Will $159 Headphones Actually Improve the User Experience?

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus release announcement has caused much controversy among loyal Apple users. Having done away with the headphone jack, Apple created a new type of earbud to accompany the 7th generation iPhone called “AirPods.” While these new wireless wonders have generated much hype over the past few days, the actual product does not look to be one of Apple’s biggest UX successes. AirPods have an infrared sensor which detects when they are being worn, and connect with the iPhone through the Lightning connectors. They come equipped with noise cancellation and a new wireless chip, which are meant to solve common issues people have with wireless earbuds. They have a five-hour battery life and come with a charging case that provides an additional 24 hours of battery. These small pieces of technology are meant to make the experience of using earbuds as easy and simple as possible. Although, critics have already determined many potential issues with the AirPods that could lessen the quality of the user experience, and overall they aren’t very happy with Apple’s attitude about the changes to their product. While Apple may have provided a solution for avoiding the frustration of untying your cord knots, reviewers say there doesn’t seem to be a security feature keeping the earbuds in place. This makes running or playing sports while wearing these expensive earbuds not seem practicle and their new line of Beats wireless headphones is not a better alternative to address this issue. According to one critic at Mail Online, Apple “tried to sell us on the idea that removing compatibility- with headphones, hi-fi systems, and car stereos alike- is a bold and courageous step into the future.” Worrying about the battery life on your earbuds in addition to your phone seems like a drag while you’re out and about. Not to mention the $159 replacement cost if you lose one of these small devices. Purchasing the new iPhone means you must use these earbuds in order to fully utilize the phone’s features, which could discourage sales. In contrast, the overall iPhone design seems to be a hit, according to the Business Insider, “…it’s also a sign that Apple has shifted from wowing us with a new, fresh look every other year to just improving the key areas people care about most, like the camera, battery life, speed…” So, where does that leave users who are eager to upgrade their iPhones, but aren’t so eager to lose their earbuds on day one? Apple is now facing the challenge of winning back their users’ faith before the product release next month.
Megan Wilson is user experience specialist & editor of UX Motel. She is also the Quality Assurance and UX Specialist at WalkMe Megan.w(at)walkme.com