AirPods don't hurt as much as EarPods, but they need an adjustment period

iPhone with AirPods
iPhone with AirPods (Image credit: iMore)

Apple's AirPods are awesome and have some amazing features, but they're pretty much the same size and design as EarPods. EarPods hurt (at least for some of us). So, it stands to reason that AirPods would, too — except they don't ... mostly.

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Always complaining about this big, big world

If you've followed what I write on iMore, you've probably realized that I'm one of those people that always complains about how big things don't fit me right. I've got small hands. I've got thin wrists. My feet are little. I might be giving you an incorrect image of my size. I'm not actually small. I'm about average (maybe slightly smaller than average), but my appendages run on the smaller size. So, I'm usually looking for accessories that fit children. It's no joke. I can fit comfortably into boys' size US 4 shoes.

I'm guessing that's why Apple's EarPods have always felt so uncomfortable to me. It must be that my ear canal is also smaller than average. The EarPods are hard, with absolutely no padding, so they cause me a lot of pain if I wear them for too long. I'll sometimes end up with a headache.

So, when Apple announced the new AirPods, I was both excited and disappointed. They have some amazing features, but they are also shaped pretty much the exact same as EarPods — they're actually a tiny bit bigger, but only on the part that doesn't go into your ear. Do I really want to spend $160 on a set of ear buds that hurt?

Why try?


Apple Watch and AirPods (Image credit: iMore)

So, why did I get them anyway? Well, my colleague, Rene Ritchie, noted that you don't feel like you have to shove them deep into your ears in order to keep them in place, since they don't have a wire pulling them downward. So, I decided to give them a try.

He is totally right. You can rest the AirPods right in the outer ear area and they don't slip down. You don't feel like you have to press them in deeper in order for them to stay in place.

But what if they fall out?


AirPods and Apple Watch (Image credit: iMore)

Because they don't have a wire attached to them, the AirPods don't pull down. There is practically no weight to them. But, because they don't have a wire attached to them, I am constantly worried they will fly out of my ears and into the street, under some passerby's tire.

Since they rest lightly in the outer ear, they are perfect for sitting at your desk or on the couch, or at a coffee shop. But, the moment I get up and start moving, I find myself pressing them into my ears again, which is when the pain starts.

In fact, when I'm walking with my AirPods in, I fiddle with them constantly, which makes them, 1. More likely to fall out, and 2. More likely to get pushed deeper into my canal. It's double the trouble.

Yes, the AirPods are more comfortable than EarPods — because you don't feel the need to push them into your ear very far. It really does help significantly.

Because they costs $160, however, and because they aren't attached to anything at all, I'm overly cautious about making sure they stay in my ears when I'm on the move. Do I have to push them deeper into my ear while I'm walking? No. But I worry about them flying out of my ears, so I do it anyway. That's not Apple's fault. It's mine.

Its an adjustment period


Apple successfully turned what I consider to be an awkwardly designed in-ear audio device into something I enjoy wearing 90 percent of the time. If you're like me and find EarPods to be uncomfortable, and you haven't bought AirPods because you're worried about them hurting your ears, I can confidently say they are significantly more comfortable. Not because Apple changed the design, but because you really don't have to push them deep into your ears, which keeps them from pressing on your ear canal.

I know I'll get more confident going on walks without feeling like I need to fiddle with my AirPods every few minutes. I've only taken them out of the house about a half-dozen times so far. Once I am more active without pushing the ear bud into my ear, they will be 100 percent more comfortable than their wired sibling.

If you're still concerned that you'll regret spending $160 on a pair of AirPods, only to discover you can't wear them because of the level of comfort (or lack thereof), you can take advantage of Apple's 14-day return policy and try them out for a while.

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Do you own Apple's AirPods? Do they fit comfortably in your ears? Tell us your experience in the comments section.

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).

  • I love Apple products normally but these things look flat out stupid. As others have shared it looks like an electric toothbrush head is hanging out of your ears. The Apple headphones have always been cheap and hurt my ears. Pretty hard to justify this product when there are so many better more comfortable options out there including Jabra's Elite Sport option and items from Bose and Plantronics which likely fit, sound, and look so much better. Just my pennies.
  • Honestly, the AirPods are the most comfortable I've ever worn. Most of the time I'm reminded I've left them in my ears when the battery signal alerts. However, I washed mine in the machine yesterday so now they are in a bag of rice. They really should have made a waterproof case instead of just now filing a patent for one. ****!
  • You just don't know what you are talking about, if you haven't used them just don't give an opinion based on nothing and then say there are better choices, of course there are better choices but the AirPods are unique in many senses, one the proximity sensor (just put them in and they are immediate connected, take one out and the music pauses, put it back in and the music resumes) the convenience of having a charging case and how fast the charge
  • AirPods (and EarPods) always fit my ear comfortably, and I love them very much. Yes some people are different and wont have a comfy fit like I do, but most headphones are like that. I do a lot of music production and the best advice I have for headphones is to ensure they fit. The sound quality can be the greatest in the world, but if the headphones are uncomfortable then they will be the worst. As consumers there are options, and although the ones that you think are pretty don't fit, it's sadly the way the world is. It is far to impossible of a task for ANY company to make a set of headphones that fit everybody, and some people need to accept that. Sent from the iMore App
  • AirPods not the best choice.
  • I've come to find that they're pretty comfortable except the two halves weren't precisely lined up during assembly so there's a little ridge at the seam that digs into my ear. It's just enough to catch your fingernail. I'll probably just sand it down. Also, when just sitting outside the ear canal, the ir sensors are too sensitive and will result in music pausing etc just from turning my head. I do have issues when going from one device to another with different iCloud accounts (personal phone to work phone). Other than that they're pretty awesome.
  • I actually sometimes have issues just going from MacBook to iPhone to Watch (all within the same iCloud account). Hope a firmware update will make the transition a bit more smooth. My Bose QC35s are much better at handling multiple devices - they actually pair with 2 devices simultaneously. But they both have their place for me.
  • earpods have never fit me well. After 10 mins of use they hurt my ears.
  • I just can't find myself to pay $160 for headphones. When my $40 bluetooth Jam Earbuds work great for me. Apple needs something in the middle on Price between the EarPods and AirPods
  • Lori, I'm investing in something called Earhoox. They wrap around the bud and create a fit that looks like what my old wired Bose offered. I've had only fair luck keeping the left Airpod in my ear and really want to be able to use them more when I'm on the go. I realize this may not be an ideal solution. But ... willing to try.
  • The only time I have to worry about them is when I'm doing overhead presses. If I happen to look up instead of looking straight somehow it pinches them right onto the floor. It's the only exercise that does this. I never knew how much my inner ear was working out with me :)
  • I decided to be bold and order a pair in Feb. I had to wait the 6 weeks to get them and the time to think if I just wasted my money. Finally got them and I cant state enough how much I love them and the freedom they bring. . Two giant factors for me are working and walking. I realize that the size of them arent for everybody, fortunately they fit perfect for me. The case build quality really adds to them as well.
  • This is helpful to know. I am a small woman (not quite 5' tall, about the size of your average 5th grader it seems). Earbuds are a constant issue for me. I have tried so many, only to have them fail simply because they don't stay in my dang ears! In fact, as I type this, I am packing up my Jabra Elite Active 65T wireless buds that I just bought. Love the sound, the features, most everything about them. EXCEPT they don't stay in my ears (the right one mostly stays, but the left one falls out if I move, chew, or talk). I am so frustrated. I need a good set of wireless earbuds for working out and other stuff, but am having a really hard time finding something that works.