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How Apple Can Take Its Headphones To the Next Level 196

Posted by timothy
from the if-only-earbuds-would-stick-in-my-ears dept.
redletterdave (2493036) writes "Apple is one of the biggest headphone makers in the world thanks to those signature white earbuds that have shipped with every iPod, iPhone, and iPad since 2001. But even two years after earbuds became 'EarPods,' the design could still be improved — and competitors are taking notice. Amazon recently unveiled a new pair of in-ear headphones that are magnetic, tangle-free and $5 cheaper than Apple's $30 EarPods, while smaller startups are promoting their own wireless and customizable 3D-printed earbuds. But Apple has an ace up its sleeve, in the form of patents for a set of headphones with 'one or more integrated physiological sensors' designed to help users keep track of their body stats."
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How Apple Can Take Its Headphones To the Next Level

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  • Step 1 (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    buy Beats

    • Seriously? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Saturday June 28, 2014 @10:10PM (#47342959)

      buy Beats

      Read the reviews... Beats might be the Hipster headphone du jour, but on the quality vs price curve, it doesn't work out. Sure, if you want to look "hip" and "happin'n" and "young, dumb, and full of cum", buy Beats. Or you could buy a decent pair of headphones.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I agree with you - I was just being snarky.

        I bought a pair of Beats last year at the urging of a friend. I used them mayybe 30 times. Now I have an issue where I have to bend the cable a certain way or there's no sound in the left ear. They are total shit in my opinion.

        I read somewhere recently that the average cost to manufacture a pair of Beats headphones was like $12/pair.

      • Re: Seriously? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Saturday June 28, 2014 @11:56PM (#47343247) Homepage Journal

        They can improve the quality but the real deal is that Apple is ditching the 3.5mm jack for a digital, DRM, patent-encumbered connector. Beats will have it - if you want the cool headphones you gotta give up your Android. The royalties will enforce exclusively.

        Apple has to do *something* to stop its marketshare slide - that they didn't put the $3B into R&D tells you how desperate the internal numbers look.

        • if you want the cool headphones you gotta give up your Android.

          Yes well, of course the Hipsters wouldn't be caught dead paying tunes through anything but Apple...

          • by mark_reh (2015546)

            Walmart sells iPhone 5c for $29 and 5s for $99. The last time I checked, Walmart was NOT the supplier of choice for hipsters.

            • Walmart sells iPhone 5c for $29 and 5s for $99. The last time I checked, Walmart was NOT the supplier of choice for hipsters.

              Clearly, Wal-mart is not where Hipsters buy their Apple lifestyle accessories. For example, where did you buy yours?

        • by sl149q (1537343)

          And if you don't want DRM patent-encumbered connectors on your ear phones / ear buds then just don't buy an Apple device. It really really REALLY is that simple.

          Personally I'm looking forward to new ear buds with Lightning. Most likely they will have a smaller connector, have better strain relief and last longer.

          I suspect that currently Apple swaps about 1 set of ear buds for every Apple Care they sell for iPhones. IFF going to Lightning reduces that by any significant amount it will pay for any increased m

      • by CODiNE (27417)

        I read an article about Dr. Dre and how he used to record his music. At the time radio was the dominant way people were exposed to new music, he realized that his audience would not experience pristine reception nor studio quality "reference" speakers with extremely low distortion. There would also be plenty of background noise and an engine sounds to compete with.

        To ensure his music sounded to his listeners the way he wanted it to, he would broadcast over a private short-range radio station and drive aroun

    • Re:Step 1 (Score:5, Funny)

      by QuesarVII (904243) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @10:26PM (#47343015)
      Or spend a lot less, and buy skull candy earbuds.
    • Take all the Beats intellectual property, drawings, and inventory, throw it in a wood chipper, and then set fire to the resulting chips.

  • by jaymz666 (34050) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @10:09PM (#47342957)

    They make me sick, literally. Give me on ear headphones any day

  • sensors (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blackraven14250 (902843) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @10:16PM (#47342983)
    Why would the writer think that adding body sensors are an answer, instead of improving the fucking sound?
    • Re:sensors (Score:5, Insightful)

      by haggus71 (1051238) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @10:25PM (#47343009)
      So true. They are the crappiest headphones out there. I can get a pair of Panasonic ear buds for under ten bucks that sound worlds better.
      • Re:sensors (Score:5, Insightful)

        by blackraven14250 (902843) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @10:37PM (#47343049)
        I don't usually use earbuds except to work out, but I have a $20 pair of Sony earbuds that sound better than Apple's. It's absurd that the article doesn't mention a single thing about sound quality, and goes into how easily the cords tangle and body sensors like those are the things people care about. You need to get sound quality right before you can even think about all the other ancillary shit to try and sell more of them.
        • I don't usually use earbuds except to work out, but I have a $20 pair of Sony earbuds that sound better than Apple's. It's absurd that the article doesn't mention a single thing about sound quality, and goes into how easily the cords tangle and body sensors like those are the things people care about. You need to get sound quality right before you can even think about all the other ancillary shit to try and sell more of them.

          You are hard to please :-) I'd settle for getting a pair of earbuds with my iDevice that don't fall out of my ears whenever I move my head although, to be fair to Apple, this is not a problem limited to their products. The first thing I do when I get a new phone or music player is replace the included earbuds with the in-ear type from a third party manufacturer (usually Sennheiser). I have a small box full of Apple earbuds that I have never used.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          They bought Beats, a brand built on a a shitty, bass heavy flatulent sound. The only thing they ever had going for them was the unique 'b' shaped plastic. They are like a Louis Vuitton bag - not particularly functional or even attractive, but they cost a lot of money and celebutards like them so owning them buys you a tiny slice of that lifestyle.

          At this point if they made them sound better their sales would probably decrease. That shit sound is their signature.

          • The only thing they ever had going for them was the unique 'b' shaped plastic. They are like a Louis Vuitton bag - not particularly functional or even attractive, but they cost a lot of money and celebutards like them so owning them buys you a tiny slice of that lifestyle.

            While I don't own or like their headphones, the one other thing they have going for them is their success at ambush marketing. You see, as much as I hate their headphones, I hate the draconian advertising regulations that surround events like the Olympics and World Cup even more:

            http://www.thenational.ae/busi... [thenational.ae]
            http://www.theguardian.com/med... [theguardian.com]

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          I have a $10 pair of Sony earbuds I bought in a mall in Panama when my earbuds took a dive, not literally just one side stopped working and new earbuds were cheaper than a soldering iron I'd have to lug around anyway. Still better than Apple headphones. They tangle like a bitch, though.

          Few Radio Shacks there though, and guess what? They fucking rule. They're everything our stores used to be and more, they have all kinds of random crap never seen in a rat shack catalog in addition to all the usual stuff.

        • No, really. So a big problem these days is people damaging their hearing from listening at excessive volumes on their portable devices. This is a real issue and is going to have some nasty effects as people age.

          Part of the problem is just people wanting to listen too loud, but part of the problem is shitty earbuds. If you have shitty earbuds, that don't seal off outside noise well, don't sound good, and have poor power handling, it is more likely you drive them too loud to compensate. Also, the poor power h

      • Not to mention Apple earphones are also the most fragile. That narrow-gauge white wire may look thin and stylish, but the tiniest of crimps can degrade the sound, and they break very easily. The $10 earphones I use have better sound (not great, but I'm usually listening on the go, and ambient sounds drown out a lot of the harmonics anyway) and don't break after a week's use. It is Apple once again putting form over function.

      • The best earbuds I've ever owned. They stay in the ear, sound quality is excellent and the tangle/twist factor isn't bad considering the skinny round cable.

        They were like $8 when I bought them from Amazon. I ended up buying six more pair of them they were so good. I have a set in the car, my laptop case, a pair by the door for walking the dog and a couple still in the sealed package.

        I just looked them up, still $8.99 with Prime delivery. Maybe I should pick up a couple more just in case.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Where the fuck have you been? Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Nike and other big companies have decided for us that body sensors are THE FUTURE .

      It doesn't matter that they're mostly just gimmicks. It doesn't matter that they have severe and negative privacy implications. It doesn't matter that they're a fad that'll die out in a couple of years. The are THE FUTURE .

      You need to prepare yourself to hear about them for the next 2 or 3 years. It'll be just like 3D TV, tablets, Ruby on Rails, and all of the

      • by tsa (15680)

        Luckily I have the impression that 3D TV is on the way out already...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Well - they bought the wrong company, i.e. Beats. If they wanted better sound they should have bought Dolby Laboratories, Audio Technica, or Grado.

      It's sad really, even though Steve Jobs seemed to be a first class picky asshole about how thinks looked, he also wouldn't settle for an imbalance of form and function. Probably learned that from when the Apple 3 went south and he got the boot.

      The current wave of products seem to coast on function and go downhill on looks. An example would be the look and feel of

      • Beats would be the wrong company, if all Apple wanted was a headphone maker. But they also intend to build a music streaming service, which Beats had, with all the licensing deals already in place.

        • by ruir (2709173)
          For that kind of money, they would be far better of with Spotify. And Beats are bozos that just shop around.
    • This... a thousand times, this.. Make them not sound like crap, THEN start working on other things.
    • "Why would the writer think that adding body sensors are an answer, 'instead of improving the fucking sound?"<br><br>They have to go a bit further back than the hardware I think. I've you've looked at a waveform for what passes as music these days, you would agree<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:D Listening to THAT on even a decent set of headphones won't help it any.<br><br>The folks that put this stuff together need to understand that the entire waveform isn't supposed to l
    • by mark_reh (2015546)

      The writer doesn't understand the strategy. The Beats name is the lure and the added sensors that justify the proprietary connector is the hook that will lock people into buying overpriced Apple/iBeats phones as long as they have an iPhone/iPad, even if they don't sound any better than the current Apple or Beats products.

  • instead of adding a bunch of features I don't need, didn't ask for, and make the product more complex, expensive, and likely to fail? Everything is headed this way, cars and home appliances being the most obvious offenders, and it's not making lives better.

    A pair of phones that sound good, made to last, and are not overpriced, should turn a profit without marketing them as high status items. If not, then marketing has seriously contaminated the mindset of the consumer.

    • by jenningsthecat (1525947) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @10:55PM (#47343089)

      instead of adding a bunch of features I don't need, didn't ask for, and make the product more complex, expensive, and likely to fail?

      My good sir, how dare you besmirch the efforts of those who are trying to make our economy grow ever larger and ever faster? Don't you WANT a booming business environment? Is buying overpriced junk that fails early and often, and leaves our planet an empty husk, REALLY too high a price to pay for petty amusements and diversions that further line the pockets of the already-wealthy? How selfish of you!

      • by epyT-R (613989)

        It's hard for the customer to make a good choice when the good choices are removed from the market and replaced with disposable junk.

        • It's as if most customers choose cheap, disposable junk.

          Maybe somebody could start a store like that.

          Call it Junkmart, or something like that.

          • by tsa (15680)

            That exists already in the Netherlands. It's called the Action [action.nl] and it's mighty popular.

  • But Apple has an ace up its sleeve, in the form of patents for a set of headphones with 'one or more integrated physiological sensors' designed to help users keep track of their body stats.

    You mean like these [lg.com]. Somehow, I have a feeling those patents might not be as useful as someone might think...

    • by exomondo (1725132)
      Well a set of headphones with 'one or more integrated physiological sensors' designed to help users keep track of their body stats isn't patentable, that's just an idea and you cannot patent an idea. It's a specific implementation of that idea that is patentable.
      • by c (8461)

        This is true. I'm questioning that said patents are really such an "ace up the sleeve" if someone else is beating you to market with devices that already do what your patents purportedly cover. There's only a limited set of physiological sensors that are going to be useful in headphones and that aren't already in their phones, and LG just nailed the main one. Body temperature would be the next obvious.

        IMHO, Apple's ace up its sleeve is the same thing it's always been... to ability to pump out a product that

        • by exomondo (1725132)
          Ah right, yes of course. While their implementation may be different the idea itself is not innovative and has already been done.
  • How are headphones on a different level than your ears any sort of benefit? (Asking for an overly literal person.)
  • more like a sensor that induces subliminal messages to buy more apple stuff.
  • by MindPrison (864299) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @11:26PM (#47343175) Journal
    Heard at the Apple Headquarters monitoring their users:

    Oh no, we've got excessive vibrations on little Johnny (User 2317687491XXL), I think he might be pounding his meat again, better shut down his web access.
  • Whatever it takes to get kids to stop wearing those god damn bulbous studio style headphones while out and about (beats typically.).

    They are this generations version of the jnco jeans.

    Seriously, does an ipod/iphone/whatever portable device even have the output for speakers that size?

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Seriously, does an ipod/iphone/whatever portable device even have the output for speakers that size?

      You can drive relatively big speakers directly from any of that stuff, but you're going to get shitty response out of it. And Lo, Beats suck balls. Meanwhile, the best response (in headphones) is had from headphones with fairly large speakers, but which also can't be driven by some shitty little player, for example some of the more pro-level Sennheisers. You need an actual amplifier for that, not just some dinky on-codec amp or companion crap that they will use in a typical consumer device. I use an old Ken

  • by mentil (1748130) on Sunday June 29, 2014 @12:21AM (#47343319)

    Just what I want -- for my NSA-backdoored, malware-infested, free-apps-spying-on-me smart device to ALSO be able to exfiltrate my vital signs. You think GPS location and when you use your device tells alot about your life habits, wait until heartrate and blood pressure are available. Advertisers would LOVE this data: "look, our ad is exciting to this person". Worse, they could also detect heart conditions and uniquely identify the person wearing the earbuds. Think about that for a second. Instead of just assuming that this iPhone was registered by person X so it's probably being used by that person, it'd be able to know if someone's borrowing it (and using a cloud data lookup, by whom.) Wait until the NSA ("we kill people based on metadata") starts using vital sign 'fingerprints' and bombing them with no verification.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Just what I want -- for my NSA-backdoored, malware-infested, free-apps-spying-on-me smart device to ALSO be able to exfiltrate my vital signs.

      Exactly my response to Apple's response. What I've got now is the last generation of product where I don't give a shit if it's closed-source, because what's coming now is the first generation of product truly designed to get all up in your business and know everything about you. At least Google Now is opt-out, I can just not use it. If your headphones come with biometric sensors, you'll have to swap them out. That's not a big deal, but the same trend is being followed on the phones themselves, and they won'

  • They'll still fall out of my ear and sound like shit when they don't.

  • They use science and engineering to make better headphones.

    I mean, sure maybe they can put is a sensors to detect how rad I thing music is based on how I rock my head.

  • But unfortunately, I have a mild case of cauliflower ear on both sides of my head. So color me as not giving the slightest of fucks.

  • it's a way of monitoring your heartbeat and steps without selling you a wristband. nothing to do with sound quality.

  • Get a set of Sennheiser PX-100 II [sennheiser.com], or Sennheiser PX-100 IIi [sennheiser.com] if you want a microphone and controls.

    Much better sound quality than any earpuds, more comfortable, plus no microphoning noise from the cable like you get with earpuds and in-ear units. Seriously, the PX-100 series is an absolute bargain for how good of a sound quality you get, they're right up there with fullsize cans and lightyears ahead of shit like Beats or Skullcandy.

  • Vital stats sensors... for listening to music? How is that helpful to me? If I have a medical condition that requires constant monitoring of my vitals, I'm not going to use Apple bullshit for it - I'm going to use real medical hardware. If I don't have a medical condition that requires constant monitoring of my vitals, why the fuck would I want to constantly monitor my vitals? That shit isn't interesting. It doesn't help me enjoy music. I would rather throw my $30 directly into the trash can, because at lea
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday June 29, 2014 @09:23AM (#47344235) Homepage Journal

    They are *earphones* for pete's sake. How about you make the sound better? You know, the reason people buy them, to listen to stuff...

  • But Apple has an ace up its sleeve, in the form of patents for a set of headphones with 'one or more integrated physiological sensors' designed to help users keep track of their body stats.

    In essence, nobody can develop earphones with sensors without Apple crying patent infringement.

    It's not a particular method of getting sensor data or a particular design of getting sensor data, it is the whole concept of putting sensors in earphones that is patented.

    Right now, patents are a way of marking territory rather than a clever invention.

  • Some sensors to warn the dumbass wearing the headphones (with volume at 11, naturally) that they are about to walk into something (say, a wall, a manhole cover, a train, a taxi, etc) might be a good idea.

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