Apple’s design philosophy is simple: Strip away everything but the essentials, then pare off a little more.
Today (Sept. 7) Apple announced its first wireless earbuds, called AirPods. They look a lot like Apple’s iconic EarPods, just without the wires and with some fancy metal trim. The buds have 5-hour battery life each, can be used separately or together, and automatically detect when they’re in your ear.
They also have no buttons.
The iPhone was revolutionary because it was just a screen. No physical keyboard, no back or menu buttons, no scroll ball. Of course it did have a few physical inputs, to turn the phone on and access the home screen, but they were so essential that they haven’t lost much, nearly ten years later. (Although this year, the iPhone 7 lost its headphone jack, and rumors indicate the next iPhone will lose the Home button.)
In this way, the AirPods are even more of a design success than the iPhone. AirPods are minimalism materialized: Each earbud is a glossy monolith. And they’ll be able to fully control Siri, a step up from the Apple Watch, whose original purpose was to allow users to complete tasks without having to take out your phone. If Apple can achieve this with voice commands through AirPods, users won’t even have to raise their wrists.
Apple isn’t the first major company to do sell wireless earbuds. Samsung announced wireless earbuds earlier this year, the IconX. They’re heavily geared towards exercise, have 4GB of onboard storage for music, and also have no physical buttons. But the IconX are clunky, have odd fins, and the aesthetic of the charging pins are mismatched to the design of the device.
The AirPods will cost $159, expensive for an Apple earbud, but standard for the wireless earbud market. For comparison, headphone maker Bragi’s wireless earbud will cost $159 after pre-orders end, and the IconX costs $229.