Review: Apple In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic

I've never found a good compact headset. The default Apple ear buds that ship with the iPhone (and every iPod) just don't stay in my (must be mutant) ears. Likewise every other earbud I've tried had fallen out in the matter of seconds. Even the ones with over-ear hooks flop to the sides with annoying consistency. And Apple's original in-ear headset? Didn't quite fit in my ears so I gave them to my sister.

So it was with great and possible anticipointment that I decided to brave this world again and hope beyond hope that not only would Apple's new In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic work well and be convenient, but that it would work at all.

Did it? Find out after the break!

Not iPhone Compatible

No, that's not a typo. Apple clearly lists the new In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic as not iPhone compatible. However, I am using it with the iPhone and it does work, except for the volume controls (which double as the skip forward/back). Hopefully this will be addressed in the next iPhone OS update, as it's a pretty puzzling omission.

Hardware

In the box are two plastic capsules. The first is a rounded triangle that contains the ear pieces in the center and the cord wrapped around the edge. With no indentation between the clear top and white plastic bottom, getting this capsule apart is tricky. If you intend to store your headphones in this handy container, the lack of an even more handy finger recess or other easy-opening point could prove consistently annoying.

The second capsule contains smaller and larger silicone ear tips in case the default ones don't fit you properly. While also seamless clear and white plastic, the cylindrical makes this container much easier to open -- ironic since you will likely need to open it much less frequently, if ever again.

Lastly, kudos to Apple for providing 2 extra replacement mesh caps for the headphones. Hopefully you'll never need them, but if you do, having them included is priceless (well, technically, worth the price of a new headset!)

The headphones themselves are quintessential Apple -- white, plastic, with that special firmness that resists tangling.

New to this model is a small control module attached. The center of the module has a recessed play/pause button. The outer outer sides provide the volume up and down buttons (which are NOT supported by the iPhone) and, if you double-click, track forward and back.

Daily Use

Over the last week, I've found Apple's new In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic to be quite good, and an excellent value for the price (something many joke is impossible for Apple). Sound quality is very good, mic quality acceptable given the type of device, and best of all -- they mostly stayed in my ears.

Not having used in-ear headphones before (because they never fit right for me), I did find the experience a little distracting at first. The sound of the cord being tapped, of eating, of everything going on in my head took me out of the experience. However, I've come to notice this less and less as time goes on.

I did find that, when walking around, I would typically take one earpiece out so I could hear and keep track of my surroundings. For people using them for outside, safety alone would make this a must.

Bonus for MacBook Users

When Apple introduced these near earphones, they were quick to point out that they're fully supported by the new (late 2008) MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro. In tests, I found them to work well for making Skype calls and recording audio. They supposedly allow iTunes control as well, but I could not get this functionality working on my late 2008 MacBook Air, however the internet seems to show many people having better luck with it (maybe my set has a problem with the volume control?). If they work for you, anyone owning a recent Apple laptop may consider these killer just for the multi-tasking functionality.

Conclusion

I finally found a compact headphones that I can use! Granted, there may be others towards the higher end, but for their price, especially with the added MacBook compatibility, these will become my new standard headphones. Now if only Apple would fix the iPhone compatibility...

Note: I haven't had a chance to try them with VoIP on an iPod touch, but I hope to in the near future.

Pros

  • Excellent sound quality for the price
  • Elegant remote control features
  • MacBook compatibility for some

Cons

  • Limited iPhone compatibility

TiPb Review Rating

The iPhone blog 4.5 Star Review

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 42 comments. Add yours.

Jimmy says:

These headphones sound great.
I just hope they fix the iPhone comparability issue soon.

azzman says:

Got em and love em the right one didn't stay in my ear but now it's good worth it!

Michael says:

From my understanding.... the iPhone 2g/3g have three-point/conductor jacks where as the new headsets require a four-point/conductor jack in order to use the volume controls.
This is also why the headsets work 100% on the new Macbook Pro since it now has the four-point/conductor jack
So.. if this is all true.. the the important bit to take is that no firmware/software update will fix this hardware limitation on the current iPhones.

Jed says:

I've been using the Zagg Z.buds for about a week and they are also awesome. Sound quality is great, they work fully with my iphone - including volume control, stop / start songs, forward and back. The sound quality on calls has been excellent, and the construction and cloth cable with little beads that allow you to adjust size and length are totally unique and genius. Plus, with the zagg discount on gift cards and their constant 30% off promotions, I got them for a fraction of the price of these apple in ears. For the same price or cheaper, I would definitely recommend them over the apple headphones - sorry apple.

Steve Allan says:

This is an awesome design, I really liked it very much. Hope people will get more attention on it. Thanks for sharing.

JNHohol says:

Great headphones!!! I use them all the time, except while working out. A word of warning, the remote/mic doesn't like sweat. I shorted it out after a hard workout, but it has dried out and the mic has started working again. Kind of a shame because I bought them so I could answer the phone while working out. I tried to buy another pair and was going to seal off the mic for workouts but the local Apple store was out of them.
I am a bass freak and didn't like them when I first tried them, but they have grown on me. They seamed to have loosened up and the bass is definitly acceptable. They are the best balance of highs and lows I have found so far. I have used two kinds of V-Moda's, three kinds of Skullcandy's, the second level Shure's, and Bose's in-ear headphones. The Apple in-ear headphones are my favorite so far. I'm just hoping that Comply will come out with a foam tip for them. It's hard to beat the size of the remote/mic, they make my Skullcandy FMJ's feel real bulky.
These are a great pair of headphones that will help you really enjoy your music thoroughly and still let you answer the phone when it rings.

vertu phones says:

These headphones look great

Dyvim says:

Can you double/triple click on the play/pause button to get track next/prev like you can with the iPhone pack-in earbuds?

llofte says:

Whew! I was nervous when I saw this review pop up as I just ordered these headphones 2 days ago. I'm quite relieved that the review is quite positive!

Rodney says:

@Jed or anyone.
Do the Zagg Z buds work with the 3G? Does that extra around the neck cause any tangling issues or is it annoying? When and where do I find out about the 30% off discount?

Maniacfive says:

I've always replaced my iPods/iPhones earbuds with anything not apple since my first iPod and what i view as the generally shoddy quality of the included earbuds. I suppose these new in-ear buds are bound to be much better as they're an optional extra, but still I will stick with the Sennheiser MM50 iP in-ear buds that i use with my iPhone currently. No funky remote, but it does work with the button presses on the mic and the sound quality is excellent, including from the mic. People have no problem hearing me even if I'm walking along a busy street

Justin says:

50% off Zagg Z Buds :
visit zaggs website.. zagg.com
add to basket, promo code: SHOWSP09
Black are on backorder right now until february though!

Justin says:

p.s. that offer expires the 19th I believe...
if you read this after the 19th, shoot me an email :justin@hammsta.com I ordered a pair and they sent me an email offering two more 20% off coupon codes.. I'm not going to use them
first two people to email me get 'em, as they are "one time only" coupons

Rodney says:

Thanks Justin. 50% off that is a deal. I just ordered the red set. I'll post back with my thoughts. Thanks again for saving me $40.

Nittanyjbc says:

Thanks Justin. I just used your code for 50% off the Z buds. Sounds like a good deal and appreciate you saving me $$$

H0g4n says:

Just like JNHohol on post 6 said when I first put these headphones on I was a little disappointed in the level of bass but after a few days of use the bass seemed to improve a bit. Maybe I just got used to the lighter bass. I was using a pair of Skullcandy Full Metal Jackets which are defiantly more bass heavy then Apple's headphones. I got these because I was sick of the FMJ's mic always getting stuck on the collar of my jacket and pulling the bud out of my ear.
To clear up some of the confusion, here is what I have found while using these headphones with my iPhone (first gen 2G) and my iPod Nano (4th gen).
iPhone:
Mic: Works with no issues.
Play/Pause: Works with no issues.
Answer Call: Works with no issues.
Skip to Next Track (press twice quickly): Works with no issues.
Skip to Previous Track (press three times quickly): Works with no issues.
Volume Up: Does not work.
Volume Down: Does not work
iPod Nano (4th gen)
All features work as expected.

Kye says:

I think it sucks there not for iphone. But they are awsom

jim says:

I have found them to work as described by H0g4n with a 3G iphone also. Only the volume control is an issue.

Khanh says:

The controls work with my iTunes 8 on a unibody Macbook Pro

SD39 says:

Why would anyone want to use the remote on their macbook? Is the keyboard ever really that far out of reach? I just want a little better bass and for the buttons to work on my iPhone.

jeeper says:

Actually, they do work with the new iphone 3gs and I've found that using them with my mac is awesome too. You get accustomed to being able to control stuff by the push of the button when u are listening to your tunes on the new shuffle and 3gs, so it's natural when u r using them with the macbook too. Love these things. Had them since they came out!

mark says:

Brand new product to protect your iphone remote/mic from sweat and other moisture. no more running to Apple store after every workout to replace your headphone! Check it Out! i-Sweat protector on ebay
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=110431287670
I made this product for myself after not finding any solutions online! i test my different ideas before find this solution. now i can jog, spin and even sit in the steam room with no problems!

Alfred says:

This product is actually full compatible with the iphone 3g S⃣ 

hendri says:

Ik heb de in ear oordopje bijna 1 jaar al :) en ik ben zeer blij ermee. Normaal gaat bij mij binnen 3maanden mee maar nu bijna 1 jaar. ik heb gekocht bij playgadets.nl kijk zelf maar eens op: http://www.playgadgets.nl/ipod-accessories.html
Groetjes,
Hendri

katiepi says:

These earphones are great but the triangle container box is impossible to open without fiddling with it for ages. Any tips on how to open this thing easily?

Guion@yahoo.com says:

Nice web site. Wonderful on the net affiliate plan. Thank you.

NIKO says:

No headphones will eliminate all noise. But the Bose technologies in Bose quietcomfort3 headphones work together to make almost any listening experience more rewarding.

Margo says:

Hi All,
I bought the in-ear buds about 6 months ago (+/-) and I have loved them. However, after the iOS 4 update, they have not been working. Before, I could use all the functions - up, down, skip, replay, mic - now nothing works. Can anyone please tell me what they think?
Thank you,
Margo
Margot

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virgil says:

dont know why but it doesnt work at all with my iphone 3g. any suggestion ?

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Ik heb de in ear oordopje bijna 1 jaar al en ik ben zeer blij ermee. Normaal gaat bij mij binnen 3maanden mee maar nu bijna 1 jaar. ik heb gekocht bij playgadets.nl kijk zelf maar eens op:

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Cleora Kozeliski says:

I bought my iphone4 two years ago and paid $600 cash from Best Buy! Will they unlock mine too?

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What a revolting development! I planned to get this card next, after I finish my Amex 10K spend requirement.

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