New Apple EarPods vs. original earbuds: Should you upgrade?

If you haven't yet upgraded to the iPhone 5, can you get some of that iPhone 5 experience by upgrading to Apple's new EarPods earbuds? At $29 they're not as expensive as high-end earpieces, but they're not exactly cheap either. Compared to the original Apple earbuds, the ones that shipped with every iPhone, iPod, and iPad up until the iPhone 5, are they a worthwhile upgrade, or are you better off waiting and just getting them for "free" with your next iOS device?

EarPods vs earbuds: Comfort and sound

The most noticeably new thing about the new EarPods is their design. The old earbuds used a ubiquitously round shape and speaker while the new EarPods have a more distinct, ergonomic shape that fit the ear canals in a more snug, comfortable fashion, and support a dual output setup.

I hardly ever used the original earbuds as, like many others, I find them ill-fitting and uncomfortable. After many years of submission grappling I have some gangly, nasty cauliflower ears. Yet, even in spite of my haggardly disfigurement, I find the new EarBuds fit quite comfortable and securely.

I am no audiophile by any stretch of the imagination, but due to the ergonomically snug fit of the new design, I found the sound from the earbuds to be more dynamic and had better range and base than the original earbuds. Also, because of the dual setup, they can do noise canceling to help make phone calls sound better as well.

EarPods vs earbuds: Remote and mic

Both the new EarPods and the original earbuds allow the wearer to control their iPhone, iPod, or iPad with an inline remote. You can play or pause, skip forward or back, fast forward or rewind, and of course increase and decrease the volume. And with it’s built in mic you can control calls and interact with Siri, or VoiceControl on earlier generation iPhones.

The remote and mic assembly in the new EarPods, however, is larger and much easier to fumble for, find, and use without looking. Likewise, the original earbuds also seem to have used a lower gauge of wire than the new EarPods which may affect durability.

The mic itself sounds about the same in both.

The bottom line

Overall, I think many people will be happily surprised with the new EarPods from Apple. They sound better, they fit better, and they're easier to use.

So what's the downside? The price tag. The EarPods are $29 and while that's nothing compared to ultra-high end earpieces that can cost hundreds of dollars, it's also not an insignificant chunk of change.

If you like the original earbuds and they work and fit fine for you, then there's no reason to upgrade to the EarPods. Save your money for now, and you'll get them for "free" anyway when you get your next iOS device.

If you hate the original earbuds but don't want to pay a hundred dollars or more for high-end alternatives, than at $29 the EarPods a re good low-mid range option. They sound good for the price, and have all the controls you need for your iOS device.

The new Apple EarPods aren't going to blow anyone's hair back, but while literally anything would have been an improvement over the original earbuds, the EarPods are a better than expected one for the price.


Anthony is an IT administrator, retro gamer, and accessory reviewer for iMore.

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There are 40 comments. Add yours.

Dealwagon says:

Did ou even listen to these side by side with the previous model?? Or side by side with any ear buds out?? These things are incredible and the bass you get is amazing. Really sounds like over the ear models. Anyone that reviews these and isn't blown away by the sound didn't hear them. Try finding another set of earbuds that sound anywhere near this good for. 35.

I used the precious model a lot and liked them. The sound wasn't great but acceptable. These are fricken fantastic. If you like phone controls and don't mind these ear bud style, get these now!

jtorrebl says:

I agree they are really good. I used to use Sony in ear bud phones. Those have a little more bass but the rest of the sound is not as good highs and sounds muffled compared to the broader range and clarity of the new pods. These new pods also sound better then the around ear b&o phones that cost about 200, but I got free from Audi. I sold them on eBay the next day. Still have to compare these pods to my bose in ear. But bass is great and highs are excellent. Worth thirty, yes. After spending in the hundred range previoulsy, and not having iPod functionality these are worth the thirty easily.

SDTRMG says:

I'm gonna get some for my 4s and see how good they are, I bought the dr.dre ibeats for $100, and there the worst feeling headphones ever, there even shitty during a call, you can hear the controls buttons moving around and all. I'm gonna take dealwagons advice and get a pair, I think the design alone might change the way headphones are made in the future.

woody88 says:

they are not $35; please do your research before posting a review......

TekNiKal#AC says:

C'mon guy. You know, and I know, that they are $29. But his box did say $35.

Selsandy says:

@woody, did you notice there was a PRICE TAG on the thing the earbuds were in?

woody88 says:

yes, I did see that it was priced at C$35 on the box, but that is Canadian currency, and not US currency. If it is $35 in Canadian currency, don't you think that they should disclose that, versus $29 in US currrency? just my opinion.

Rene Ritchie says:

Apologies, we sent Anthony a set from the Canadian Apple Store, and $35 is the price in Canada (incl. $6 snow and ice tax included). We'll adjust the article to reflect the U.S. price.

Selsandy says:

Well now that you've pointed that part out, it is clearer how we see the price difference. Nothing wrong with having these kinds of opinions, that way it makes it better for us the customers.

Selsandy says:

Well now that you've pointed that part out, it is clearer how we see the price difference. Nothing wrong with having these kinds of opinions, that way it makes it better for us the customers.

DataCentre says:

They are $35 at London Drugs in North Vancouver.

west3man says:

Re: "You can play or pause, skip forward or back, fast forward or rewind, and of course increase and decrease the volume."

Damn. I've been listening to them wrong.

I need a manual.

the1aboveall says:

My wife took them from me when I got my iPhone 5! Damn woman!!! Anyway after she tried them she insisted on buying some for herself. These earpods are awesome. You can tell the difference right away. The bass is just clear and crisp. I don't know how I was okay with the old earphones from the previous iPhone. Just wow! I have decided to purchase one for work and an extra for the house, just in case she happens to "lose hers." Honestly you should upgrade.

rewNATION says:

i hope they're better, the old earbuds suck

BoondMarh says:

Are they better than the old earbuds that Apple used to provide? YES! Are they worth about $30+ dollars, NO!

These earpods, while the new design is somewhat good as more sound is sent into the ear, the audio quality is nowhere near what you could get from other brands such as Klipsch.

If you listen to music regularly, or even audio books, or sometimes sit in noisy areas, get yourself some better noise-cancelling earbud headphones. I personally recommend the Klipsch S4, they go around $50-$60 etc.

For this price, you are only getting the Apple branding. Someone has broken them down and found they are almost the same as the original cheap earpods Apple used to provide, with only a molded shape difference and paper cones for better mids.

Are they better than the original earbuds? Yes. Should you rush out to buy them, I'd say no, maybe save up a bit and get better ones with bass ability and noise cancelling etc.

Bill McNeal says:

I have the s4 reference buds from klipsch, love them. I haven't gotten my iPhone 5 / ear pods yet, (coming today woo-hoo) so I'm looking forward to trying them out, but I don't expect they will replace my s4's for regular listening, but I'm hoping they will replace my cheap Phillips buds I use at the gym.

tdaniels1981 says:

So how are the new Appke earbuds vs your S4 buds?

jlake02 says:

The new Earbuds don't fit well in my ears sadly. :/ I first tried them during a workout yesterday.

However, the sound is incredible.. WAYYY better than the previous Apple buds.

joshnaugle says:

The new earpods are much better than the old earbuds. If they did not come free with a device, I wouldn't buy them though. They cannot compare to my Bose earbuds. The highs and mids are pretty good, but there is not enough lows to compare. I know the Bose are 3x the cost, but you get what you pay for. One thing I haven't tried is using the microphone for Siri or phone calls. I hope it works for that. The old earbuds were useless on phone calls because people couldn't hear me or the quality was just too bad.

Gazoobee says:

You're just paying for the brand (an obsolete brand at that). "Regular" earbuds should never be more than about $30 and good high end ones should set you back $90-100. Anything more than that any you are just paying for the logo. Many of the really expensive ones are not as good as the $30 ones also.

jtorrebl says:

These are better than my Bose in ears. I'm selling those now like I sold my b&o last week after I tried these on. I don't know how these will stay in my ear during a run though. They are veh comfortable though.

larryhancock says:

Since I started with my online business I earn $62 every 15 minutes. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don't check it out.

Jenna Jameson says:

Sell your shit elsewhere, douchebag.

juleguilfoyle says:

They hurt my ears horribly, just like the old ones. I can't wear them for five minutes.

tpsd says:

Well, I think they are great :)

A-m-B says:

they are very comfortable

Eric J says:

They're big for my ears... I can't get them situated so they don't feel as though they'll fall out.

However, in a side-by-side comparison, these are dramatically better than the old headset ear buds that came with my 4, at least on my 5. The old ones sound distinctly worse with the 5 than they did on the 4.

Biggest bonus? Volume range. I'm not sure which part of the chain (phone, iOS6, earpods, or some combination) is the cause, but I can now turn it down to a reasonable volume without having to use the screen (it was still too loud even with that).

KrispyKrink says:

If you're going to buy earphones from Apple, skip these damned things and get the dual driver in-ears. The best dual driver in-ear monitors you'll find for less than $100.

soogriff says:

I notice some serious bass in the new earbuds. Plugged my old buds into my iPad and the new buds into my iPhone and played the same song. I noticed a difference. They're pretty comfortable too.

BBooDad says:

excellent way to do comparison that is real, vs "I think.....". thanks - I added them to my wishlist now.

iDonev says:

I think I'll wait until I wear out my current ones and I'll give the ear pods a shot.

independentvolume says:

They are a definite upgrade from the last ear buds but are still far from spectacular. If your buying these separately do yourself a favor and get something a bit better for that price. Plenty of better options out there.

Jonno says:

How many guys from iMore are grapplers? First I find out Rene has a BJJ brown belt and now another iMore writer has cauliflower ear? Is there a special iMore/TiPB mat that you guys roll on in your spare time? :oP (I find this cool btw. I train BJJ myself)

Chrissosa18 says:

they are great!!!! best headphone i have used! they stick in my ear perfect and the sound is great!

PeterDTown says:

For the record, contrary to your article iPads have never shipped with any earbuds.

Robert Smith3 says:

These are the worse ear buds ever made. They do not stay in your ears and the sound is mediocre. When you are working out and your ears get wet, these things just slide out. Really Apple? Get it together. They need to made of a material that sticks to skin not something so slick, they only look good in a box. I think I will stay with Skull Candy. Oh and yes, I am pure Apple and lately they have made some really stupid moves...Maps anyone?

MrBjorn says:

And the cable is longer! Is important for me in the Gym. It was a hazel in the Cross Trainer with the old short cable, when i connected to the internal audio jack for the TV's. i couldn't move freely

knowsthetruth says:

I got these with my 5s, and after seeing that they had a different design than previous apple earbuds, which I did not like, I thought Id give them a try. First off, WTF. were these even designed for a Human. They don't fit in my ear comfortably or securely, and to be honest I'm not quiet sure how to put them in. These are absolute garbage and who ever designed them should be fired. All the comments saying this garbage is so amazing and good are fake and most likely Apple employees. DO NOT BUY THESE, LITERALLY LIKE TRYING TO PUT A SHOVEL IN YOUR EAR. I ripped mine up in pieces after trying to figure out how any human being could possibly wear these infernal contraptions.

Christine Charles says:

LMAO @knowsthetruth, I could not have put this better myself. I always feel like my ears are bleeding each time I put these things in my ear. I only have them because I finally bought an iPhone. I have no issue with the sound from these earbuds, but sound means nothing if the damn product won't stay in your ears.