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.
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
The iPhones are the only top-tier smartphones to come with earbuds, instead of in-canal headphones
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.
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.
In-ear headsets come with different size tips. For some people, none of these work
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.
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.
An earbud design can be refined, upgraded, and improved upon. An in-ear headphone will always need to be shoved into one's earWhen 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.
Samsung's winged tips make sure the earbuds stay in place
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.