always want to carry my iPhone to be able to listen to a podcast/music - it really is as simple as that. And there’s one specific scenario where this is particularly true, and that’s when/if you’re trying to stay off your phone, or as some call it “getting off the grid”. Or perhaps even if you don’t have access to, or don't want to have a phone at all. Apparently, Christopher Nolan doesn’t, and he’s… like a big deal?!

Say I was to give myself a social media/smartphone break and take a week-long vacation. Sure, I can rely on sheer will and trust myself to unlock my phone and fire up JUST and ONLY Spotify when I want to stream my music/podcasts, but if our will to stay off our phones was so strong, would I be writing this story? And would you be reading it?

Anyway, the point is that outside of socializing with other humans (and who wants to do that?!), listening to music and podcasts is one of the few forms of modern entertainment that doesn’t involve shoving a screen in your face. So, why not make the device that enables listening to music/podcasts even less likely to be a distraction?

Ironically, this device also needs a screen. But bear with me…

Ikko ActiveBuds: Is this terribly named pair of earbuds what Apple’s AirPods should turn into? And we call it… AirPods Nano

Of course, my (obvious) suggestion for Apple is to build the “iPod” into the next version of the AirPods Pro, and to show you what this looks like, here are the just-launched Ikko ActiveBuds.

Let’s be honest, the Ikko ActiveBuds look like an early prototype of an Apple product that won’t see the light of day. However, they can be the key to making AirPods their own “thing”, or even exciting and special rather than just a pair of earbuds you keep in your pocket.

I haven’t gotten my hands on them yet, but those who’ve tried the Ikko ActiveBuds praise them for having very good sound quality, and a rich selection of features, and that’s because Ikko has basically built a whole Android phone into the ActiveBuds - one that can run the same apps your phone can. They can even take a SIM card, which makes them fully independent.

Now, of course, “build a phone into it” is pretty much the exact opposite of what I imagine when I think of the “AirPods Nano”, which, remember, should (IMO) be less of a distraction and more minimal than the iPhone. Still, the overall idea is there…

What I believe would make Apple’s version of the Ikko ActiveBuds an immediate success is Cupertino’s ecosystem, which was always ready for a pair of AirPods with a display.

Apple can make a pair of iPhone-free AirPods Pro with little to no effort

  • Apple’s product ecosystem is the right (and arguably only) ecosystem that can add a novel product like “autonomous AirPods”, and make it seem like it was always meant to be there

  • You can already use your Apple Watch + AirPods to listen to music and podcasts independently from your iPhone, which makes it safe to assume Apple already has at least part of the software that could power AirPods with a built-in touchscreen

  • In fact, the display from the Apple Watch could very well be the display in the AirPods Pro - that way Apple and app developers won’t need to optimize apps for a different aspect ratio

  • To get nerdier, Apple already has the necessary chips/processors to make the perfect pair of fully independent AirPods; assuming the AirPods Pro will have an “OS” of a kind, they should be able to take an e-SIM for access to mobile data (for streaming - duh!)

  • AirPods are already the best-selling TWS earbuds in the world, which means the iPod-like AirPods Pro would have to be terrible to fail, and (let’s be honest) many Apple users will buy anything Apple makes, let alone a pair of cool, innovative AirPods

  • Apple is (reportedly) working on a bunch of new AI features for iOS 18 and iPhone 16, and you can bet some of them will focus on breaking language barriers (like the Galaxy S24 Ultra and Pixel 8 Pro); what a better product for real-time translation feature than a pair of wireless earbuds? For the record, the Ikko ActiveBuds can do that

  • Last but not least, Apple loves being “extra” while taking the industry in a new direction (sometimes even the right one!), and what’s more “extra” than having an extra screen on your… AirPods?!

Breaking up with a long-term partner like iPhone won’t be easy for AirPods, but Samsung is already "testing" earbuds case with an OLED display

Video Thumbnail

In the end, yes, I want a pair of independent AirPods Pro, but turning AirPods into an iPod Nano won’t be a perfect exercise - but then again, what’s perfect?

Regardless, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Adding another display in your life (boy, this sounds stupid!) means you’ll now have another display you can potentially break, which… sucks; but who are we kidding, you’ll be able to find a dozen screen protectors for your AirPods display if Apple was to make it happen

  • Of course, making the AirPods case “smarter” would mean you’ll also be able to control your music/podcasts through it, but the truth is that touch controls on AirPods (as they are) are way quicker to use, and therefore more convenient

  • As you might know, the Apple Watch already is a remote control for your AirPods, and you can even use it to store downloaded music/podcasts, and for many people that’s a perfectly acceptable “workaround”; but see… I don’t have an Apple Watch - so leave me alone!

  • The $250 AirPods Pro are a relatively affordable product (compared to an iPhone, for example) but they certainly aren’t a budget pair of earbuds; so what’s the price of a pair of Pro-er AirPods Pro gonna be? $350? $400? $500? Or $250 and the case sold separately?

So… What do you think? A pair of “extra” AirPods Nano right after the extra ambitious Vision Pro headset? Why not! Are Apple and Tim Cook bold enough to Think Different once again?

Recommended Stories

Loading Comments...
FCC OKs Cingular\'s purchase of AT&T Wireless