Does it make sense for Apple to ditch EarPods with the iPhone 12?

EarPods opened
EarPods opened (Image credit: iMore)

Your iPhone box might feel a little bit lighter this fall when the iPhone 12 series is released. For the first time in the history of the iPhone, EarPods might not ship with the smartphones. If true, this movie is the correct one. However, there are a few things Apple could do to make the change less frustrating for anyone who sees the decision as a negative one.

A long time coming

Wired EarPods have shipped with every iPhone ever produced going back to 2007. I would imagine, especially in more recent years, many of those EarPods are still sitting in an iPhone box, never once getting close to a human ear.

Even before the wireless AirPods launched in late 2016, people were beginning to move away from wired audio products for their smartphones. That trend has grown considerably with the dizzy popularity of Apple AirPods (now in its second-generation), AirPods Pro, and other true wireless earbuds.

Let's assume analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is correct, and the iPhone SE (2020) is the last Apple handset to ship with EarPods. According to his report, some sort of promotional offer for AirPods could follow before the end of the year, although that won't necessarily be tired to the EarPods news.

What type of promotion

Apple isn't going to discount every future iPhone by the actual cost of a pair of EarPods. What they could do, however, is make regular AirPods more accessible to the average iPhone buyer. The easiest way to do this would be to include AirPods with every iPhone purchase starting this fall. AirPods begin at $159 versus $29 for EarPods, so that's not going to happen.

iPhone SE with EarPods

iPhone SE with EarPods (Image credit: Apple)

What Apple's more likely to do is introduce some sort of AirPods promotion for new iPhone buyers that cover traditional AirPods and AirPods Pro. For example, Apple could offer a slight AirPods discount with every iPhone purchase, or let users pay for a pair over time as they can now do with an AppleCare+ subscription.

Better yet, Apple could bundle new AirPods with every iPhone AppleCare+ subscription. That way, iPhone owners have another reason to purchase insurance, and Apple gains even more wireless AirPods followers.

We'll know soon enough. The iPhone 12 lineup is likely to be announced in October and will include four new handsets.


What are your thoughts about Apple possibly shipping new iPhones without EarPods? Let us know in the comments below.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.

  • Not likely. Most people rarely use the included EarPods, but still want them because they are unwilling to fork out well over $100 for a wireless something that they will use only occasionally. The bar has been set by including them since the early days of iPhone/iPod. And presumably, Android phones will still come with earphones, making Androd phones better value than previously when compared to iPhone. Dropping free EarPods makes makes sense mostly if and when Apple goes to a portless iPhone.
  • That’s what ‘you’ (meaning you critics) said when the 3.5mm headphone jack was removed. The bar had been set, included since the beginning, Android still has a headphone jack, making Android phones a better value, yada yada yada. Fast forward and the same drivel being spouted about removing earbuds. Wrong both times. Didn’t slow sales down one iota and neither will this.
  • There is difference between functionality of earphones vs. the type of plug by which earphones are connected. I never asserted cutting earphones would hurt sales, only that 1) it was unlikely apple would do it without a port-less iPhone and 2) Android would likely be perceived as a slightly better value than it was before (because more of the Android buyers tend to be more price-sensitive than Apple buyers)
  • They are probably sitting on a surplus of EarPods. Remove from the box and allow people to receive a pair with purchase. Not everyone will take advantage of it, so they can increase their profit margin. I prefer having them included. I use Bluetooth headphones but if I forget to charge it’s nice to have EarPods available.
  • My Pixel 4 didn't come with included earphones. Missed them for about a second.
  • That's ok for you, but many people do use the earphones that come with the iPhone daily, and I know a lot of people who would be disappointed
  • They could just offer 'free' Earpods to anyone who buys a new phone and wants them.
  • In which case most people would take the offer because it will be the same price either way and nobody turns something down for free. People will get them and just give the earpods to someone else
  • Or they will sell them on eBay
  • Maybe include a coupon in the box and for a small shipping and handling fee...
  • I think they should keep them. While I don’t use them, I know a lot of my friends & family in Latin America certainly use them. And they don’t have easy access to an Apple Store or some other mechanism to get them.
  • Not giving Earpods is the "right move"? Right for Apple or for the consumers?
    Isnt this like forcing new phone buyers to spend extra for what was always included in the price?
  • Agreed, this is only good for Apple
  • If you buy an iPhone you will want or already have AirPods. I have around 6 brand new EarPods that nobody wants. Old school junk.
  • I don’t like it. They want to keep their profit margins up by reducing what’s packaged in the box. They know there’s a large part of the market that’s never going to buy AirPods or even other replacement earphones so they are just pushing them into a corner.
  • If anybody thinks that their AirPod's battery is going to last more than a couple of years of steady use, then you may want to think again. Yes, removing the EarPods from the iPhone box would be good - for Apple. Apple can save a few bucks on every iPhone sold, the customer will have to pony up for a set of Bluetooth buds (like the Airpods, or Beats, etc.) and more than likely, buy another pair when the battery dies. In the meantime, your EarPods will work as long as Apple keeps the Lightning connector. Collect a bunch of them, put them in your bag, your desk, where-ever you may need them. Buy a set of Comply SoftCONNECT foam tips and make the fit a lot more comfortable and get better sound. Nobody is stopping anybody from buying AirPods (I have a pair myself), but getting rid of EarPods will not do consumers any favors.