Would you want health sensors in your Apple EarPods? [Poll]

Would you want Apple to put health sensors in your EarPods? [Poll]

How would you feel about Apple putting health sensors into their next-generation EarPods headphones? There are a ton of health-related rumors swirling around iOS 8 and Healthbook, the iPhone 6 and even the still-mythical iWatch, and forward deploying sensors into wearable electronics, including headphones, is clearly the future. But is it the imminent future? Would you want it to be?

The discussion around this possibility stems from a post on Secret concerning the idea that Apple's EarPods could start reading heart rate and blood pressure. That EarPods could get smart and conceivably tie into the iPhone and other Apple devices via Bluetooth LE and/or Lightning connector may sound far-fetched, but would it still sound that way 5 years from now? More?

The contextual awakening is coming. One day almost all electronics will be smart to some degree. The question is, do you want your EarPods to be smart or is that very literally too close for comfort?

Vote in the poll up top and tell me why or why not in the comments below!

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Would you want Apple to put health sensors in your EarPods? [Poll]


I think that's actually a neat idea, if they can pull it off right. The main problem they need to fix first is making the next EarPods fit into everyone's ears. After a few months of them fitting perfectly, they just stop fitting.

I agree with that completely...I think the priority should be making them fit and comfortable to wear. But the idea of sensors are a wonderful idea, especially when running, and possibly for implementation with a potential wearable

Regarding the fit / falling out, I blame the texture as well as the shape. I only use my Apple EarBuds at night, watching videos on the iPad in bed. I find i have to get a tissue to clean my ears and the earbuds to help stay seated correctly.

I use Klipsch earbuds. They have a patented oval-shaped tip so they fit well and are very comfortable. Silicone tips are pretty much necessary, but I don't see how you could integrate sensors into them.

I suppose it would be POSSIBLE, but accurate? Highly unlikely. To my knowledge the way the heart rate sensors work in treadmills is they measure the ohms through your body, (maybe pick up a few other things along the way!) but ultimately it needs to find that heartbeat. Can earbuds even do that? Is there a strong enough heartbeat in the ear? Even if they used the light/camera method like the iPhone.
Or maybe it could check your temperature! Alert if you're sick and need to go home and buy movies from iTunes in bed!

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There's a company called Bragi (http://www.bragi.com/) that's claiming that they can do all sorts of health monitoring in wireless buds. Their Kickstarter early backers don't get their units until November so we have to wait to find out if their claims are true. The biggest disappointment is the battery life is pretty short. I'm hoping that Apple can make a similar product with better batteries. I'm really shocked that Bragi's multimillion dollar kickstarter campaign hasn't gotten much traction in the tech press. But I've been watching the bluetooth headphone market for years now and I couldn't find any decent reviews of the Jaybird JF3s before I bought them so I would stop spiking my iphone on the treadmill at the gym because of the stupid cable.

No. I don't want to turn into a walking IC unit. Next they will have a necklace that can pump IVs. No thanks. If I need that much monitoring perhaps I belong in a hospital.

No, because Apple does not make great sounding headphones in the first place. I want my own headphones and not have to use theirs.

I think your missing the point, if the headphones are not great in the first place then OP won't use it, I'm in the same boat, the idea sounds good but I never use the earpods in the first place so its sort of a waste.

I'm still understanding their comment as saying that if Apple adds such a sensor, the earpods would become an integral part of iOS. They would rather that not be the case since they use their own headphones

I doubt it will be anything that forces you to use Apple's earpods for the phone to work properly.

Completely agree. I very rarely use the apple ear buds and almost always opt for a better pair of headphones.

I could NEVER use the current design of earbuds during a workout or run. They don't stay in the proper depth to begin with, and the slightest amount of moisture and they fall out.

I guess it's a neat idea, but I chalk this up as an in-house experiment. We'll see.

I would be interested in seeing how this would be implemented, but it wouldn't matter much to me as I generally use non-Apple headphones/earphones. I don't think adding in any kind of biometric monitoring device would change that.

Why not just gives us better earpods first? The ones that come with iPhones and iPods are so poor that whatever health sensors were built in would end up unused anyway. And if Apple simply cannot order better quality eaerphones from their Chinese suppliers, leave the whole product line to third parties and save me the trouble of binning the earphones the first thing I purchase a new Apple product -- which I now have to do.

I know plenty of people who use Apple's earpods just fine. I'm not suggesting they work for everyone but calling them "so poor" is a gross exaggeration.

Indeed. Most folks who don't use them buy a third party set that have essentially identical quality of sound. There are actually only a few, very high end earbuds that have better sound than Apple's although by moving to proper over the ears "cans" you can easily find better options.

If you are using earbuds of any description however, it's a documented fact that Apple's are close to the top, quality wise, and dead average price-wise. All the folks that get off on saying how "bad" they are, are mostly talking through the wrong orifice and are more victims of perception and fashion than they are making an accurate statement.

Come on. Are you trolling or what? Have you ever even listened to a decent pair of in-ear monitors by a reputable manifacturer who actually knows what they are doing? Apple's are bad, pure and simple. I would like to like them; that would save a lot of money, sure; but sound quality is more important to me than saving the few bucks I would by using Apple's. However, if one merely cares about wearing comfort, not sound quality -- say you listen to lower quality podcasts or audiobooks or whatever -- they are fine.

Everything I have said is absolutely factual. There is what people believe about earphones, then there are the facts about earphones. Not the same thing.

I wouldn't mind it. I think there are better ways to implement health sensors though. I'd rather they worked on the quality of the headphones themselves before adding other stuff.

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Better idea would be to let me opt out of any earbuds to begin with, and take that $30 off the cost of the iPhone.

I wouldnt mind it, but considering I've never EVER unwrapped any Apple earphones sold with iProducts (I invested in high end earbuds and headphones some time ago and wouldnt go back for less), there are two things that need to be addressed:

-Implementing that technology doesnt make the iPhone/iPad more expensive. Paying extra for smth I wouldnt use would be a drag, considering what I pay here for an iPhone.

-Since I listen to music hours on end everyday and Im not going back to average earbuds or earphones (no matter what sensor is inside), it'd be nice for Apple NOT to tie down any of their major health features (if they're indeed coming) to a sensor in those earbuds. Hopefully there are other ways (besides a watch) to get that info. Maybe through cheaper-than-watch accessories.

you're not paying extra for anything. the price you pay for the iPhone is solely for the iPhone the EarPods are a gift, not extra baggage. The price for the iPhone was practically the same even when Apple didn't give people free headphones. They are not tiring down anything for health features. its just like how a smartphone doesn't rely on a wearable to be able to use it to its full potential.

I don't use the EarPods, so it wouldn't matter one way or another. Put that tech into my Bose or Beats Headphones & I'll get excited!!

Also, who the f needs to have this information at such abundance? Is any of this MEta-data so f'n imperative to your existence? Just exercise. If you NEED this information bc you're experiencing health problems consult a licensed doctor, not a toy manufacturer.

I fail to see what any of these fitness trackers / calorie counter apps offer except a pile of data. So what? The app / HealthBook had better do more that allow me to display raw data. Give me a reason to put this much effort into data entry. Tell me what to do with in. It better notice that I have been gaining weight bc I ran / walked an average of 2 miles less per week, then give suggestion of what to do about it. Set alerts to push me to get up off the couch. Or tell me my resting heart rate could improve if I reduce my sodium intact by 5% by switching from x to y for breakfast.

Either way, gathering this data via earbuds is just stupid. To make any of this accurate and worth it, you'll need to input as much data as possible. During exercise and rest. I only wear headphones on rare occasions. No one is going to live their life with earbuds implanted the entire day. This is why a wristband makes more sense, but people are voicing that they don't even want to wear that. It needs to be something that is in contact with me at all times.

iUnderwear!!! Haha

Makes no difference. They get ditched before i'm even home. The only time i use the apple earbuds is handfree talking at home. When i run i have earbuds with hooks and when I lift i either use those or a pair of my everyday earbuds which are high end earbuds.

I personally love apple's earbuds and they don't fall out for me. They once prevented my phone to falling onto the concrete.

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Not true. Apple's earbuds actually seat in the phone a heck of a lot tighter than most other brands.

This is just a ludicrous story. There is no way earbuds are going to give accurate readings of heart rate in a meaningful way that is useful for exercise. Heart rate monitoring is a great tool for athletes or others wanting a good measure at exertion. At present it needs are fairly bulky chest strap to deliver quality data. As for blood pressure ! Come on....

Not necessarily. It's been known for about a decade that from behind the ear, one could obtain a Ballistocardiogram (BCG) reading. A BCG reading would give apple the heart and
respiratory rate and from that they could correlate the data to blood
pressure. I believe this rumor is possible and given Apple engineering it can be done with minimal impact.

For Apple to make something like this, the ear pods would be drastically different, resembling more like a bluetooth headset or hearing aid device as the ear pod would need to make constant contact with the back of the ear (or there would have to be a sticky patch with a sensor on it.

edit. if anyone is interested in what this would look like, check out this article:


I do a lot of monitoring of my heart rate and blood pressure (because of a medical condition) and I have not noticed any particular correlation between my blood pressure and heart rate. I'm really dubious that you could get an accurate blood pressure reading this way. All that being said, I'd be really interested in getting the data, but earbuds are probably not the solution for me - I almost never listen to music via any kind of earphone.

LG has already announced a similar product. But in any case I wouldn't be too bothered either way. I don't use the Earpods as it is. Apple would need to make them both better quality sound and more comfortable to wear before I would go back to using them.

First, do something that will keep the earbuds in my ear!! They fall off if I tilt my head ever so slightly.

I'm OK if this was an accessory for purchase. I don't want to pay for this as the bundled standard earbuds that come w the phone.

Interesting concept, but I fall into the from that many others fall into in that I don't use the supplied earbuds. I currently use a nice bluetooth set so that my head is not physically tethered to the phone.

I break them enough times during running. I don't want to make more than 3 trips to the apple store per year just cause the headphones broke, or wait on warranty to send me new ones.

Well since I never use the ear pods I guess I'd answer the title question with a "no".
But having some health monitoring abilities with does interest me. I just don't feel like I want to have to wear ear bids to do it. And I don't want to have to buy and wear a bracelet or an iWatch either.
Simplifying should mean adding more body clutter.

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No because EarPods are something we wear only for a tiny part of out day. A wearable should be on us for much longer.

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Actually seems like a good idea. When I work out I generally always where the earpod/buds so it makes sense in that regard (no reason to check my heartrate and what-not at my desk at work or while playing with my kids). I really liked the idea of the Dash headphones as they seem to do something very similar but were complexly wireless which was cool. But for $300 and the fact that the battery only lasts 3.5 hours made it a no go for me (no marathons and would probably just lose the damn things anyway).

As far was them being comfortable, I do not have a problem with the current earpods and I really like the fact that they have both volume control and mic built in. That is something that I can’t find in similarly priced earbuds (if anyone knows one let me know though).

I also wonder if this story can then be linked back to the rumor that apple was going to release high def audio files in the future. If they do, an upgrade in sound quality of the earpods would coincide nicely with that.

If only the earpods would fit my ear. My ears are just not earpod or even some earbuds friendly. I voted no personally. Do it with a watch or something.

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I'm all for biometric devices but I don't wear EarPods because they don't fit in my ears. So, it would be useless to me.

damn headphones hurt my ears after a while it also don't even fit properly in my ears but its suppose to be "...comfortable for more people than any other earbud-style headphone". So before doing so and adding anything, get those headphones to be truly comfortable...Not saying not adding such feature wouldn't be beneficial either but get the basics perfected before.

I'm really struggling with the concept that anyone would be "against" this idea. The more sensors the better.

Even if you don't use them, it's not like them being there is going to affect anything, but people are making out like it's some kind of HUGE imposition? Are we all twelve years old or something?

It's an idea where no one is sure how it will turn out and hoping it's not just a gimmick. Still, I wouldn't mind trying it out as long as it works with accurate details and it is not a gimmick. It is however, definitely a new thing to come up with even if LG already started this.

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Similar to the implementation of Touch ID, health data from EarPods would be a welcome set of data points so long as it provides consistent experience with seamless delivery of music and audio content to my ears.

Before anything else, I would like Apple to first redesign the EarPods so they stay in my ears, especially when I go running with them.

I don't have EarPods because I don't have an iPod or iPhone and even if I did, I don't do earplugs, just as I don't do watches. Don't have anything against anybody else using them or Apple in what they want to do. It's just not my thing.