Apple's earbuds, those simple white earphones that have shipped with every iPod since the very first one in 2001, have grown to be as symbolic of Apple brand as the iPod itself. After a few minor variations on the same design, adding the remote and microphone features over the past 10 years, Apple finally unveiled a brand-new redesign of its earbuds at Wednesday's media event in San Francisco. But don't call them earbuds, those are yesterday's news; Apple's next-generation earphones are called EarPods.
Apple created a special video to describe the design of the new Apple EarPods, which is narrated by lead designer Sir Jony Ive. The video is embedded at the bottom of the page.
Here are three major benefits of Apple's newly-redesigned earphones.
1. They're Designed For The Ear Itself. "The human ear is so unique. No two are alike," Ive said in the video. "Making one headphone to fit everybody's ears would be like one pair of shoes to fit everybody's feet, I mean it's impossible. But that's exactly what we've tried to do with the new EarPods."
According to Apple's website, the EarPod design didn't start with the speaker; it started with the ear itself. Apple needed to change the circular geometry of its original earbuds to make them more a comfortable fit as they sit in the ear.
"Everything about their design is focused on delivering incredible sound and comfort," Ive said. "As part of an exhaustive research and development effort, we three-dimensionally scanned hundreds of ears and looked for a commonality. From that, we were able to determine a common volume. This was our starting point to developing a form to fit a broad range of ears."
2. They're Durable. Apple explains on its site that over the course of three years, Apple asked more than 600 people to test over 100 different versions and models of the Apple EarPods in all sorts of conditions.
"Testers ran on treadmills in extreme heat and extreme cold. They performed various cardio workouts. They were even asked to shake their heads from side to side, up and down. The result: Apple EarPods provide stronger protection from sweat and water, and they're remarkably stable in the ear. Which means they stay in, even when you're on the go."
3. They Optimize The Listening Experience. In addition to being more stable without creating a seal like in-ear headphones do, the EarPods themselves are better designed around the geometry of the ear, finding the best ways to direct sound into the ear canal.
"To optimize the acoustics, we've built in a series of ports, each with its own unique purpose," Ive said in the Apple video. "A port in the back tunes midrange frequencies and provides a consistent listening experience from one person to the next. To provide rich, powerful bass, we've built ports into the stem that actually work in sympathy with the speaker. By letting airflow in and out of the acoustic chamber, they relieve pressure and allow the speaker to allow more freely, producing greater, low-frequency sound."
The new EarPods are the only accessory or device announced at Wednesday's event that went on sale the same day; however, many Apple Stores are reporting that the first shipments of the new earphones haven't arrived yet. While the physical stores get in order, the online Apple Store is shipping the EarPods for $29.99 a pop. The new EarPods will work with all models of iPod, iPhone and iPad, although not all of those iOS devices can support the volume up/down functions on the EarPods' remote.
"Sound is so important to the way you experience an Apple product," Ive said. "So we wanted to make a headphone that was absolutely the very best it could be."