For 10 years, Apple had barely touched the design of its earbuds, those simple white earphones that shipped with every iPod since the first model in 2001, but that all changed at the company’s iPhone event on Sept. 12, when the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer company showed off its newest speaker innovation, called the Apple EarPods.
Even though the EarPods include many fantastic features for listening, the listening devices currently being shipped with the all-new seventh-generation iPod Nano and fifth-generation iPod Touch – both released today – are missing some of the extra physical features, including the microphone and controls.
Japanese blog Macotakara posted hands-on videos with the new iPod Touch and iPod Nano on Tuesday morning, and both videos did not show the integrated microphone featured on the iPhone 5 EarPods; however, the fully-featured microphones do still work with the iPod Nano and iPod Touch for recording voice memos.
This move was somewhat expected: Apple had always released versions of its earbuds sans controls and microphone with its older iPod models, and on the company’s website, the iPhone 5 is listed as shipping with “Apple EarPods with Remote and Mic,” while the iPod Nano and iPod Touch ship only with “Apple EarPods.” However, while the missing feature may have been expected, its discovery is unwelcome.
With the remote, the EarPods can make your music louder or softer, pause the song, or switch to the next one. With the microphone, users can record voice memos or talk to Siri just by holding down the central button on the control. These features would be useful in the new iPod Touch and iPod Nano, yet Apple chose to leave these features out for no apparent reason.
For three years, Apple set out to create a speaker that was comfortable, secure, and provided one of the best audio experiences around. They were three years well-spent: The EarPods are incredible, and they're far superior to any audio experience Apple has created thus far. Yet, it’s disappointing that not all EarPods are created equal. If you buy a new iPod, you won’t enjoy the facility of the EarPods unless you buy a separate pack, or you buy an iPhone 5 or a new iPad.
About The New EarPods
"The human ear is so unique. No two are alike," Ive says 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."
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."
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."
About The New iPods
On Tuesday morning, we received word from customers who pre-ordered the new iPod Nano or iPod Touch that Apple had notified them that their orders have shipped, with delivery expected early next week. Apple has a useful comparison of all its available iPods on its website, but we’ve broken down these two particular iPods for your convenience:
The new iPod Touch has and features as the iPhone 5 including iOS 6, the four-inch Retina Display and Siri, but the iPod Touch is also thinner, features a downgraded 5-megapixel camera from the iPhone’s 8-megapixel camera, and the device also includes a novel “iPod Touch loop,” which hooks onto the bottom of the device for added security when taking pictures or just a simple stroll. Apple boasts the battery in the new iPod Touch up to 40 hours of music playback and up to eight hours of video playback, but unlike the iPhone 5, the iPod Touch is a bit less speedy. The device is powered by a faster A5 processor rather than the custom A6 chip in the iPhone 5, and the iPod Touch lacks any cellular capabilities or the lightning fast speed of LTE.
However, since the new iPod Touch features most of the same qualities as the iPhone 5, Apple has priced it accordingly. The new iPod comes in 32GB or 64GB capacities but unlike the iPhone 5, which just comes in two different color combinations, Apple offers six beautiful colors to choose from, including black, silver, pink, yellow, teal, and that (Product)RED model, which sees a portion of its cost donated to helping fight AIDs in Africa. All iPod Touch devices cost $299 for 32GB and $399 for 64GB.
The seventh-generation iPod Nano, as Apple's VP of iOS and iPod product marketing Greg Joswiak put it, is “the best iPod we’ve ever made.” The newest iPod Nano was completely redesigned with a 2.5-inch display that perfectly fits widescreen video – a feature that was removed in the previous iPod Nano – and useful features like Bluetooth, a built-in pedometer and Nike+ support right out of the box, and an FM radio. This iPod gets 30 hours of audio playback but just 3.5 hours of video, but unlike the Touch, the nano gets sold in eight different candy colors, including black, silver, purple, teal, green, yellow, pink, and (Product)RED. The new iPod nano costs $149 and contains 16GB of space.
Both iPod models come with a new set of EarPods, but of course, these lack the microphone and controls. Do you think it’s wrong of Apple to not include these features in every set? If you buy a new iPod, will you go and buy a separate pair of EarPods? Let us know in the comments section at the bottom of the page.