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Apple AirPods: iPhone accessory or the next big thing? (kevinrooke.com)
699 points by 123six 15 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 671 comments

As always, none of the numbers are official, so take all of them with a huge grain of salt. The article also doesn't link to a single source, not even an unofficial one.

> Assuming an even split of sales between Gen 1, Gen 2, and AirPods Pro, Airpods revenue was $12 billion in 2019

This itself is a terrible assumption. AirPods Pro launched in November 2019, so had just 2 months of sales. Even otherwise, there is never an even split between the lower and higher priced versions of any product, especially when the higher one costs nearly double.

Another source (https://hypebeast.com/2019/12/apple-airpods-stats-third-larg...) estimates the sales at $6 billion, half of what the parent article says.

>As always, none of the numbers are official,

Not only were they unofficial, the guess work was wrong. And even the facts were wrong. What annoys me is the blog is actually for investment. ( With Email Newsletter suggesting sign up for insight )

>Since 2017, Apple has sold roughly 215 million iPhones per year. These phones cost roughly $1,000 each, and therefore generate $215 billion of revenue for Apple each year. This makes up 81% of Apple’s total revenue

There is no need to guess. Apple actually report ASP when they were reporting Sales Unit Number. In 2017 their iPhone ASP were 618 - 697 depending on Quarter. In 2018 their iPhone ASP were 728 - 793. They stopped reporting unit and ASP in 2019.

Apple Fiscal 2017, 2018, 2019 Revenue was $229.234B, $265.595B, $259.97B And iPhone Revenue was $141.29 , $166.8B, iPhone % of revenue was ~62% to of their revenue.

Not 80%.

The blog post could have been so much better if he spend 10min actually looking up those number.

It's not just the numbers, there are other wild assumptions going on.

> That means almost all iPhone users are still either using wired earphones or none at all.

I'm sorry, what? Non-Apple branded Bluetooth earphones (including AirPod knockoffs) are ubiquitous, and far outnumber wired earphones (in part thanks to Apple and many Android OEMs dropping headset jacks).

> (in part thanks to Apple and many Android OEMs dropping headset jacks).

That only happened on high-end smartphones. Low-end and mid-range still have 3.5 mm socket.

(Also, I actually look around regularly at the train station, and I still see mostly wired headsets. I'm using a wireless one, btw.)

> I actually look around regularly at the train station, and I still see mostly wired headsets.

I see the occasional default Apple headphones, but the vast majority of people are using Airpod-alikes.

Maybe an American thing. Look around at Amsterdam CS or Utrecht CS or Rotterdam CS. Mostly wired.

Berlin still has Walkman in the wild.

I saw them everywhere in Rome last summer. Lots of tourists of course, but I try to go off the beaten path and I saw quite a few locals wearing them too.

That might be a dutch thing, dutch people are notoriously tight-fisted

Indeed. Here in SE Asia, everybody still uses 3.5mm jack smartphones. It's a rare occurrence to see wireless earpods, and almost always these are cheap Chinese AirPod knockoffs.

Some of the cheap knockoffs are getting really good. Mine get 4.5 hrs battery life, have the optical sensor on the bud that pauses when taken out and wireless charging case including an cloned (stolen) apple SoC that gives the real battery life of the "airpods" and case when the case is opened.

Interesting! Have a link?

> Here in SE Asia, everybody still uses 3.5mm jack smartphones

This does not match my experience at all, but SE Asia is a diverse place.

Doesn't match mine either. Here in Japan (at least in Tokyo) it's uncommon to see wired headphones. Most are random wireless headphones, I would estimate 20-40% only being AirPods.

Japan is technically NOT in SE Asia.

Singapore, I see a lot of airpods though it probably depends on the area.

I should have been more specific. Probably should have said, "everywhere in SE Asia outside of Singapore."

I was thinking Bangkok, where almost everyone is rocking some kinda wireless headphones. Lots and lots and lots of cheap AirPod knockoffs

I'm in Hanoi, I see airpods everyday (and no, I don't go to tourist areas). I myself use Huawei Freepods 3, which cost about the same as Airpods (~180 usd).

Go to a random rural town in a midwestern US state and I'm sure you probably won't see people wearing Airpods, which is probably what people are picturing when someone says SE Asia.

We have paved roads believe it or not, as well as a large class of people who use the newest iPhones.

I think the number of wireless phones in Brazil is astounding. At least one in ten people.

Which means that almost everyone still uses wired phones.

In NL, I see mainly AirPods. less wired. and some other wireless brands.

Reporting from Toronto:

You see a lot of AirPods (I was gifted a set myself) but you see even more wireless over-ear headphones. I probably notice those the most. And wired are still common, though not necessarily 3.5mm.

I dunno... I was watching an NBA game* the other day and 4/5 players had AirPods in as they entered the arena and the other singleton had over the ear headphones. This totally caught me off-guard, and was so noticeable I made a mental note of it.

* I know, not representative of the general population, and USA-centric, but the A list tends to be representative of what people want and, if they can afford it, what they have.

I wouldn't be surprised if they were given them by apple for free - that's pretty good marketing.

Have you watched The Defiant Ones[1] on HBO? I can't exactly recall if they were giving Beats out to players for free, but there is a segment of the documentary where they talk about how ubiquitous Beats became because players were shown wearing them in the pregame. You could be pretty spot on with your assumption.

1 - https://www.hbo.com/the-defiant-ones

> And wired are still common, though not necessarily 3.5mm.

What do you mean by not necessarily 3.5mm?

Apple issues wired headphone with each iPhone. They connect through Lightning (the same slot you use to charge and sync the phone).

And Google Pixel phones (and presumably other jackless android phones) come with USB-C headphones.

Interesting, I had no idea such headphones existed.

Yeah this line alone also made me do a double take and question everything else he said

Likewise. I just closed the article after that; his credibility was gone.

Non-Apple branded Bluetooth earphones (including AirPod knockoffs) are ubiquitous, and far outnumber wired earphones (in part thanks to Apple and many Android OEMs dropping headset jacks).

Do you mean they are ubiquitous with people using iPhones? Because here is Australia I would guesstimate that 80% of in-ear wireless earphone used with Apple devices are AirPods.

I think probably 50% of people I know who've bought an iPhone in the last year have bought AirPods at the same time (if they didn't already have them).

Over/On ear headphone are a different story, as is Android.

> I'm sorry, what? Non-Apple branded Bluetooth earphones (including AirPod knockoffs) are ubiquitous, and far outnumber wired earphones (in part thanks to Apple and many Android OEMs dropping headset jacks).

Maybe in new sales, but not in deployed use.

I’ll buy a quality headset or in-ear and it might last me a decade.

Imagine thinking that AirPods were the first wireless headset.

The terminology "true wireless" became popular because of the wire linking the two sides on older bluetooth headsets.

When you think about it, the new usage (wireless = no wires at all) is more accurate than the old (wired, but not connected the the phone itself by wires)

Well technically, most others had a "wire" connecting left part to the right part :P

100% of the world calls those "wireless" not "wired":


Every headset has some amount of wiring.

So they have wires but they are wireless...

Yet half of HN has a fit anytime the word “Serverless” is uttered.

Imagine thinking the AirPods are a "headset."

In my environment we tend to call "Headset" something that is set up for quality conversations (think gaming or office headsets - large earmuffs and microphone boom being defining quality) and "Headphones" things that are intended primarily for consuming/listening (which may incidentally have a microphone, typically inferior).

Understanding that may not be wider usage, I feel there exists a need (or at least benefit) for two words - something which is good/intended for listening, and something which is good/intended for conversing.

AirPods are intended (and great) for talking

They are absolutely great... for person with the AirPods. For the rest of the poor suckers on the call, it's headache time.

As I'm currently in operations, vast majority of my team spends 4+++ hrs a day on calls and conference calls. We'll take a $20 3.5mm Logitech with a boom over a $100 bluetooth with a boom over $200 bluetooth without a boom in a heart beat. Anybody with airpods [or Samsung etc equivalents] has been taken out to the back alley and shot by now.

When did I say or imply that?

Correct, these are all estimates. And the sales split is unclear, but both Airpods 2 and Airpods Pro have the benefit of launching before the holidays. They got a disproportionate number of sales from those 2 months. Even if everyone went with the $150 version (which is impossible), Airpods revenue would still be $9 billion at 60 million units. The point still stands though, Apple is making a killing off Airpods. Whether the exact number is $9 billion or $15 billion isn't as important.

I am of course not debating that AirPods are successful. However,

- If one random sales estimate is $6 billion and the other is $12 billion, it is clear that there isn't enough information out there, or something else is amiss. This isn't just a margin of error difference, and would completely change the graph in the parent article.

- There is nothing useful to be taken away from comparing its sales numbers against a bunch of SaaS companies. Here's a better idea - put it on a graph along with sales of Echo, Fire TV, Philips Hue, Chromecast, Roku, Ring, Tile, Duracell AA Battery, GoPro etc.

I would find an estimate like "AirPods make more money than Spotify" interesting; its a sort-of poetic "the hardware you use to listen to the music is worth more than the music itself", at least in a limited scope (of course, the entire audio hardware industry is larger than Spotify, but is the entire audio hareware industry larger than the entire music recording industry? idk).

> the hardware you use to listen to the music is worth more than the music itself

Which still isn't a useful comparison.

One is an outright purchase, and the other a subscription service.

True. But $10 x 12 = $120 subscription per year. That's a decent buck and a fairly large market.

And on a long term, more profitable probably. We won’t see Spotify disappearing for a while.

Spotify rents music that it itself rents from 3 companies that own most of the music. Why would those 3 companies not just raise their rents if Spotify starts making a decent profit?

Spotify has been around since 2006 and just eked out a tiny profit last year. Unless they plan on owning music themselves, I don’t see why the music owners wouldn’t try to capture most of the profit.

Or. Flip that over. What happens to the music owners if one of their primary distributors goes under?

As long as Apple, Google, and Amazon are willing to forgo margins on music, not much.

I never said it would be Useful. I said it would be Interesting.

I primarily use airpods for making calls, and over the ear headphones for music.

> "the hardware you use to listen to the music is worth more than the music itself"

...at which point it's reasonable to maybe stop conflating price with value.

I guess you haven't met an audiophile?

Music fans buy stereo/audio equipment to listen to their music.

Audiophiles buy music to listen to their stereo/audio equipment.

I have met audiophiles. The impression I get is that having nice headphones "on the go" is not a priority and people live with the low quality of small-and-wireless headphones.

Very few audiophiles are sitting at their desk using Airpods, though. In that market, wired headphones rule supreme. (Many people are using wireless noise-cancelling headphones, however, not for audio quality but because "work" is too loud for people to work. At my last job, they even had Sonos speakers around playing music all day. It was crazy!)

It tells you that one hardware product is worth more than one streaming service. Hard to draw any conclusions about the music business as a whole.

1) I don't know the estimates but I see it on the streets. Everyone and their dog has AirPods. I already have seen people with Pro version as well. I do not see people walking with their GoPros. If I go skiing I don't see people with their GoPro (people mostly just go skiing and then do some pictures with their phones from what I noticed), Chromecast I have seen some but not as many. There is no comparison.

2) There is one interesting thing. Everyone would say "make software" because it is easily scalable and you want scalable business. You don't want to make physical things, because making business on physical things is not scalable. Now Apple is showing that making physical things makes loads of money if you are Apple. So still making physical things can make more money than making SaaS.

"If you are Apple" is the key part of it. A software company can be successful with a bunch of programmers and their laptops, and can go head-to-head with Google, Facebook or anyone else. That describes all the startups on the list. To emulate AirPods' success you need:

- a chip design/fabrication team

- a battery design team

- procurement specialists and high-volume vendor contracts in Asia, with assembly lines ready to go at moment's notice

- a logistics, operations and distribution pipeline in every market in the world

- the most successful product in the world (iPhone) which you can attach your sales to

- billions in marketing and advertising budgets

- premium retail locations across the world

AirPods are NOT a startup, and should not be compared to other startups. "Make software" is definitely still good advice for the vast majority of entrepreneurs out there.

+ some of the best product and interaction designers in the world who lead the definition of the product specs from a user perspective

I have an ex-coworker who did a consulting contract for Apple Air Pods Pro design.

You will not believe how low key was that project. It could've easily been a design from an average if not a lower tier OEM.

Perhaps it was (relatively) easy. What made it easy was precisely that it was Apple: full & willing integration with the iOS ecosystem. A couple UI clicks/taps, if not outright automatic, and your AirPods are happily talking to the device you want to hear from.

All competitors have to cope with interface limitations and API inadequacies. Even one extra obligatory UI step can practically ruin the experience (as compared to AirPods).

Getting to the point where deep integration is easy ... is hard.

Including the W1 and H1 silicon?

Given that the man is an analog extraordinaire, there shouldn't be any reason for them to hire him for anything but that I believe.

Are you saying the H1 and W1 could have been designed by a lower tier OEM?

Yes, that's a walk in the park ASIC

Odd that nobody did it before Apple.

Or, build hardware for business verticals. Where market sizes are just double digit billions and Apple will not play.

This is the big takeaway. The article saying “AirPods are X single digit percentage of apples revenue” (even if slightly wrong) means that there are probably other single-digit-billion-dollar verticales not worth it to Apple to exploit.

It’s already a meme on college campuses that you aren’t cool if you still have the ‘long stems’. I’d say pros are doing well.


Am college student, have not heard of this yet.

Of course you can make money making physical things.The only problem is you either make them premium or you have to sell zillions of units to make profit. We have "Apple" in every industry ( fashion, automotive, catering,etc.), however that's still only a handful.Making software is probably more likely to earn you tons of meney.

Which companies in the fashion industry are Apple-like?

Its a conglomerate and many brands, but LVMH is probably the closest comparison of an Apple to fashion.

It’s a luxury brand group, but has price points that go from attainable to stratospheric.

If I had to pick one label, I would choose Burberry (fitting, since Apple went on a Burberry hiring spree a number of years ago, and not just for retail but in design) or Marc Jacobs (which is part of LVMH).

LVMH.I believe it was Bernard Arnault who said that only luxury products can command luxury margins.

You should make software because you're not Apple, and don't want to compete with Apple.

And none of those have high profit margins. So while the revenue may be good, the profit isn’t.

We know that Roku doesn’t make much of anything from hardware sells - the CEO said they aren’t trying to make a profit from the hardware, but ad sales and subscription revenue.

> If one random sales estimate is $6 billion and the other is $12 billion, ...

... then it still sounds like they are making billions of dollars on mere headphones. Fascinating.

The difference between 9 and 12 billion matters absolutely nil for the main point of the piece. Seems like you just feel the need to somehow dismiss it? Why?

We also have no idea what the margins are on AirPods. It's not at all accurate to apply overall Apple gross margins (which include high-margin offerings like their services and iPhones) to AirPods, which are likely one of their lowest margin products.

We have a decades of prior history knowing that Apple doesn’t sell much of anything without a large profit margin.

Besides there are plenty of almost as good knock offs st half the price.

I mean sure? Does that really change the point of the article?

Even 25% of those numbers gets us to really impressive revenue numbers.

Additionally the author's conclusion that although Airpod revenue is relatively good for a technology company, it's small compared to Apple's total revenue and as compared to the future value of services revenue this hardware enables.

I bought my wife AirPods gen 2 earlier this year, and then bought her the AirPod pro with noise cancellation for Xmas. Not common I’m sure but everyone said that noise cancellation was a godsend for taking meetings via phone and she concurred.

Also, sources are updated in the article. Thanks for mentioning the lack of links.

Also this is revenue numbers too. No mention of margins over expenses.

Apple infamously has high margins on its hardware.

If we were to consider that, the comparison is guaranteed to be dramatically worse (in the favor of Apple).

Shopify, Snapchat and Spotify have yet to earn a single net dollar in profit. They're all still losing money as of their most recent quarters. And their lifetime losses are epic to say the least. Twitter also may still be negative for its lifetime, given its very substantial past losses.

If Apple has even modest 10% margins on the Airpods (it's more likely to be 2x to 3x that), it's at least a billion a year in profit right now. That's probably more than Spotify could earn on its zero margin business even if you gave them $20 billion in sales.

They have high margins on products that retail for multiples of their relevant competition. The same is not true for AirPods. I find it extremely unlikely that their margins are greater than 10%.

Given Apple’s absolute dominance in supply-chain, I find this very unlikely.

The reality is, Apple (either through the Apple brand or through Beats), was the only electronics company that could realistically achieve the economies of scale to sell truly wireless earbuds at this MSRP in 2016, but that doesn’t mean the margins don’t get bigger every single month. It’s true that the margins might be lower for another company, but audio is an insanely high margin industry. Even in retail, the markup between retailer cost and MSRP is often at least 50% — it Is often higher. And if you have the scale and supply chain to own literals every part and churn out a headset, it’s even higher.

Here is an airpod knockoff for $40 [0]. I bet their margin on airpods is higher than even their iphone.

[0]: https://www.amazon.com/Bluetooth-Bluetoooth-Headphones-Sweat...

As a favorite ad opined: "Sure you can get a hamburger for $1. But then you'd have to eat it."

Amazing how Apple managed to make the first cool MP3 player, then the first cool smartphone and now the first cool bluetooth headset. For almost 20 years now, Apple has owned electronic fashion. Sony for example was unable to parlay its Walkman dominance into similar positions with new devices.

And make no mistake about it - a huge portion of these sales are people buying Apple's marketing - not buying the tech itself.

Which I think may bode well for Apple in that we are only scratching the surface of what the tech can do.

I strongly disagree about the fashion bit.

The iPod was better than any competitor it faced ever. The UI with the click wheel was completely unmatched. Maybe the Zune, years later, came close, but Apple absolutely crushed it with the iPhone and iPod touch.

The iPhone was leaps and bounds ahead of its time, to the point that the then King of the hill, BlackBerry, didn’t even think it was possible. And the smoothness of the UI was completely unmatched. The pocketPCs of the time were clunky messes. The iPhone’s UI was so far ahead that it’s now the default UI for every phone.

And finally, the AirPods are a far superior experience than the alternatives. In addition though, the AirPods are extremely competitively priced.

AirPods are objectively great and it has taken 3 years for anything better to come out (and I would rather have seamless pairing than negligible audio quality improvements), but fashion is absolutely part of this.

The same is true of the iPod and of the iPhone. To me, that doesn’t diminish from the fact that those are/were best-in-class products, but the ubiquity is absolutely based on fashion.

The same is true of the Apple Watch. Of course the irony here is the Apple Watch was very much marketed as a fashion accessory first. That didn’t work. When the messaging pivoted to health and those capabilities got better then the completion (and there is no Android Apple Watch competition. Fitbit is the closest.), adoption spiked. But again, there is a still a very strong fashion component, even tho that isn’t a large part of the marketing anymore (the attempts to target luxury fashionistas have shifted and that has IMHO made for a better product all around). You don’t get a smart watch. You get an Apple Watch.

Apple Watch was very much marketed as a fashion accessory first. That didn’t work.

Au contraire, that was _vital_ to shifting the public discussion. Right at the beginning, public sentiment was "what? >$400 for a watch? are you crazy?" To stifle that thinking, Apple brilliantly went for the fashion accessory approach and announced the absurdly high-end Watch Edition at >$10,000 ... suddenly discussion went from "$400 is too much" to "$10,000 is absurd, but I can do $400."

Once the Overton Window for watches was shifted away from "vs $5 cheap watch" to ">$400 is reasonable", then Apple could shift the discussion to "...and look at all these other things you get besides time!"

They couldn't get to "...and health" until they got to "...reasonable price." Having achieved both, people buy an Apple Watch for all occasions, because ... well ... it's what sensible tech-connected people do.

You're giving Apple way too much credit on Apple Watch. They had no clue what they were doing with it. One of their original tentpole features was that it was the most accurate timepiece ever. They also thought that people were going to send each other heartbeats. They were clueless, in other words, other than that they knew there was something there.

I think you’re right. Especially since they just started to focus more on the health aspects of the Watch with series 4. They figured that this is apparently important to many Watch buyers, but it took them three series to truly understand this.

At ten grand for a watch your competing with Rolex which doesn't become obsolete in a few years

No, Apple wasn't "competing with Rolex" on price. Ten grand was to defuse the "OMG, $400 for a watch?" response to "well, you COULD get a stupid $10,000 version, but at $400 it's great." It also made the Rolex look lame ("it only tells time"), legitimizing getting an Apple Watch (far cheaper at that) instead.

Offering a handful of $10,000 Watch Edition probably segued into $1B in profits from associating the product line with high fashion. Nobody is ashamed to wear an Apple Watch with a 5-digit suit.

What exactly is this seamless pairing that Airpods do so much better than everyone else? I've not noticed much in the way of seams on the other wireless earbuds I've tried. Connect on device, it works, and autoconnects next time.

Have you tried using any of them with multiple devices? Not at the same time, obviously, but in scenarios like "listening to them connected to phone while on the bus, getting into your office, switching to listening to them on your laptop".

If not, I recommend you testing out this specific scenario. For a lot of the ones I tested, it becomes an exercise in patience and frustration. There were even some that refused to pair with more than one device at a time at all, meaning that every time you switch a device, you have to do the whole pairing process again. And that wasn't 10 years ago, i tested this less than 2 years ago.

And even the whole pairing process is annoying. Best case scenario, you can just pair them using the standard bluetooth settings on your phone. Worst case, you have to deal with some custom app (that you have to install on your phone) and do the steps from there (looking at you, Sony; I love your WH-1000XM over the head line of headphones, but ffs this is just bad UX). Contrast it with AirPods, where you just need to open the case and put them close to your iPhone. You do it once and then completely forget about having to do this ever again.

P.S. if your other device is an Apple one as well, it gets even more seamless. You don't need to pair it in that case, you just switch the audio output device on your macbook from speakers to airpods, which are already present on the list of audio devices (as long as you paired it with another apple device of yours first).

>(looking at you, Sony; I love your WH-1000XM over the head line of headphones, but ffs this is just bad UX)

Could not agree more. I love the WH-1000XM3s (and loved the XM2s before that), but the UX on this stuff is just so frustrating.

Bose sport has seamless nfc Bluetooth pairing and supports multiple Bluetooth connection switching with ease. Worth checking out, I enjoy my pair in the gym.

I came here looking for excuses folks spending 200 odd bucks on apple headphones tell themselves... aaaand found it! Seams!

Talking about seamless, the 3.5mm jack is far more seamless and robust to me. I wonder how long before they seal that hole on the only apple product (of the ones I use) that has it yet ... the macbook.

I've been switching between my Ubuntu laptop and Android phone. Pretty simple, I do need to disconnect it manually on one device before switching to the other but that takes a second.

I don't believe Airpods would be any better in that scenario.

> ...but that takes a second.

A huge percentage of our species gladly trade money for, objectively speaking, very minor improvements in convenience or experience. Apple has been taking this fact to the bank for 30 years. You may not have the same preferences, but you're probably in the minority. FWIW.

I think our perception of improvement is not linear when it comes to a lot of things, one of them being the “convenience of time” and we attribute an strong preference for something objectively better even if the improvement is marginal. The “slightly sharper camera lens” or “slightly lighter bike”. In terms of time, waiting 30 or 20 seconds for a computer to boot up won’t make much difference to most people but waiting 10 or 1 second makes a huge difference in perception.

I do need to disconnect it manually on one device before switching to the other but that takes a second.

Only a second if your kids don’t have it, or you didn’t leave it at home, or...

With AirPods, one does not need track down the other device.

I've used a $50 pair that had that feature, if I cared about it I'd use that over Airpods.

So I can go find the ones ikeboy used some time ago, if I can find them, and the user isn’t misremembering... or I can go buy AirPods. Going AirPods on this one.

If you're using Ubuntu and Android then you're already trading less convenience for either financial or philosophical reasons. So, you're probably not the market for AirPods.

Not the GP but I use Linux and Android primarily because they're more convenient (to me at least).

I'm philosophically aligned with Linux but not with Android.

My killer Android feature is having a microsd card. Not supporting that is very inconvenient of Apple.

I've tried both Windows and Mac, I just like Ubuntu better.

microSD is a big, big reason I'm still using Android. Before that the key factor was replaceable batteries, but all the OEMs shifted to non-replaceable sometime around 2015-16.

I've used quite a few wireless headphones/buds, and have yet to see anything as smooth as connecting a new pair of Airpods to an iPhone. The process takes about 2 seconds, and 1 second of that is you opening the lid to the charging case.

The difficulty is when headsets are paired with two devices at the same place, eg phone & laptop. In the <$80 Android wireless headset market, at least, everyone requires that you disconnect from one device and then manually connect to the other. That means power cycling the headsets or disabling Bluetooth on the device they were connected to.

I believe there are higher end non Apple devices that have solved this.

There are. Bose hardware (both the QC35II and SoundSport headset I've tried) handle this beautifully. They've also had audio sharing between multiple headsets working for years, which my partner and I have used numerous times while traveling.

I can't concur on this at all; I have a 59 dollar LG in ear Bluetooth stereo headset that easily and seamlessly auto connects to at least 3 different devices, two Android and one Apple. Multiple Bluetooth earpieces (of the single ear kind) from jawbone and Plantronics, though not nearly as cheap, have been similarly painless and this has been the case for at least 5 years, since Galaxy Note 2 days. I would never have guessed this was even a pain point that needed solving.

Much like how my Apple cables outlive everyone else’s (I still have working 30-pins), someone is going to have a good experience with BT audio and switching from one device to another. But I know other people have longevity problems with their cables, and if you didn’t know before, you know now that people have these problems with Bluetooth. I, for example, have used BT audio almost since it was a thing. I generally don’t buy cheap shit, but I’ve had the same problems others complain about across multiple devices and audio gear.

I’m glad it’s worked well for you, though. I figured someone must being a good experience with it.

> In the <$80 Android wireless headset market, at least, everyone requires that you disconnect from one device and then manually connect to the other.

I'm wearing a pair I bought over a year ago, and using multiple devices at the same time is as easy as just turning them on.

What model?

Jaybird Tarah

My $50 funcl AI would disconnect if you touch the right earbud for a few seconds, and you could then connect on the other device. But that died a few months in.

Actually my bose have the best pairing experience I’ve had so far. I flip a switch, it tells me I can connect a new device, then I select my bose with my device. I can even have my bose connected to several devices at the same time.

You can think of the AirPods being paired to your iCloud account, and connecting to any authenticated devices is generally seamless and very quick.

So, not seamless if you use Android, Windows, Linux, a Mac laptop and an iPad like I do.

It would be seamless between the Mac and iPad… I'm unsure how you would expect Apple to achieve it on devices they do not control though?

Create a standard. Release it as royalty free. Contribute implementations to open source.

The way it's been done for decades.

People were dissing the airpods when they came out, same with the ipad. Fashion was definitely not part of it there.

> but fashion is absolutely part of this.

I dont think it's fashion so much as not looking stupid. Airpods aren't cool, they just don't look bad.

My understanding is that the Airpods are not better than the high-end competition. There's plenty of $100-150 Bluetooth earbuds that have better sound quality, and a handful of sub-$100 ones that are just as good. You're paying for the name.


>The biggest downside? Their sound is just OK. AirPods produce a perfectly average sound that's clear in the mid-tones and is good for podcasts but doesn't pack much in the low end. And because of their open design, sound isolation is terrible. There's also no noise cancellation, so you'll be stuck hearing traffic or crowds around you. The Jabra Elite 65Ts produce much better sound at about the same price. Even budget alternatives like the $80 Anker Soundcore earbuds offer just-as-good sound for half the price.

I've read pretty much the same take from most reviewers I've looked at. It matches quality on cheaper models, and is outpaced by competitors in the same price range.

Audio quality is only one of the metrics for comparison, including:

- form factor (my powerbeats pro case is huge compared to airpods) - handoff between different Apple devices - BT reliability/connection strength (mostly down to BT 4 vs 5) - fit and finish - noise cancellation

People weigh all of these things differently to arrive at what is "best". If a broad range of wireless buds all meet someone's threshold for acceptable audio quality, the other factors will be deciding.

Form factor is largely a fashion parameter which is what OP is saying , it is not purely technical superiority driving buying decisions

Usability is by far the biggest factor for me when it comes to AirPods.

3 years ago, they were the first seamlessly and reliably working product to free me of the cabled ear buds mess.

Were there other bluetooth ear buds before? Yes. Were they complete and utter shit to use? Also yes.

Now, 3 years later, a few competitors arise and some are better in some ways than AirPods - but again none are better than AirPods Pro. Active noise cancellation always has a markup of around $100 no matter the brand or product. So still, these AirPods Pro are fairly priced in my opinion (AirPods + $100).

You have to actively hate on Apple for even claiming any bluetooth in-ear buds are better than AirPods Pro as of today.

Samsung etc. caught on to AirPods after 3 years - but certainly not to AirPods Pro.

Audio quality may be only one metric, but it is by far the most important. When shopping for headphones/iems you first listen to them and find the ones that sound how you like, then you compare on all other factors. I think most people who buy them do so because the marketing, not due to the experience. They know the brand and know they won't suck. Not that they are the best.

I doubt anyone I know cares about audio quality better than what airpods provide. What they care about is a device that works (I.e. pairs and has long battery life). Plus it has some neat features integrated with other Apple hardware, such as being able to listen to the audio from an Apple TV.

It isn’t by far the most important. I have numerous audiophile headphones which provide a better listening experience than AirPods, but I use AirPods almost all the time because they are with me when I need them.

"The best camera is the one you have with you" is a saying among photographers, and the same goes for headphones. Apple realised this a long time ago, and they sell both.

I, and I expect many others, mostly use them walking down the road, or around the house. And mostly for voice, not music, in my case. Audio quality certainly isn’t my main priority; comfort, battery life, and reliability are all far more important.

AirPods are the only Bluetooth earbuds that don't give me instant pressure headaches. For some reason, nobody other than Apple wants to make wireless earbuds, or even semi-wired Bluetooth "sport" earbuds, that don't have some kind of conformant in-ear seal to them. In at least this sense, Apple's product is decidedly "better."

Or, one might say, Apple's product is the only satisfactory product on the market. It could certainly be better; along some axes, it's strictly worse than its competitors. But along a crucial axis, it meets a minimum standard of quality—not hurting my ears—that nothing else does. Sort of like modern VR products were "better" in that they finally met the minimum standard of quality of "not making me throw up."

(You can tell that Apple is thinking specifically about this problem when nobody else is, because when they decided to add a conformant seal to the AirPods Pro, they then spent who-knows-how-much figuring out a way to actively pump air out of the ear canal to relieve the pressure imbalance you create when you shove the 'bud in there. I haven't tried those, but I'm pretty sure, from the description of the pressure-equalization tech they employ, that they wouldn't hurt my ears either.)

OTOH, AirPods don't meet a minimum standard of quality for me, namely that of actually staying in my ears. They just kind of sit there, dangling, and fall out as soon as I turn my head. Only earbuds with an in-ear seal stay in — it just seems to be how my ears are. (I haven't tried out the Pros, however.)

> they then spent who-knows-how-much figuring out a way to actively pump air out

It's a simple vent, no pump, active or otherwise. My B&O's have not quite the same, but a flange in the silicon to achieve the same effect.

With Airpods for the most part you're paying for the convenience and features. With the W1 chip they pair super fast and are really convenient to use. Sound quality is decent but something like the Sony WF1000xm3's will obviously blow them away.

Try saying WF-1000XM3 five times in a row. I have them and they sound awesome, but I can't deny that both the case and earbuds are much bulkier than AirPods, making one look "odd" when wearing them. Also the app is pretty horrible, it only sort of works 50% of the time.

I think you missed parent's point, which was 'experience.

Airpods dominate because when you put them in your ears, they work immediately. They also have a great case, which means you usually have them with you when you need them.

Battery life, overall size, and warranty policy on airpods is very competitive.

When you can buy three units for the price of one, warranty doesn't really cut it. And it's easy to find competitors with a one year warranty. The latest one I'm using is earfun, with 30 hour battery life (longer than Airpods), wireless charging for the case, and 18 month warranty.

Apple charges an extra $40 for the wireless charging case - airpods are $159, Airpods with wireless charging case are $199. Earfun earbuds are right now less than $40 total on Amazon, sold by the brand, and are better than Apple's offer at 199 as far as I'm concerned.

My iRiver H340 was ahead of its time. It supported MP3 and Ogg Vorbis and had 40 GB, while the iPods of around that time were running around with 4 GB. Oh, and iTunes DRM.

I bought an iPod Classic later on (with 160 GB) to experience the genius usability of the iPod. Except, I didn't experience it.

The major innovation of the iPhone was that it had a capacitive touch UI (which allows finger use, gestures, etc). The iPhone did not have an App Store during release. It was missing a lot of features. It was Nokia who was the market leader around that point. I wish they fully bet on Maemo and capacitive touch instead of Windows Phone (they went the right way with the N9, but the predecessors were still too much on pen and resistive touch, or hybrid).

Right now, it is oddly enough Jolla who have a partly proprietary, partly FOSS, Linux-based OS (SFOS) for which you need a paid license for. After that, they won't track you though. The iPhone would've never sustained a big pie of the smartphone market though; it is Android which killed Nokia. Official SFOS has Android emulation.

Replies like this miss the point completely. The iPod wasn't aimed at people like you who know what Ogg Vorbis is/was. It was aimed at the average, non-techy person and it absolutely crushed it.

Same with the iPhone. The major innovation of the iPhone was that it was simple to use and anyone could pick it up and use it without knowing anything about it.

> and anyone could pick it up and use it without knowing anything about it.

I wouldn't say that's accurate. Like the iPod before it, the iPhone relied on experimentation and peer demonstration for UI comprehension. It wasn't discoverable.

My single instance of using an iPhone resulted in total failure in determining how to switch between two running apps. I kept ending up on the home screen and having to click the app's icon again.

Apples clever hack around that was to let customers get hands-on with the devices before purchase in controlled Apple Store environments where they could be nudged into thinking that they had mastered the UI themselves.

>My single instance of using an iPhone resulted in total failure in determining how to switch between two running apps. I kept ending up on the home screen and having to click the app's icon again.

Except this was exactly how the original iPhone handled app-switching. It was only by getting people used to that paradigm that modern smartphones were even able to introduce mobile multi-tasking. At the time of the iPhone's release, Blackberry was king and switching apps was a matter of hitting the "Back" button over and over again until you got back to the main menu of the Blackberry OS. On some models, you could click on a scroll wheel/ball and click "Go back to App Launcher" (or something similar). Precisely what the iPhone did was give people a home button.

Except the first iPhone was not simple to use. It didn't even have 3G. You couldn't use MMS. It lacked a ton of other basic features, such as custom software. Then there was the need for jailbreaking to get some basic features back.

Ever since Web 2.0 it was clear to me that a touch-based UI would win if you used a web browser; it was Apple's capacitive touch UI which was the killer feature. Nobody had such even though Mozilla was experimenting already with a mobile browser (Fennec). (For some use-cases, a keyboard is still desirable though. E.g. a Pebble during sports is better usable than a touch-based smartwatch.)

You don't need to know what Ogg Vorbis is; I knew because I ripped my CDs to Ogg Vorbis. I already paid for these. It allowed me to save even more space compared to MP3 and AAC.

>It didn't even have 3G. You couldn't use MMS. It lacked a ton of other basic features, such as custom software.

None of these things, in any way, take away from how simple the first iPhone was to use. Once again, you missed the point completely.

What really cemented the iPhone for me was that, compared to early Android touchscreens, the iPhone's touchscreen was actually pleasant to use.

It was limited in its usage (terrible speed while 3G was widely available, limited applications while Symbian had these, could not update via repositories which my Nokia N-series could, could not even use a comm feature like MMS). Apple got away with it because of their iPod fame, and that the UI was a decent capacitive touch-based one which nobody else managed to do.

Did you ever actually _use_ a Symbian device of the era you are referring to? I returned two different ones as they would freeze just sat in standby.

The only thing that came close to the usability and reliability of an iPhone in 2007 was the Blackberry.

Oh yes, Nokia E71. Brilliant device (obviously, with quirks). Keyboard did break eventually; got it repaired though. Before that a friend's Nokia Communicator.

Again, nothing you've mentioned made the original iPhone complex. They were missing features. But them being missing didn't make using the phone complicated to comprehend.

I love that you continue to double down on your responses that keep, repeatedly, missing the point.
Fnoord 13 days ago [flagged]

I love that you keep saying I miss the point, without providing substance why I do. We clearly disagree, repeatedly, as you'd put it. What you do is, repeatedly, waving away my arguments as irrelevant, by ignoring them and saying I "miss the point". Like that is going to convince me?

FWIW, I never used the original iPhone for a long period of time, but I did use the iPod Touch, and I did have usability issues with it (not in hindsight). Something simple as blocking ads, for example, it could not do without jailbreaking. I call that a design issue. That Google does such, is to be expected as it is their main source of income. Apple? Not so much. Multitasking was also something to forget about.

Because nothing that you've offered as a counter-argument has anything to do with how simple it was to use the device. The vast majority of users, at the time the iPhone came out, didn't care about "App Stores" or ad-blocking or anything else and none of those things detracted from the simplicity of the device.

Unless you have some kind of argument that actually addresses the premise that the iPhone was successful because it was the easiest smartphone on the market to use and had high discoverability, you're going to keep missing the point by responding with features that you wish it had when it launched.

The vast majority of users of Apple products don't care about feature X, until the Apple product gets such feature. Then, suddenly, due to some magic miracle, these features do matter. We're talking about basic functionality the current devices had such as capability-based security, App Store, ad blocking, cut and paste.

The only major innovation the iPhone was using, was a capacitive touch UI. iOS wasn't polished, as it lacked many basic features. Yet the UI was good enough and simple to use. Nothing I wrote here above is in contradiction with each other. The only thing you appear to disagree on is the importance of these missing features. If they had these features from the beginning, perhaps Apple would've released too late, and the market would be saturated already (as touchscreen devices were coming to the masses regardless).


Fnoord 8 days ago [flagged]

We were already done 4 days ago.

Please avoid flamewars and petty spats on HN.


Some of us don't sit on HN all day every day talking straw men and actually have things to do on the weekends.

Please avoid flamewars and petty spats on HN.


> Except the first iPhone was not simple to use. It didn't even have 3G. You couldn't use MMS. It lacked a ton of other basic features, such as custom software.

You are describing missing functionality, but you are not refuting the claim of iPhone's simplicity of use.

There were plenty of things the iPhone couldn't do. Among these that it could, the experience was years ahead of the competition.

> [...] but you are not refuting the claim of iPhone's simplicity of use.

I already addressed that in my first post in this subthread:


The major innovation of the iPhone was that it had a capacitive touch UI (which allows finger use, gestures, etc). The iPhone did not have an App Store during release. It was missing a lot of features. It was Nokia who was the market leader around that point. I wish they fully bet on Maemo and capacitive touch instead of Windows Phone (they went the right way with the N9, but the predecessors were still too much on pen and resistive touch, or hybrid).


HTC had touch UI few years before Apple, Apple just happened to be very good with marketing.

Apple spent around 40-50m on the initial rollout, a sum completely unheard of in the industry. And they bested themselves every iphone release since.

Even today, closest contenders are far from that mark.

Someday I need to turn this into a blog post.

HTC may have had a touch UI, but they didn’t have a capacitive touch screen (did the XDA use a stylus? I’d wager it did).

More importantly, Apple was the only company willing to:

* commit all their resources to a single UI and single phone

* write their own operating system for said phone to have control over its fate and optimize for that UI

* offer a sales experience where people could discover the phone, see how it worked, and get expert help, with sales people who actually knew about the phone and weren’t offering users the choice of three dozen competitors at the same time

This "Apple is only good at marketing" idea is vastly off the mark.

Apple could put a capacitive touch screen in because they were willing to sell a phone for $600, carrier-locked on a 2-year, $40/month contract, at a time when phones sold for about 1/3 of that, and they could run a single well-optimized UI because they were somehow able to get Verizon (I think?) to agree to let a phone run a third party's UI untouched. It may not be "marketing" per se, but their success was very much business rather than technical.

In the USA it was AT&T. Other than that, agreed; it was an expensive smartphone. They've always been expensive smartphones, with ridiculous prices for storage (compare with Iriver H340 series). The cheapest iPhone was an iPod Touch.

It wasn't just "an expensive smartphone". It redefined how much the category cost. These days we shrug off a $1000 price tag so it's difficult to remember how extreme it was by the standards of the time, but "expensive smartphone"s in those days were $300 unlocked.

Are you sure? Wikipedia says CNET’s pick for 2007 was $300 with a contract.


HTC had capacitive touch screens, with Touch being the flagship model

Not 5 years before the iPhone.

People don't spend $700 on a phone because they were hoodwinked by good marketing. And they certainly don't continue to spend $700 every several years because they were hoodwinked by good marketing.

People don't "need" to spend $700 on a phone a moto g is good enough

People also don’t need automatic transmissions, or heated car seats, or rib eye steaks, or remodeled kitchens. But most people happily spend extra money for nice things and experiences. The world will make a lot more sense once you internalize this.

But a 1000$ iPhone is not that much better than a < $200 Motorola G , this is from some one who is considering a single port USB hub just to isolate a USB DAC from the.

The processor is way faster. And the camera is probably way better (and still not anywhere near good enough, FWIW). Maybe you just don’t care about those features?

> And the camera is probably way better (and still not anywhere near good enough, FWIW)

The camera on a $1000 iPhone is not good enough? For what? For whom? The cameras on mid range smartphones are amazing, these days. A $150 China phone or $250 West phone is great these days. It is basically adequate for a whole lot of use cases, including normal day to day usage.

The camera on the new phones are amazing, but nowhere near good enough. I think the bar for good enough is that every photo a regular person takes is an objectively great photo. People use these cameras to capture important moments in their lives. Important moments deserve great photos. Computational photography has gotten us much closer to that, but there is still a long way to go.

To capture important moments in their life, people have used worse quality in the past. The quality is going only up and up. When is good good enough? It has been good enough for me for quite a few years already (although always JPEG being compressed, so loss of details from get go).

Also, smartphones with multiple cameras are, in a way, unrealistic. There's quite some lack of realism in today's cameras, akin to autotune.

It is also not possible to take an objectively great photo. Everyone has different biases, interests, quality thresholds, etc. See e.g. [1] for a (result of a) blind test.

[1] https://tweakers.net/reviews/7566/blinde-test-smartphonecame...

What does a faster processor give me ? and I have an entry level cannon DSLR if I want a better camera

Your preferences != other people's preferences. Most people prefer things to be faster. And most people do not own or (if they do) carry a DSLR. Phone cameras are important.

> Your preferences != other people's preferences.


> [...] Phone cameras are important.

Your preferences != other people's preferences.

The iRiver H340 came out in 2004, the iPod came out in 2001. Apple basically had the world's entire supply of tiny hard drives on lock for a year or two, after that other players could finally compete in that form factor (contemporary MP3 players either had little storage or were almost walkman sized).

I had a Nokia N95 when I first used an iPhone. It was clear within 5 minutes of using the iPhone that regardless of specs the iPhone was a vastly better experience. That’s how Apple defines “best” and the market has demonstrated that a huge chunk of the market agrees with them and will pay the price for it.

Why was this downvoted? The first thing I thought of was the iRiver. It was incredible at the time.

Because on HN it is allowed to downvote based on disagreement, and it is a thread about how well Apple is currently doing.

And finally, the AirPods are a far superior experience than the alternatives. In addition though, the AirPods are extremely competitively priced.

The former is subjective, as for the latter - what's the competition to which they are favourably priced?

oof, this sort of writing is why I avoid any apple threads on hackernews. "X was better than Y" without any sort of support.

How come we have such high expectations for argument quality for every other topic other than how "apple is better" - it has reached the point where I read it and I almost jump to astroturfing conclusions. Fortunately for Apple their fans are dedicated enough to astroturf for free!

Okay here's ways in which I found the AirPods to be vastly superior to any other bluetooth headset or earbuds I've tried, including more expensive over-ear noise cancelling ones: -The H1 chip ensures a quick connection that's more stable than any other bluetooth device I've experienced. Much less pairing hassle and dropped connections and fiddling in menus. At a competitive price that already makes them superior to anything I'm aware was out for sale at the time. Add to that the tiny charging box that always keeps them topped up, and it's a winner for me. (This comment was indeed written at no cost)

Everything else you wrote is purely subjective: easier to connect? better than more expensive over ear noise cancelling headphones, really? Competitive price at $160? oof.

Yes, it's subjective. As I clearly write they're ways in which I found them to be better.

They certainly connect easier and more reliably than my over-ears, bought around the same time (flagship Sony noise cancelling ones). As for the price, as Wikipedia documents and many others have mentioned, they were priced lower than most other truly wireless earbuds when they launched. Since then the field has grown more competitive, which is good for the consumer.

You are being unreasonable. People don’t have time to analyze every point they make, and they especially don’t need to if it’s pretty much agreed to by now by everyone in tech except couple of Apple haters like yourself. If you disagree with something call it out and let the parent comments defend it, instead of complaining how hacker news is full of fanboys. It’s what forums are for after all.

I agree with your opinion on the early iPod and iPhone, but personally I bought a pair of Bang and Olufsen wireless earpods around when the earpods gen 1 were released. I was not a big fan of the Apple design. My dad got the Apple earpods and to be honest, sound quality compared to mine was very lacking. It felt like Apple was a ripoff here.

As well any Apple main product this day in my opinion. Good and decent products, but severely overpriced. Nothing close to as revolutionary as they were in the early days. Look at functions in new models of iPhones or hardware upgrades in Macs, they are not new or exciting. These days they are so much alternatives, it's a wonder to me why Apple is still so popular. It has to be a fashion or prestige feeling in my opinion. And it's only a matter of time before that dies out in my opinion.

All made possible by multitouch coming out of MIT! This is the video if i am not mistaken: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89sz8ExZndc

> The iPhone’s UI was so far ahead that it’s now the default UI for every phone.

When it comes to multitasking, the WebOS card metaphor won out and even came to iOS.

> WebOS card metaphor

WebOS is now a smart TV OS

"The iPod was better than any competitor it faced ever. The UI with the click wheel was completely unmatched."

I preferred the Creative Zen Touch to the iPod from the same year (2004), because:

- it had a great UI (similar to the iPod's, but the scroll area was vertical instead of circular)

- I could load music onto it easily (no need to use a special app)

IIRC Apple and Creative had some litigation about the IP for the UI, although I don't recall the details.

EDIT: I agree with your point about the iPhone.

I agree with this. I once thought I lost my airpods, and had some gripes with them, so I bought a similar priced bluetooth headset from another brand. I wore those for 2 weeks and had many more gripes with it.

Then I found that my airpods were under the couch and I immediately switched back.

Remember itunes? UI was horrible from day one and got worse over the years until they killed it. I don't think it was ever a dealbreaker. UI is not the whole story here.

The iTunes UI was, by far, the best for legally acquiring digital music when it launched.

It was also the best for maintaining a library of illegally acquired music until they diluted the feature set into what the music app is today.

And completely fucked it by the looks of it. I'd take iTunes back over that mess any day.

iTunes is very much alive for the majority of IPhone/iPad users.

I really don’t think so. I’d say only minority is using it after streaming services became popular and you can easily do OTA updates. Not much of a reason to use it anymore, that’s why Apple even discontinued it.

Uhh... what? Apple didn't "discontinue" iTunes. It just got renamed to Apple Music. They separated out the syncing features but it's still the same product.

It’s not discontinued for Windows. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/itunes/9pb2mz1zmb1s

I haven’t needed to connect an iOS device to iTunes since iOS 5 in 2011.

It’s pretty much the main way to get any movies from a Windows personal drive on an iPad, etc., unless you’re using something like Plex.

Edit: added Windows clarification

Not any longer, drop a file into iCloud, go to VLC, enjoy movie. The files app upgrade is pretty neat.

I do in fact use Plex. The last time I downloaded a video, I used VLC. There are plenty of ways to get movies into VLC - any cloud storage provider and its own website. The VLC app on iOS exposes a website you can use to upload movies.

Also; Now you can copy media directly from a USB attached hard drive or a network share using the Files App.

iTunes Store? That’s not the same as the music app.

And the Zune was crippled by PlaysForSure DRM, even coming later.

Apple added on their own crippling DRM after that.

iPod was a shitty player few tiers below the competition. Tiny battery life, tons of bugs, IO limitations, iTunes nonsence, original, but unergonomic ui, mechanically unsound engineering.

iRivers, Cowons, and Samsungs were a head above it without any doubt. They were just never marketed in US.

Same with Smartphones. Japanese phones had all features of a smartphone a decade before the rest of the world, but they never bothered to market them outside thinking of outside world being "not advanced enough" to culturally absorb a phone as an integral lifestyle element, and not as a work tool.

If this was true the iPhone would have made negligible inroads in the markets where those products were available. Instead it was a massive success immediately in every market where it was offered. I’m sure it had many flaws but it was enough better where it mattered to dominate the competition.

It's not a controversial opinion, it really was all marketing and polishing existing tech like the airpods. When the ipod was first revealed, even apple fanboys at the time thought it was going to be a flop given the competition used common io, didn't require proprietary software, and didn't require a proprietary OS, and also was nearly half the price.


This forum thread from the 2001 release is pretty funny:


You say polishing, I say crushing superiority in user interface and design.

> This forum thread from the 2001 release is pretty funny:

Absolutely: https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/apples-new-thing-ipod.5...

The Reality Distiortion Field turned out to be in this guy's head :) Seriously, many technical people underestimate the power of "bringing X to the masses" by making a beautiful, easy polished, effortless UX. UX (usually) trumps functionality.

> Oct 23, 2001

> #13

> iCan't believe it!

> It's now at the online Apple Store!

> $400 for an Mp3 Player!

>I'd call it the Cube 2.0 as it wont sell, and be killed off in a short time...and it's not really functional.

> Uuhh Steve, can I have a PDA now?"

A quote for the ages... :D

No, Apple got literally the only one thing right, and that's their marketing

The fashion was everything. The ipod mini with it's colors. The iconic dancing silloutte ad campaign, where the only defining characteristic is the status symbol of the all white ipod and all white headphone.

Growing up during the rise of the ipod, it absolutely was a status symbol first and foremost. Owning a zune gave you more ridicule in middle school than not owning an mp3 player at all. People were buying earpods without even buying an ipod, just to have that white cord dangling out of their ear.

Maybe older generations saw it as good tech only, but for late millenials, the ipod's popularity was due to an obsession for vanity. These were the years where everything had to be either lacoste, abercrombie, hollister, american eagle, or a 6 inch tall polo man, after all.

Part of the airpods success is that they tap into this obsession toward vanity harbored deep within millenials, who have also moved on from mall brands to gucci/balenciaga/supreme/insert bougie brand of the decade.

> Growing up during the rise of the ipod, it absolutely was a status symbol

It was a status symbol for you and your teenage friends. Life expectancy is currently around 80 in the developed world and teenagers don't really have disposable income, so teenagers weren't really driving sales. Apple made cool commercials and cool colors because they could.

> The fashion was everything. The ipod mini with it's colors. The iconic dancing silloutte ad campaign,

I actually bought different headphones because of that ad b/c I thought it was so stupid, but do go on.

I continued to use the (black) earphones from another device _with an iPod_ to reduce the mugging risk.

> And make no mistake about it - a huge portion of these sales are people buying Apple's marketing - not buying the tech itself.

By definition all of the businesses that survive are good at marketing - Apple has managed to drive extraordinary value through positioning and differentiation and left everyone else to compete over the collapsing middle market.

Sony’s precise problem was underinvesting on positioning and brand and relying on their technical advantage ... which proved a problem when everyone else caught up with the tech and they couldn’t repeat the trick with other devices.

People say marketing like it’s something to be ashamed of, and that Apple should deliberately hobble itself by being bad at it. It’s really critical.

Sony's problem was never the hardware or the design. The problem was, special in the beginning of the MP3 / Smartphone age, they tryed to lock everything so hard with DRM (because other parts from Sony does sell Movies and Music). The even installed something like an trojan already very early in the MP3 market. So al lot of tech guys said "bye, bye Sony" when the market still was very young. I think they lost a lot because they had been so aggresive with there software in a such young market.

Sony players were good but all those restrictions,need for special software and etc. was absolutely infuriating. That's why even today I'm staying with Android: drag&drop,no questions asked.

Yup Sony's investment into technology and media is a very tough balance and pretty much the reason why their endevours can't excell even with some of the best ideas and talent behind them.

Apple had DRM on iTunes with FairPlay and AAC for around six years until the courts forced them to remove it. iTunes was still a huge business for them at the time. Sure that DRM was the real issue?

Likewise, claiming that the Root Kit business (by which time the iPod had been around for a good 5 years) sunk Sony’s business seems like a bit of a reach.

>until the courts forced them to remove it

Citation needed. Steve Jobs was incredibly anti-DRM and it was only added because the content owners wouldn't license the music to Apple without it. Once the iTunes Store exploded and became a primary sales channel, Apple renegotiated their licenses and required all media to be DRM-free because, at that point, they had the upper hand.

That’s not at all what happened.

Around the end of 2006, the music industry was complaining that no other music store could compete with iTunes because the DRM wasn’t compatible. They wanted Apple to license FairPlay to competitors.

Apple refused and Jobs posted his famous “Thoughts on Music” letter on the front page of Apple’s website where he said that if the music industry wanted interoperability, they could license music to everyone DRM free and there would be interoperability. Especially since all physical music was already DRM free.


Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat.”

There was some haggling back and forth about terms. The music industry wanted variable pricing, to be able to sell more music as a whole album and a cut of each iPhone sold. Apple refused all of their demands.

The other stores acquiesced and were able to sell DRM music before Apple. However EMI and some independent labels did agree from day one.

Two years later all of the music labels came to terms with Apple and allowed it to sell music directly on the phone over the cellular network.

During that same era, Apple's slogan for the iPod was, notoriously: "Rip. Mix. Burn."

They were the first company to crack the nut of digital music sales, and getting those deals with the recording industry absolutely required DRM at the time.

> During that same era, Apple's slogan for the iPod was, notoriously: "Rip. Mix. Burn."

So the argument that Apple didn’t outcompete Sony on marketing rests on a marketing slogan from 20 years ago?

That slogan makes pretty clear to me what Apple’s priorities were and had been all along - put the customer’s needs at the forefront of their positioning.

Apple actually had a product for this too (itunes), which integrated with the ipod, and allowed you to seamlessly rip your existing CD collection and sync it to your ipod in one relatively simple piece of software. You can tell how important this was by the fact that apple produced a windows version of itunes.

I believe CD ripping software was relatively niche before that due to legal concerns. I don't think it was just marketing.

I bought an iPod in that era, and didn't buy a single DRMed song -- ripped all my CDs, that was more than enough. If you look at iTunes revenue vs iPod sales, most people did what I did. Sony didn't support that. And the smaller companies that pioneered ripping+mp3 players had less-attractive products and interfaces.

You don’t have to guess. Jobs himself said in his famous “Thoughts on Music” essay that only 3% of music on iPods were bought from iTunes.


Today’s most popular iPod holds 1000 songs, and research tells us that the average iPod is nearly full. This means that only 22 out of 1000 songs, or under 3% of the music on the average iPod, is purchased from the iTunes store and protected with a DRM. The remaining 97% of the music is unprotected and playable on any player that can play the open formats.

Ipod+rip in the west, was probably equivalent to cd rentals + minidisc "single digital copy" of Japan.

Sony wanted to keep the minidisk ATRAC codec (arguably much better than mp3, unfortunately while mp3 became ubiquitous despite patents, ATRAC never did) along with the draconic drm.

I lived a year in Japan in 1997-98 - I recall a fellow high school student had racks upon tracks of "pirated" MDs at home. It was a similar price model to streaming; less pr cd/disk, but "at least something" - as everyone would rent a CD and buy a blank mini-disk - and rip at home. No digital/lossless copy from a copied MD to a blank.

Classic example of the west being slow at adapting some tech, then "jumping" to the next (here, using a computer to rip cds, not dedicated hw, like an MD deck and cd player, linked via digital coax/optical cable). And then skipping cd rentals in favour of first pirated music, then streaming. Much helped by by free software like Winamp that AFAIK ignored the licensing on mp3 in most cases.

The iPods were certainly helped by mp3 file-sharing - that probably wouldn't have happened if they could only play back aac or whatever - if they weren't mp3 players not merely music players.

You should probably blame the music labels (for example, Columbia/Sony) for the DRM.


Sony failed to compete against Apple because they weren't as good at software.

It’s not just the marketing - it’s that if you buy all of your tech from Apple you have 1) top-quartile product quality and 2) remarkable little upkeep to do compared to compiling a collection of multiple brands.

it's also the ecosystem.

I have an Apple Watch, it unlocks my laptop automatically. My AirPods connect seamlessly to my phone for listening to music, my watch when I'm working out and my laptop when I'm doing video calls at work. Continuity, AirDrop, AirPlay ... you can't deny that Apple has built an impressive ecosystem.

Damn Watch really unlocks macbook? I already sold mine (didn’t have a MacBook at the time) but I’ll consider purchasing one again, haha. Edit: shit, just realized how easy it is to fall into Apple’s trap.

They do! It's great how slick it is, you sit down at your laptop, hit any key and it wakes up and automatically unlocks.

What upkeep do you do with a $15 bluetooth headphone?

> Sony for example was unable to parlay its Walkman dominance into similar positions with new devices.

Actually the Walkman (which was arguably Sony's second breakout product, the first being a transistor radio) Sony was definitely the cool kid. And don't forget the Playstation or the Trinitron.

In fact Steve Jobs explicitly emulated and admired Sony for their (then) sense of style, customer appeal and quality.

The Sony of today is a different company. Despite the PS2 success I date the decay to when they bought United Artists.

OP wasn't saying walkman wasn't cool or have a significant market position, in fact he's saying the exact opposite. That Sony had the position an failed to use it to position new devices. Apple turned the iPod into the iPhone and iPad and now they have AirPods coming off of the same train using each product brand to push the brand of the next.

Sony had the Walkman but missed the mp3-player market, didn't bring out a walkman phone, and now they have a product competing with AirPods that's naturally completely disconnected from the walkman both directly and indirectly because "walkmen are ancient" which is not some universal truth, that's just what they let their previously powerful brand degrade to. They've wisely chosen to brand their Airpod competitor the Sony WF1000XM3, who doesn't want products that sound like version of cruiser missiles, or shipping container dimensions? Ironically I heard a friened describe his pair as his "Sony AirPods", because that's what they are to him, the equivalent of Apple AirPods but cheaper and made by Sony, because even the people who own the product can't remember the name. So naturally friends ask why not get "Real" AirPods? And his answer was price, which makes the product sound like a cheap discount version. But it's in the same price range and same quality and even beat out the AirPods in some reviews. Talk about a branding disaster.

I didn’t understand Sony’s strategy back when the iPod was big and I still don’t now.

At roughly the same time I got an iPod, and an Apple-hating housemate bought a Sony MP3 player with a name only a barcode scanner could love. Also it couldn’t play MP3s, instead a weird proprietary format that didn’t work anywhere else. Songs had to be converted using their crappy software.

He swapped it for an iPod within weeks.

Even now, the conversation is ‘what are those?’, ‘oh, they’re AirPods’. Compared to ‘what are those?’, ‘oh, they’re Sony WC-31... err, Sony headphone things.

Good work guys.

Sony’s bet was that they could overcome the strategy tax by sheer talent. They could for a while (2 decades ?) but ended up losing when software became a major part of the business.

Software has always been their Achiles heel.

Their laptop where cool but running widows with super custom drivers. Their music players were cool but running weird formats with proprietary interfaces. Anything that needs software intercompatibility has been basically doomed under Sony.

In contrast Apple has decent software and overcomes the strategy tax by canibilizing itself restlessly and letting third parties eat their lunch where they’re not good enough (to a point. Apple still clings at default apps on iOS for instance)

Sony's PlayStation is a popular consumer software platform, showing they’re not completely incapable of providing usable software.

I'd point more towards the competitiveness of the digital music market making their aggressive attempts to lock customers into their own narrowly focused music platform much less appealing. In game consoles, proprietary content is the point; not so much in audio gear.

Playstation is basically embedded software though, and everything that runs on it has been custom made for it (it’s also interesting that it spun from a Nintendo cooperation, which makes it a very special division compared to the others)

In that respect their MD player was also running decent software, it just didn’t talk to anything not Sony produced.

Anecdotally, they also have a joint venture with Docomo that worked on NFC payment solutions that was super successful with genuinely strong software.

On the music market, I think the lockin wasn’t so much an issue (iPods also locked you in to some extent) than Sony’s desktop software being utter garbage.

I actually bought a Net Walkman at that time because I liked the hardware more, and it was hell: I’m not even sure there was any mac support, I might have run a VM for that, and even in a proper windows environment it was still buggy, extremely time consumming to move tacks to the player, yet limited and low quality. I personally think Sony lost to itself, more than the competition coming for Sony.

I literally just had this conversation with a friend. He was interested in the WF-1000RX3 and I thought it was the over-the-ear phones, but it turns out that's their buds; the over-the ears are WH-1000RX3. (I may have those names wrong, they're just so stupid I don't care, but the point is, the only difference between earbuds and massive over-the-ear cans is the 2nd character in an alphanumeric soup)

The worst part, sony manages to screw this up even when they are in the lead. They have a line of Bose QC35 competitor over the ear headphones that legitimately beat Bose (in terms of sound quality; for fit and such, the opinions seem to be 50/50, but pretty much every reddit thread on headphones with active noise canceling within that price range will recommend them), while maintaining the same price. As of today, they are my favorite over the ear headphones that feature noise canceling.

So far, they have 3 generations of those (over the past 5 years iirc). You know what the naming scheme for each generation is?

MDR-1000X (that’s the gen i have and love; heard that the 3rd has some great improvements over the first two as well) -> WH-1000XM2 -> WH-1000XM3

To add an insult to injury, it is literally just one character away from just as poorly named “sony airpods”, which is WF-1000XM3.

At the time Sony owned record companies and, foolishly, thought that they would make more money from IP than hardware. So they crippled their music players.

I had a Sony MP3 player in 2000. It only played atrac files and I had to specially rip and encode my cds to be able to play. The hardware was neat, it was like a thick pencil. But the software was purposely horrible because Sony wanted to not allow mp3s or songs bought outside their ecosystem.

Sony, exept their Playstation division, are terrible at marketing. You can sense there's an old guard there that is clueless about how to market a product in this modern age.

> didn't bring out a walkman phone

They actually did, the Sony Ericsson W800. But if you didn't know about that, it kinda proves your point, the branding wasn't a resounding success.

He’s saying it should have been named the “Walkman Distance” or some inspiring name that evokes phone and walkman. Not the number that sounds like a container dimension or like the lubricant WD40.

I loved my W800i, it was a revelation to me, although it had no headphone jack but a clunky adaptor, i used it way longer than I needed to. Simply an outstanding device at the time.

Amusingly the Sony WH-1000XM3 are absolutely superlative noise-cancelling over-the-head headphones. They're really a damned good product. But lots of Sony stuff seems driven by random PMs being good at stuff but not being able to make it part of the culture or something.

They also seem technology-driven.

As a Sony ex-fanboi: another fail was the painful bare achievement of stated specs. Sure product did X, but did so relying on weird tech stacks, or not X.00001, or cut corners in presumed but not actually stated specs. Result was that when pushed to a reasonable limit, it often either hit a brick wall or fell off a cliff, to painful results.

Variant: UI is all too often painful. Extra steps, easy invocation of dangerous mistakes.

Finally, the sense of abandonment. You bought it, WTF do you think you are - you want updates for years, or compatibility with other devices?


Apple doesn't give much re: specs because they're mostly irrelevant in use. UI is nuanced. And everything is built to keep you smoothly progressing deeper into the ecosystem.

>didn't bring out a walkman phone

This isn't true but maybe that verifies exactly the point you're trying to make. Sony had a whole line of Walkman phones including a Walkman brick phone, a flip phone, and an awesome switchblade-style phone. They were able to sync music to your computer directly, without any software, and stored it all on a Sony memory stick. Unfortunately, they also did not have a standard headphone jack and relied on connecting headphones through the same data/sync port which meant that you had to use and buy the Walkman-branded headphones from Sony.

They were soooo close but a few key decisions made them fail miserably.

"That Sony had the position an failed to use it to position new devices."

But Sony did use its previous products positioning to produce and market new ones. The arguably owned the "portable audio" market from their first transistor radio in 1955, through the Walkman brand dominance up until the first iPod.

They were no longer really able to compete after the key differentiator became software.

It's odd that you say decay. IMO Sony's products are still quite good! I have a Sony-WM1A sitting next to me right now that's well-made, and I'm using Sony WF-1000MX3's as headphones, which are also well made. Not only that, but the Sony MDR-EX1000's that I own that are quite old are still buzzing. I can't quite say that for many Apple products I've purchased in the last decade.

When did Sony stop naming things the simple way (Walkman, Vaio...) and started naming stuff like that (WF-100MX3 and the like). Im saying this as half joke only :D

They've always named things this way. It was once cool to have stuff like "WF-100MX3" because it reflected the kitsch of the space age.

This is the company that made ‘Walkman’ and ‘PlayStation’. They sometimes use terrific names.

VAIO name/logo was genius, when I learned the VA form a wave represeting the analogical world and IO part is the digital world, I was like ...wow!

My MDR V6 might be the perfect headphone. It's the only pair I've tried that are pretty flat and have perfect separation. Shitty mastering can't hide from these cans.

The only problems are the original pleather earcups wear off ($15 replacements are everywhere online), and the cord is pretty long since these are studio headphones. Some people cut the cord by the earpiece and splice a female end, but that's a little beyond my skill set.

It's telling that the WF-1000XM3s have been brought up multiple times but nobody has gotten their name right so far

In my experience, the cool Japanese hardware company these days is Nintendo. The Switch is just about the neatest consumer electronics product I've ever bought (at least among the non-Apple branded ones).

No doubt that Sony becoming a major media company has hurt their consumer electronics business.

Remember when the airpods first came out? SNL, Conan O'Brian, all of twitter were basically dragging it through the mud and making a mockery of them. 3 years later you can't walk around a major city or airport without seeing a significant amount of people using them.

People made fun of pagers, cell phones and bluetooth headsets pretty relentlessly too.

And the Tesla Cybertruck. I would bet on it falling in the exact same category: Being a Meme first, and a huge success later.

Don’t forget about that one big fad called “internet”.

Not sure if I’m typical in this or not but I’m a heavy apple user but have been mostly “forced” into it but ended up loving them.

Got my first MacBook because of work. Was previously a windows / Linux user and didn’t get macs but ended up loving the MacBook Pro. Got an iPhone from work too, ended up loving that too. Got a pair of AirPods as present, use it pretty frequently now.

Seems like both a good thing (like it after using it) and a bad thing (wouldn’t have gotten into it if not for the unplanned opportunity) for Apple.

I think one of the strokes of genius for Apple here was the fact that they made AirPods work just as well with Android phones as they do with iPhones (minus a few secondary features).

Back when i bought airpods 2 years ago, I still had an Android, and they blew me away in terms of UX. Up to that moment, i have tried and failed to find a pair of fully wireless earbuds that worked as well and sounded as good (for earbuds, obviously). And even today, out of all people i know with android phones, about a third of them use airpods. Each one of them had a similar story of quiet dismissal of airpods for quite a while since the release, then they tried them, and bought them shortly after.

P.S. as of now, there are a few good non-airpods truly wireless earbuds that are solid alternatives. Back when i got them, however, every single model out there I tried had some critical flaw. Things like dropped connection or sound getting choppy and stuttery in certain areas. It mostly happened on busy street intersections, so i guess it had something to do with interference from a lot of other bluetooth devices, because the exact same thing used to happen to bluetooth connection in my old car at one specific heavy traffic intersection.

You know what doesn’t have that problem ever? Wired headphones. God I hate that they’ve removed the headphone jack.

One problem that airpods dont have is the dependence on cables and having to fiddle with them every time you get them out of your pocket or getting the cable caught on clothing. As well as other cable issues, like earbuds wiggling in your ears due to cable tension or weight. Not even mentioning the cables wearing out from regular use, rendering the whole set unusable (though there are some headphones that have detachable cables that can be replaced, but those are usually featured only on pretty expensive models).

Being able to just put them in your ears and instantly listen to music is something that i never thought i would care for, but after using airpods for a bit, there is no way i am going back.

I still use wired over the ear headphones, but only on my desktop. The desktop scenario is perfect for wired, since it is stationary (i.e., i never have to worry about unwringling the cable or worrying about it getting caught on clothing, and they are always plugged in).

P.S. i still dont get the point of your comment. You reply on the comment chain talking about Apple and their impressive entry in the field of wireless earbuds decrying the whole industry of wireless earbuds. It’s like going into a thread talking about how Tesla dominates in the EV market with their supercharger infrastructure and vehicle range, and exclaiming “you know what doesn’t have this problem? Gas cars.”

It wasn't until I started using AirPods that I realized how much headphone wires annoy me. I was also annoyed when Apple removed the headphone jack, but looking back now I am glad they did, since I don't think I would have started using AirPods if they hadn't.

I’ve broken a phone due to a wire getting caught on a doorknob and ripping out of my hand. Guess what doesn’t have that problem? wireless headphones.

You act like the fashion is not tech. Their stuff looks good because of engineering all the way down. Looking good is a feature.

I disagree with the idea that it's marketing. Apple does very little marketing these days. Apple products are a memetic virus.

> Apple does very little marketing these days.

Apple does a significant amount of marketing, and I'd argue that they've been steadily ramping it up recently. It's just that they're usually a lot better at staying out of your face about it.

First of all marketing != advertising.

But they certainly do advertising specifically. A lot has been oriented around photography for a while but that's hardly surprising as people certainly don't upgrade phones for texting or phone calls.

> Sony for example was unable to parlay its Walkman dominance into similar positions with new devices.

Sony WF-1000XM3 are a popular in-ear Bluetooth headphones with noise cancelling. 80 EUR cheaper than Apple Airpods Pro.

Stupid name and impossible to distinguish from their other wireless headphones. This is the Dell XXHBE 34-9q276d.snfd2 vs Macbook Pro all over again.

My guitar is an Ibanez RG2570...EZQWEUIBLAKUSJBDA-something (I can't ever remember, great guitar btw) but does that matter? It's still a brilliant piece of (hand)craftsmanship.

If people want quality (or at least guarantee of quality in what they buy) they'll tend to whatever is better. N.B. "Better" can mean ease-of-use/experience too (Apple)

Yesterday I was looking for the name of the old Sony mp3 player I had in the early 2000's. It took ages to track down with any certainty: "Sony NW-E105". Like, what does that even mean? I just remembered it's this circular thing and it was purple. I'll never remember that model number and I had to rely on my browser history to even paste it in this comment just now, even though I was just reading about it yesterday! Brutal.

Agreed on the name. Don't want my headphones to distinguish themselves (why would I? Certainly not as "toothbrushes").

If the name is the main criticism you can come up with, it's probably a really good product.

I have both. If the AirPods Pro didn't make my inner ear sore after wearing for 3+ hours, I would sell my Sony's immediately. I might sell them anyway. They are inferior in everything apart from comfort.

The other nice thing is that it appears it might be possible to change the batteries in the WF-1000XM3. (https://hifigo.com/blogs/tws/deep-dive-teardown-of-true-wire...)

.. Which you rarely see stuck in people's ears. You do see those little white airpods everywhere though. People have them stuck in their ears even when they're not playing any audio.

1) Honestly, they look ugly (like toothbrushes), just like the white iPhone looked ugly.

2) There's a lot of copy cats who look akin to Apple Airpods because Apple is a premium brand.

I've wondered if Sony's music ownership interests played a large role in losing that market due to their fear of piracy.

Not sure about the marketing swaying people these days. People are going for the easiest devices to use that get out of the way and are high quality.

Which I guess would explain why there are Android phones that crush the iPhone on tech specs but make a minuscule (and sometimes negative) proportion of the industry’s profit?

At this point no matter how amazing the Android is, I would find the iPhone easier. I've been using an iPhone for so long it's just second nature. At one point I was forced to use an Android for a month. I could just never get used to the interface.

It's actually quite remarkable to me that I can have such a different experience as a longtime Android device user and both of these experiences can coexist. I could never go back to the iPhone interface, and every time I have to use someone else's phone I'm always astounded at how hidden away the (few) options still available to me seem.

Discoverability of UI features is atrocious on iOS.

It really is. I don't know where anything is in the settings submenus anymore.

You find the iPhone easy to use because the iPhone is easy to use and more or less consistent in every iPhone device you’ve used. A five year old can use an iPhone.

That’s competitive differentiation, which is very much part of marketing. An iPhone isn’t easy to use in the same way that git is easier to use than svn for someone who has been using git for a decade.

When I had my six month affair with an Iphone 6 it took me a month (I don't get many calls) to finally get frustrated enough to google "How to reject calls" because I was so used to Android giving me a big red X that I never even considered pushing the power button to reject a call (I think that even just mutes incoming calls on Android, I forget), that X let me mute or reject based on the direction I swiped it. I could only figure out how to mute the rings which means my car radio would just be silent until the caller finally gave up.

I know a lot of iphone users think it's the most intuitive machine in the world and a 5 year old can get it, and I'm obviously heavily swayed by my decade or whatever with Android but the amount of hidden/unintuitive-to-me/impossible-to-do things I found was what moved me back to Android after that trial.

I spent a LOT of time searching on Google for how to do things with that phone.

Really? In my view it's just a phone, just use whatever you prefer but I can't relate to getting used to an interface as per se

It’s muscle memory. Imagine how inefficient you’d be if someone moved the vowels to a different spot on your keyboard.

While both keyboards are nearly the same, everything you type would be wrong for quite a while.

Is it though? Ignoring the fun stuff, I just email, read (datasheets and text)books (i.e. PDFs and phone people on my phone - how much muscle memory is there in the first place?

Unless you mean the wider ecosystem, in which case I agree.

Actual specs don’t mean much with phones, I learned. Somehow my old Galaxy S8+, that had specs crushing iPhones on paper, after just a few months of use, would be way choppier and slower to use than an iPhone 7, which was both older and had way worse specs. And mind you, i am not the kind of person who installs tons of random apps and runs them in the background all the time.

That seems odd, you reset it after encountering that? I still have an S8 in my drawer but upgraded to the S10 when it came out last year and I honestly can barely tell the difference in their performance (I don't really mobile game so no idea there). I was actually really disappointed that it didn't feel like I'd just upgraded to a new model Corvette but felt like I got a car wash, which is how I'm sure all my phone upgrades will feel after the S7 now.

I had a big performance problem on my s7 way after putting in a high speed SDcard that apparently was corrupted or damaged. I was only, as far as I know, who knows what Android was storing on it, putting podcasts/images on it and it still brought my entire OS to its knees until I removed it. That was a huge trial in my Android loyalty because I went months with this incredibly slow phone until I finally was packing it up to sell, remembered "oh I don't want the buyer to have my SDcard!" pulled it out and it felt like a new phone again, I got another 2-3 years out of it. Eventually tossed it at the ground on accident thus the s8..

Yep, I tried full reset without restoring from backup. After a few months, it got back to the choppy and sloppy level of performance again, not even mentioning battery lasting a bit less than a day. Which was a dealbreaker to me, since dealing with battery anxiety is not fun. My current phone easily lasts me 1.5 days without charging, so even with very heavy usage, I am never worried that it won't last me through a full day.

I am like you but with the Android. Every time I use my wife iPhone I want to toss it across the room. I think primary because it doesn't have a dedicated back button.

You mean "swipe in from left of screen"? Sure it might only apply 80-90% of the time but I'd say that's about on par with the back button behaving like I expect it to..

> I think primary because it doesn't have a dedicated back button.

Why is this an issue? Do you need dedicated back and forward buttons to browse through your pictures? Of course not, you just swipe left and right. That’s how the iPhone handles the “back” movement.


I just clicked on an album in "Photos", I could scroll through them swiping left and right to go through the photos but now I have to rely on the arrow at the top left of the screen to go back to view all albums. I like having a back button always present on the buttom of my screen in Android for this.

Swipe from the very edge of the screen, and it takes you "up" (or "out", however you want to term it) a page.

So if you've selected a photo, a swipe down dismisses the photo. From there, a swipe in from the very edge of the screen brings you out of the current album and back to viewing all albums.

I will make a video demonstrating it if you would like.

Initially, this behavior may seem weird to some from outside the iOS ecosystem? But dismissing photos by pulling down seems to be common UX with modern apps. And swiping from the side feels so natural, that apps that don't implement it (10%?) are jarring. It could be said that a weakness here is that Apple does not enforce universal usage, but most apps have implemented it well. When it does work (90%?), my thumb appreciates not having to reach the bottom left of the phone.

There's a high possibility that many people haven't discovered that feature because covers often interfere with the swiping from outside gesture. Or anything related to touch at the edge of the screen, like dragging apps onto the next screen.

Of course you don’t need to reach that far, my fingers are not even that long. Grab the middle of the photo with one finger and swipe down. Most (all?) navigations on iOS are swipe based. On another note, if I’m being honest I still miss the “main” button of iPhone after using iPhone 11 since it came out (3months).

> facepalm

Sorry if it sounded sarcastic, this was a sincere question.

The musician in me makes me yearn for a "physical" button

Back as in "go back to the previous screen".

Apple’s design language is to put the ‘back’ item at the top left of the screen, usually as a < symbol.

...which makes it far harder to reach than the button(s) on the bottom.

I know this, but when an app goes fullscreen and hides this button I have to think to long about how to get out of it especially being that I am not a regular iPhone user

> there are Android phones that crush the iPhone on tech specs

This is largely not true anymore. (In fact, in certain areas it would be appropriate to say that it's iPhone doing the "crushing".)

crush is a strong word here, which Android phones would that be referring to? I got bored after they released the X, but at least up to and including that generation iPhones dominated benchmarks while at least being top 3 in photo quality.

A monster V8 engine with a stiff clutch in a lightweight chassis isn’t much use if it’s undrivable by the majority of the population. Honda sells a lot of Civics, not so many track cars.

It’s simple to explain in the same way that Apple even in the 90s made the most profit of any personal computer manufacturer even though PCs clearly had superior hardware and much more software.

The answer is monopoly pricing vs competition. Apple is the only iOS manufacturer, just like they were the only MacOS Manufacturer (excepting the brief period of Mac clones)

That means all Android manufacturers compete and split their market driving down prices and margins and divvying up market share.

You saw the same thing in PCs when they were almost sold at cost or razor thin margins because they were commodified: a pc from dell vs hp vs compaq vs gazillion other vendors was basically the same experience.

> The answer is monopoly pricing vs competition. Apple is the only iOS manufacturer, just like they were the only MacOS Manufacturer (excepting the brief period of Mac clones)

I don’t disagree with this, but it only matters at all because iOS (and access to its user interface, Safari, lock in on iMessages) is a distinct value add. BlackBerry also had a monopoly on their OS as did Palm as did Nokia. None of them exist anymore.

Beats invented the first cool bluetooth headset.

Agreed. I'd be more specific and say Apple invented the first fashionable wireless earbuds. I owned a pair of the first Jabra earbuds (of which the latest edition I still use and love) and plenty of those horrid looking, wrap-around, sports ones before Apple came along; I never had anyone say "I want a set of those" until I wore my AirPods for the first time though. They just seem to nail the aesthetics every time.

They don’t look good. They are a status symbol that says you’re willing to spend money on a premium product and drink the Kool aid.

Your speaking objectively about something that could not be more subjective...? Is part of it a status symbol? Yes of course. I dislike the rabid Apple fandom as much as the next person - but that does not detract from the fact that they have comparatively decent sound quality, a white colour-way that looks clean and distinct, are compact enough to carry in a very small pocket, all while staying affordable enough that the average first-world person could buy a pair.

Great point. Furthermore, how much have AirBuds eaten into Beats sales? Is this more revenue for Apple or just shifting the exact product.

Bluetooth headsets were a status symbol for a while (and then mocked) during the BlackBerry days.

So of course Apple bought them.

Wonder how much influence that had on current AirPods.

Don't forget about first cool smartwatch.

The Pebble? Still no decent replacement for it.

1) always-on, sunlight-visible screen 2) week-long (plus) battery life 3) good, simple notification + calendar support 4) ecosystem of apps (developer mindshare)

Heart Rate, Sleep Tracking, Mic/Phone, Payments are all wonderful, but the drawbacks of "machine-learning-shake-to-wake", one-day battery life, and trying to fiddle with a tiny touch screen make the Apple watch less of a watch and more of "everything but a watch".

Long Live Pebble / Rest in Peace.

Don't forget also: tangible buttons for user input, so you can change music tracks without having to look at or tap on a specific spot on a touch screen! Probably the #1 thing I miss from my Pebble OG :(

The value of hardware buttons without having to look on your screen is underrated. You can put a Pebble alarm off in your sleep. You can change a track without even seeing your watch.

Pebble was such a cool platform, and it is a damn shame that FitBit was allowed to purchase the company and immediately shut it down. Predatory competitor-purchasing like this should be illegal.

> Pebble was such a cool platform

The only true part of this sentence

> it is a damn shame that FitBit was allowed to purchase the company

Pebble failed financially and put its assets up for sale, some of which were bought by Fitbit.

> and immediately shut it down

Fitbit kept servers running for years that supported Pebble devices.

I'm a Fitbit employee but don't speak for Fitbit. An official response wouldn't be so terse; I'm just annoyed that this falsehood keeps going years later.

Sincere thanks for clearing this up, I only saw the big optics on this (pebble 2 successfully crowdfunded, then later Pebble is shutting down while FitBit acquires it).

I loved my Pebble, but it was certainly not cool. Also didn't work as well as my Apple Watch, which I waited until my beloved Pebble finally died before buying.

Apple Watch is 4+ times the price. It still can't do some of the things a Pebble can. For starters, a Pebble can run a week without requiring recharge.

And yet it's still way cooler than the Pebble. Funny how that works.

And the Pebble couldn't reliably tell me the weather outside, for a whole week.

I don't own either but I do know this, I can tell when someone has an Apple Watch at a glance without having owned one and only seen pictures, I cannot say the same for any other smart watch.

Dick Tracy, eat your heart out!

AirPods don't have a single competitor. There's no clear alternative on the market.

It's Air Pod or...


Fuck I have no idea what all these numbers and letters mean, I'll buy some Air Pods.

Sony WF-1000MX3s, Jabra Elite 65ts (which I own and don't like using at all, should've returned), Samsung Galaxy Buds (my commute dailies and much more akin to airpods in use, not amazing but I love them). There are now a lot of BT5 mobile earbuds w/ good ANC in the $100-300 range. Not sure what the top of the line in the last 3 months has become as I'm now swimming in headphones. My work dailies are the Sony WH1000XM3s (which actually replaced my XB950B1s, XBs don't have ANC like 1000s do).

To someone who uses Sony, AudioTechnica (loved my ATH-M50s for.. 5+ years) , Jabra. etc you tend to learn the numbering not that it's great. It's like buying a 3 series or 5 series BMW. There's usually some way to determine which class they're in from that brand, like the Sonys were 1000MX2s before they became 1000MX3s, next will be the MX4, the preceding WF or WH is earbuds vs over-ear (no idea what WF or WH actually means, though).

There's plenty of AirPods competitors on the market now with easily recognizable names. I'm a proud Samsung Galaxy Buds user myself.

Great name actually.

If you have enough money not to care then fair enough, different target markets.

The sony WF-1000XM3 get mentioned immediately if you google/reddit/etc for "Air Pod Alternative"

I don't have enough money so I just sit it out completely and keep buying the same wired buds I've always bought.

Huawei Freebuds and Xiaomi Airdots are clear alternatives in Asia at least. Airpods are very popular too, even in places where the cost seems prohibitive, partly because the Huawei and Xiaomi ones are also premium products.

> AirPods don't have a single competitor. There's no clear alternative on the market.

Why do you need only one competitor? I picked a random non-apple bluetooth 5 earpod and it's a superior product for over $100 less as far as I can tell.

What does air pods mean? I guess they are bluetooth headphones, but what are the specs, do they work with non-apple hardware/software? I would have to search for that info, so its just the same if they were called AIR IPX7 T10.

> I guess they are bluetooth headphones, but what are the specs, do they work with non-apple hardware/software?

To most buyers, they don't need to search for anything. It's an Apple product that works with their other Apple products because of course it does.

The tech is cool too

Zero people have been swayed by the observation that the components can be acquired for cheaper

And the non-iOS phone users that are married to “how much control they have” have touched an iphone since 2014.

I was an android hold out for a good while because I didn't like the lack of control iphones had. At some point it flipped and I got sick of how much fiddling I constantly had to do with my phone to get it to work the way I wanted. And even then by the time I got it working well, it wouldn't get updates anymore. I switched to iphone, and while once in a while I'll miss being able to tweak everything, I'm much less frustrated at my phone than before.

This has been my experience. I bought the original iPhone and thought it was cool but extremely limited. I recognize the huge impact it had on the industry, though. As much as I loved fiddling with my Nexus, at some point I realized that I was fiddling too much with it and would get frustrated that basic functions wouldn't work without issue. Android has changed a bit since then but I'm still on an iPhone now. I'm less frustrated and can count on my phone reliably doing what I need it to do even though sometimes I can't do what I might want to do. Who cares if I can install video wallpaper functionality and tweak the icon spacing/grid if I have to wait 30 seconds to answer the phone because it's freezing up?

I agree, but iPhone hardware is a lot more expensive than the Android phones I buy. Be on the Moto x4 for a couple of years. Messaging is a mess (Hangouts, Messages, etc) and yeah, there are things which are just buggy.

I've been thinking of jumping to iPhone for the watch and privacy features. It really grinds my gears how much Google has sold out its users.

>And the non-iOS phone users that are married to “how much control they have” have touched an iphone since 2014.

I don't even tinker that much and my foray into iOS lasted only 1 year with the 10S Max. The inability to arrange items freely on the desktop (leave a blank space) was frustrating. The lack of control over default apps was occasionally problematic. The inability to natively link to a Windows computer and transfer files is also something I use.

That said, there are a ton of benefits of iOS over Android that I recognize (iMessage, Apple Wallet, the screen responsiveness, etc).

Sorry to burst your bubble, I'm a long-time Android user who switched to the iPhone 6S for about a year and a half, then back to a Pixel 2. Following its release, I bought the iPhone XS expecting to love it and be done with Android.

Oh, how wrong I was. Siri is still garbage, CarPlay is terrible compared to Android Auto. And there's nothing even similar to Google Home. Apple's hands-free story is completely nonexistent which is fine if you've never used a decent hands-free ecosystem, but it's very hard to switch back to.

Interesting use cases, the Google variant is still a good choice but a sliver of the android market that I cant really consider it meaningful

Its one vs many variants

You get that on any modern Android phone, not sure when the cutoff is but my Oneplus from years ago still gets the modern crap.

Can Android today handle voice dialing non-English names in the address book? If not, their hands-free story leaves a lot to be desired as well.

Yes, with phonetic names, an optional field like the pronunciation name in iOS.

If Apple can make the same leap from iPod to iPhone with these earbuds we are going to see a sweat new product range.

Jim Collins talked about his conversations with Steve Jobs at the end of the Knowledge project podcasts. He started talking to Steve after Steve got fired from Apple.

Not so sure about _the first_ but might agree to _the coolest_ ;-) Motorola Razr was very cool when it came out.

Replace "cool" with "actually working great" and I'm with you.

And the first cool smartwatch (although I would never buy one myself)

i mean, i know airpds are the new platform on top of which things will be built.

"what the tech can do"? you mean the airpods?

what else is there?

You missed the first cool smart watch.


Mass market cool not nerd cool.

Apple is marketing company.

I hate Apple marketing, their ads always annoy me. Great products tho

> first cool MP3 player

The iPod was far from the first, far from the best, and maybe even technically not an mp3 player.

>now the first cool bluetooth headset [citation needed]

Honstly every time I see someone wearing earpods I can't take him seriously anymore, they look _so_ bad. There's a lot of options on the market, and airpods are the ugliest of them all.

As somebody who really likes Airpods, I think they look ridiculous, but they work so darn well that the looks are totally irrelvant.

The cell phone Bluetooth headsets produced plenty of eyerolls when they were the thing a number of years back too. Probably for similar reasons--you never know when I may get a phone call that's more important than you.

Personally, I don't wear these sorts of things in public but that's mostly because I hate being isolated from even relatively benign environments.

If you are in public you can hear anything through EarPods or AirPods they don’t cancel any noise. If I’m on the subway I can’t even hear the music haha. Interestingly, that’s a primary reason why I like it - I can roll with my e-scooter and hear bikers and cars at the same time.

I tend to agree with you, I find them pretty ugly and weird looking, but it's also clear that we're outliers here. Those things are hugely popular.

When you talk to people, you're supposed to look at their eyes, not their ears.

You don't have to talk to someone to judge his looks

Hahaha, one of the actual coolest, most fashionable people I’ve known had nothing nice to say about AirPods. She said, “Steve Jobs would have never allowed that to happen.” And to be frank, they don’t look any better than the Bluetooth headsets that were around for years before, so I have to agree with her assessment. Personal taste, of course, but I’ve also never heard anyone say that AirPods look “cool” ever.

The only upside is they’re branded, so you can make yourself look like you’re the type of person who owns Apple products. Wow.

Straight from the basket of pretentious people who think they know what Steve Jobs would have wanted. They don't. Even Steve from year Y would not know what Steve from year Y+1 would want.

Like I said, personal taste, but I definitely took her opinion of it more seriously given her job is to sell fashionable clothes to fashionable people, and throw in some confirmation bias because I don't like AirPods.

I'm not even sure what standard anyone here could use to claim that AirPods (or anything) are cool. Apple products are a status symbol, and sure they have potential to be cool, but glorifying bluetooth earbuds as such looks more, to me, like we're just conflating whatever cool means with the idea of status.

I'm not saying they're mutually exclusive, but I am saying I require some actual definition of terms and proof beyond sales or people wearing them to take the claim seriously on HN. Otherwise, it just looks like a fanboy being a fanboy.

But yeah, anything sticking out of your ears that has a lower profile than wired headphones falls into this goofy uncanny valley of man-melding-with-machine, at least in my view. And this is why I believe that Steve Jobs had the design-sense to see that and not allow it. But hey, maybe not, maybe the way I have articulated it is completely wrong, and this goofy uncanny valley is actually really cool.

I wouldn’t say they are cool either. But I remember the time when landlines without wires were “cool”. Nobody thought putting the cord back was a good idea.

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