Instead of the notch, I wish more smartphone makers would copy the Apple headphones

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Instead of the notch, I wish more smartphone makers would copy the Apple headphones
Before getting into this editorial, let's call a spade a spade — copying occurs in just about any industry out there, the smartphone one included. When a device happens to be successful, competitors will quickly adopt its features — some hoping to ride the trend of its successful rival, others attempting to get a good feature and improve upon it further, thus increasing the value of their own product.

For that reason, Apple is often referred to as a trendsetter in the smartphone marketplace. Just look at recent history if you need proof — the iPhone 7 made the black color cool again and competitors scrambled to launch "special edition" black versions of their current smartphones; the same generation of iPhones also removed the headphone jack and, for some reason, other manufacturers decided that it's now OK to do so on a mass scale; the iPhone X came out with a notch, which is — for some reason — a controversial design decision, but a lot of Android manufacturers chose to roll with the same concept, despite many users saying this is the last thing they want to see on their phone.

But I'll be talking about one type of "Apple copying" I wish I could see more, but I don't. And that's the EarPod design. I wish that instead of jumping on The Notch trend or hastily removing headphone jacks, manufacturers would copy one simple thing — the shape of the EarPod earbuds.

Why? Because I want to see better choices of earphones bundled with our handsets. Now, "better" is a subjective point here, but hear me out.

Fit woes


Let me start with the personal point — and I am fully and completely aware that this is an issue that doesn't plague the majority of users out there, but a good portion of us for sure. And that's the simple fact that in-ear headphones just don't fit all ears. It just so happens that my ear canals are somewhere between the default size rubber tips that all in-ear headphones ship with. Using an M tip causes pain as I jab the headphone in, while using an S size results in the right earbud constantly falling out.


Again, sure, you can say that's an individual problem seeing as I may have weirdly-shaped ears. But a simple Google search turns up a ton of pages with guides on how to put in-ear headphones on. Yes, there are enough people out there having trouble with these things to warrant the existence of various guides across the Internet. Seeing as headphones are supposed to be a pretty intuitive product to use, I'd say this speaks heaps and bounds about the in-ear buds' comfortability.

We actually ran a poll a couple of weeks ago, asking if people liked their in-ear buds. Yes, 63% voted on loving theirs, but there's a 37% chunk that either hates them or simply puts up with them.

Do you like in-ear earbuds?

Love them!
63.23%
I put up with them... they are fine I guess
22.5%
I can't stand them / can't use them at all
14.27%

Granted, some people have no issue with the fit, but just hate the fact that in-ears isolate the outside world and awkwardly amplify all of your internal body sounds. Or, they just dislike jabbing the phones inside their ear canals. Or, they hate how the headphones can easily come off or break the isolation fit if their cord gets slightly tangled.

Are you saying earbuds will fit everybody?


No, I am not oblivious to the fact that some people have a hard time keeping an EarPod-designed earbud in their conchas as much as I have a hard time keeping an in-ear phone in my canals.

But, here's my point. If competitors really venture off to create the most versatile set of earbuds, the EarPod concept is a good place to start. Then, add plenty of options and evolve the product into something that pleases as many people as possible.

When you have an earbud, which has been designed to sit in the ear concha and sound good in that position, you have plenty of opportunities to accessorize properly and make sure it fits a wide, wide range of ear types. We've already seen Samsung experiment with the concept — the Samsung Level U wireless earbuds have different rubber tips, including a set with "wings" that lock on to your ear.


But that's not the limit to where you can go with this. We can have clips that hook on the outside of the ear, we can have different types of textures for maximum comfort, and I am pretty sure one can come up with an earbud design and accessory that can turn an earphone into a canalphone, effectively keeping all sides of the argument happy.

On the flip side, when your headphone has been designed to be in-ear from the get-go, there's no type or amount of accessories that will change the fact that some people don't like or can't stick a canalphone in their ears. You are simply locked down to this one type of limited fitting options, which effectively cuts a lot of people off from being able to enjoy your product.

Why is this an issue right now?


Admittedly, I haven't seen this as much of a problem for years. Usually, when unpacking a new phone, I'd toss the in-ear headphones aside and just use whatever set I had and was comfortable for me.



You already know where this is going, right? With smartphone manufacturers insisting on following trends that are not necessarily consumer-friendly, we now have tons of handsets that don't have a headphone jack. Which means that I am either locked into using the provided set of USB Type-C in-ear buds, go out of my way to buy USB Type-C headphones that I like, or carry a dreaded USB-to-headphone jack adapter. Currently, I opt for option #3, with an adapter always residing inside my wallet's coin slot. Yeah, not the best experience.

There's also the fact that smartphone manufacturers are starting to put an emphasis on their headphones. Samsung touts its AKG-designed headset, HTC celebrates the Usonic. And here we are, the 30% (rough number from the poll above) that don't like in-ear headphones, unable to enjoy this out-of-the-box experience.

In a nutshell


In my eyes, Samsung was on the right track with the headphones it made for the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S7 era devices. These were derived from the EarPod concept, but were tinier and more elegant. You could rock them without a rubber tip or choose to add one to improve the earbuds' grip inside your concha. As I said above, the options here can be expanded quite a lot — the sky is the limit.

The in-ear choice feels like a bit of a cop-out to me. They are easy and cheap to make and since they isolate outside noises by way of the rubber tip you jab in your ear, they get a natural boost in punch and bass response without much effort. What I am wishing for here is to see a concentrated push to improve the bundled headsets for our $700+ devices and I do believe that going for an earbud design and working up from there is the way to go.

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88 Comments

1. cmdacos

Posts: 4198; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

The apple design is the worst and the first thing we throw in the trash when unboxing. I only use in ear and some with ambient noise as they are far more rich in sound and still comfortable without worrying about falling out. Funny that the writer suggests everyone copy apple when the poll points in the opposite direction. Should start the title with -Opinion.

4. NateDiaz

Posts: 1088; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

Having used both Earpods and AKG that comes with Samsung, I'd say exact opposite. Apple's design is more ear friendly than every other earphone out there.

8. cmdacos

Posts: 4198; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

All just opinions. Won't please everyone to have the same generic design one way or the other.

35. KRT55

Posts: 11; Member since: Mar 30, 2016

True. Funny how just a week ago i read an article asking for Apple to change their earpod design as it's plastic and uncomfortable. I agree with it. I didn't even know anyone shared opinion with the author let alone enough for someone to think it is enough for an ignorant article.

32. TechSceptic

Posts: 1156; Member since: Feb 05, 2018

Having used both Earpods and the AKG IEMs that come with Samsung, i'd say the exact opposite of you. I don't know about you, but i'm quite the amateur audiophile myself, so i care about my sound quality and my audio devices. The Earpods from Apple were horrible, as they were made out of solid plastic, so there was literally no way for them to conform to my ears. There also isn't any tips with earbuds, so i couldn't change the shape either. They were really uncomfortable. Samsung's AKG follow the trend that every single expensive earphone in the world does, which is the in-ear approach. Let's just ignore the fact that IEMs provide superior sound quality, superior isolation and superior versatility. The AKG from Samsung, or any generic IEM are much more comfortable to wear, as the thing that is in contact with your ear is silicone/foam, so it literally conforms to the shape of your ear.

37. NateDiaz

Posts: 1088; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

You have a very bad memory, I don't read your stories. Keep them to yourself. And you didn't reply on my Bixby comment yesterday lmao

38. TechSceptic

Posts: 1156; Member since: Feb 05, 2018

I have a bad memory? So you know how i felt better than i did? You're a ridiculous Apple fanboy. Just because i had a different experience than you doesn't mean that mine can't possible be right. IEMs are generally much more comfortable than earbuds, as earbuds like the Apple earbuds are made out of hard plastic and can't adapt to the shape of your ear at all. IEMs have silicone and foam tips which comfortably adapt to the shape of your ear. There is a reason the majority of people, according to Phonearena's own poll, prefer IEMs. If you look at the audiophile forum on Reddit, then you will see that they say you shouldn't spend more than 20$ on an earbud. Earbuds are a horrible form factor, which is why only Apple uses them. https://sites.google.com/view/headphoneadvice/iem-earbuds/earbud-corner?authuser=0

44. NateDiaz

Posts: 1088; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

I told you I don't read your stories, no one does yet you're here with another. Earpods are designed like just like the shape of human ear if you remember Apple's commercial from 2012.

47. TechSceptic

Posts: 1156; Member since: Feb 05, 2018

I'm sorry my "stories" goes above your elementary school reading capabilities, but it's important to actually explain your logic to people, so that they can understand your point of view. It's also important as a way of proving your point. A concept foreign to you. "Earpods are designed like just like the shape of human ear if you remember Apple's commercial from 2012." You're using Apple's marketing crap as a source for the Earpods? Oh dude, you're beyond ignorant. Of course they're going to praise their own product. Do you honestly think that an IEM brand would say that their product isn't shaped like the human ear? Please think for once.

50. NateDiaz

Posts: 1088; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

*complains about my reading capabilities but continues writing a paragraph* Spending a lot time here, kid go to do your homework. You gotta submit that in school tomorrow.

51. TechSceptic

Posts: 1156; Member since: Feb 05, 2018

"complains about my reading capabilities but continues writing a paragraph" There is no logical connection between those two. I just explained exactly why i wrote responses over 10 words. Your reading capabilities failed you again. Don't respond if you don't understand what you're responding to.

52. NateDiaz

Posts: 1088; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

"I just explained exactly why i wrote responses over 10 words." Why? When you already know my reading capabilities ain't good why would you explain? This makes you look stupid, well you already are. Hope you got the logical connection between those two.

53. TechNeck

Posts: 651; Member since: Aug 29, 2014

I mean Sceptic is right, the Earpods are really uncomfortable since it's just full on plastic.

77. ColinW

Posts: 412; Member since: Jun 04, 2014

Wow, you use Apples marketing to attempt to justify a point. That's as dumb as it gets.

26. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

I don't have problem shoving my ear with in ear 3-4 hours everyday.

80. iPhoneFanboy

Posts: 286; Member since: Apr 21, 2018

Coming from the moron who hates on Apple products in every article, and thinks you need to jailbreak to download apps off the internet instead of the App Store / sideload LOL. You opinions are terrible given your ignorance and bias

81. boucha26

Posts: 50; Member since: Jul 01, 2015

il tel you the answer for poll.... answer is simple. android phones are available at the starting price around 50-70$. so there are many android users around the world than apple users. so mostly they il vote against apple without read anything.... just ask the poll like "which is better phone? " , iPhone X or any other cheap or any android" phone. most of the ppl wil vote for android phone without caring the brand. is that the real result? No.

82. radji

Posts: 17; Member since: Mar 26, 2012

Yes! Dilly Dilly! I have tried quite a few in ear buds over the years. Mostly cheaper ones and a couple of expensive ones. But I can say hands down that Apple earbuds were the most painful to wear.

2. whatev

Posts: 2260; Member since: Oct 28, 2015

And here come the comments “apple wasn’t the first with the notch”, “apple wasn’t the first to eliminate the headphone jack”, “apple didn’t invent black”, etc. Let’s see what they say about the headphones now, tired of this seriously *rolls eyes

5. cmdacos

Posts: 4198; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

These days you are the only flame war driving oxygen thief to bring these topics up...

6. NateDiaz

Posts: 1088; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

#1 says you're the one.

10. cmdacos

Posts: 4198; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

It was my opinion. Free world sorry.

11. NateDiaz

Posts: 1088; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

And this article was writer's opinion, I guess he isn't part of your "free world"

12. cmdacos

Posts: 4198; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

I didn't say he couldn't have an opinion.

19. whatev

Posts: 2260; Member since: Oct 28, 2015

Because in the android trolls universe, logic works one way, you should know that, they also have different principles for maths, economy and physics as well

7. j_grouchy

Posts: 177; Member since: Nov 08, 2016

I have to say, I agree with the author. I absolutely HATE the in-the-ear-canal style of headphones. I hate having to shove them into my ear canal, I hate them falling out, I hate being able to hear every click and pop of my jaw as I chew or every inhale or exhale I breathe. I actually use old-school apple earpods (with the standard audio jack) on my phone. They are cheap (they came free with an iPod I got several years ago), so I can abuse them. They have decent sound (I only use to them drown out my annoying coworkers or watch TV/movies on my phone in bed). They fit well in my ears and I don't have to force something in where nothing should be shoved.

87. ph00ny

Posts: 2031; Member since: May 26, 2011

I absolutely love iem. Not only do you get a proper seal for better sound, you can also get a different tip than the ones that came with the packaged set.

9. quakan

Posts: 1418; Member since: Mar 02, 2011

The EarPods are the most comfortable headphones for me. I’ve tried many in-ear, squishy earbuds and they’re uncomfortable and don’t fit well. Even ones that fit decently quickly cause ear fatigue.

13. whatev

Posts: 2260; Member since: Oct 28, 2015

Rather than the design itself I wish they copy the sound quality, I’ve tried different headphones from different brands thinking they’re better than the EarPods (I tend to waste headphones very frequently or they just stop working after some time cause I use them a lot), despite there are some with nicer designs the sound quality is not similar, I find it better on the EarPods

20. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4769; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

Sound quality? Really? I don't see an audiophile earpods if they're of that 'great' sound wuakity you're talking about.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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