Hands-on lightning review of Apple's new EarPods

(Image: © iMore)

Let's face it -- in-box earbuds have never been anything to write home about. Frankly, they usually suck. Even for as iconic as Apple's white earbuds have become since the release of the first iPod -- they still sucked. They were uncomfortable. They didn't sound good. Even the slightly better Apple In-Ear Headphones, with their rubberized tips, weren't a whole lot better.

That all changes today.

We could rave all day over the improvements Apple's made to your too-often overlooked ear holes. But, really, selling you on these $29 wonders won't take nearly that long.

The fit

Whereas the original Apple Earphones felt (for me, anyway) like some sort of crude torture device, the EarPods are wonderfully benign. The anterior gracefully curves into the stem, which leads to the cables, while the posterior is flat. They earpods definitely have a futuristic look to them. The oval grilles add to that effect. 

The EarPods are hard plastic, so you won't be getting any real noise-cancellation here. That's not surprising, but it's still worth noting. But that doesn't mean they're uncomfortable. Far from it, actually. They've got a much more natural fit. No longer do you feel like you're trying to wedge a plastic disc into your ear with the least amount of discomfort. Not to over-use the terms "comfortable" and "natural," but that's what they are.

The sound

How much do these things cost again? Because they sound good. Really good, actually. For as crappy as the old earbuds were, the EarPods sound that much better.

When was the last time you heard bass come out of a pair of apple buds? If you can't remember, it's time to spring for the EarPods. The bass comes through loud and clear. Highs are surprisingly crisp. Mids are in the middle, where they should be. 

Audiophiles probably won't be happy. (Are they ever?) But on the other hand, these are sub-$50 earbuds. Hell, they're sub-$30 earbuds. If you want better sound, spend more money.

The function

EarPods are more than just mere speakers for your ear holes, of course. There's a dongle on the right-ear cable that controls volume, play/pause and call answering, with 11 functions in all. Apple says the EarPods will work with any generaetoin iPad, the iPhone 3GS and up, iPod classic (120GB and 160GB versions, iPod nano 4th generation and up, and the third-gen iPod shuffle and up.

Sirir's not forgotten, either. Press and hold the center button to activate her. 

The bottom line

This is a no-brainer, folks. For $29 (sans tax or shipping) direct from Apple, anyone unhappy with the previous generation Apple EarPhones should upgrade. Anyone looking for a inexpensive and surprisingly comfortable set should get the EarPods.

Our only complaint -- and this is a small one -- is that we'd prefer just a little more length in the cable. But that's us. It'll probably be long enough for the vast majority of folks out there.

The bottom line is this: The three years Apple spent on the EarPods has paid off, and should guarantee that the little white cables remain an iconic part of personal tech for years to come.

Also: How Apple's EarPods work on Android

Phil Nickinson

Phil is the father of two beautiful girls and is the Dad behind Modern Dad. Before that he spent seven years at the helm of Android Central. Before that he spent a decade in a newsroom of a two-time Pulitzer Prize-finalist newspaper. Before that — well, we don't talk much about those days.

  • Humph.
  • Glad to hear they are actually functional. I'm not even super picky about headphones, but apple's old ones...blech...
  • Do they have a mic for use with iPhone calls?
  • Yes
  • The have you covered ... This time, they have put 2 Mic's on the Pods' one on each on the 'Buds' right below the speaker.
    It makes it great for those people who sometimes use on earphone and the mic scratches somewhere and the people on the other end of the Ex: Skype call can hear it.
    Also it annoys me when people put mic part in the old earphones RIGHT in-front of their mouth :)
  • And....you would be dead wrong. I just spoke with a Rep on Apple chat and asked where the mic(s) are on the Earpod headphones. There is only 1, and its on the remote, which hangs on the right headphone cable.
  • Dead ugly, and cheap. My Samsung ones that came with a friend's Samsung Infuse are better...
  • My Samsung ones that came with a friend's Samsung Infuse are I'm sure they are...
  • I love how you have the scientific wizard skills to compare ear buds you HAVEN'T EVEN HELD, LET ALONE TRIED to your Samsung ones. I wish I was that good....
  • Troll much?
  • I'm a runnner, and heard the EarPods are sort of water/sweat resistant. Very happy to hear that they actually have bass, and sound good!
    Now I don't have to worry, about tossing $29 out the door. I'll head to my favorite Apple Store, and grab a pair! Thanks for the review! :)
  • Yep! They are much more Water/sweat resistant and the sound is absolutely great, its like heaven of sound for $29 :P
  • Thanks Phil! These just might be the first in-box earbuds we actually use. (Especially since they come with their own custom case.)
  • Are they going to be included with the new devices? Or are they optional add-ons to get more moolah outta us?
  • They will be included with the new iPods and the iPhone 5. Specs comparison for iPhones, however, suggests that the 4 and 4S will still ship with the old headphones (for whatever reason).
  • Included Cheechwhiz
  • Spelling errors in The Function section. "generation" in first paragraph and "Siri" in the line at the end are misspelled.
  • "Even the slightly better Apple In-Ear Headphones..." Seriously? While the old buds weren't excellent, the In-Ear ones are horrible IMO. I'd take the buds any day, though I'm really glad to hear about these new ones.
  • If the headphone jack is in the bottom of the phone now, the extra length the writer wanted may be needed.
  • This "sounds" like a great change to the old standard that everyone probably has 3 or 4 of. How long is the cable that comes standard?
  • what are the 11 functions of the remote i could only think of a few...
  • This is what I was able to come up with...
    - Volume up
    - Volume down
    - Play
    - Pause
    - Skip song (press center button twice quickly)
    - Fast forward (press center button twice & hold)
    - Skip back (press center button three times)
    - Rewind (press center button three times quickly & hold) - Answer call
    - Hang up - Siri (press center button until you hear a tone)
  • I bought a pair of the Earpods. The positive is that they do sound really good and you do get noticible base. I went back and forth between the new ones & the old ones and the new ones definitely sound much better. The bad is that they still don't fit my ears. They might fit some people's but I still am having trouble with them being loose and/or getting ready to fall out. I think I personally will be returning them (I bought them as a standalone product) although it's going to vary for each individual person how well they fit. Sigh. I was so looking forward to liking these. I need a recommendation for an aftermarket replacement that has the microphone/volume control features.
  • Got my iPhone 5 today and these earpods are great...For a pair of $29 headphones, you won't find better quality. They happen to fit my ear perfect too!