Please stop making headphone apps, my phone is full

Headphone apps
(Image credit: Future/ iMore)

I test lots of headphones. It’s part of the job, and it's super fun. The thing that’s not is all the apps that manufacturers insist on putting with their headphones, filled with options and features that I’m unlikely to ever use. Whenever I open the box for a new pair of headphones I dread seeing a note of paper in the box that tells me to ‘download the app’.

This isn’t just a tech journalist getting annoyed over something stupid either, this is something that can be annoying to the average consumer as well. Headphones aren’t going to last forever, and given that you’ll likely be buying something from a different manufacturer than your first pair, it’s likely there’ll be a new app to download and try to work out as soon as you open the box. I reckon these features should all be baked into the settings menu of the device you’re using, or even onto the headphones themselves.

I don’t even care if the app is good – just stop.

The crux

Denon AH-C830NCW

(Image credit: Tammy Rogers/ iMore)

I realized how annoying all these apps are when I was playing with and reviewing the Denon AC-C380NCW noise-canceling earbuds. They were refreshing in their lack of an app, I just pulled them out of the box, connected them to my iPhone, and away I went. No app filled with EQ changes or noise canceling menus or terms and conditions, just simple plug-and-play.

So I counted how many apps I had on my phone for headphones, and made a list. Here it is:

  • Sennheiser Smart Control
  • Sony ‘Headphones’ app
  • Lypertek Purecontrol ANC
  • Lypertek Purecontrol
  • M&D connect
  • Nothing X
  • Bang & Olufsen
  • 1More Music

There are more apps for headphones than there are any other devices on my iPhone 14 Pro Max. Some of them are good, with some extra features that you can only access in the app. I like some of these apps, but it annoys me that I have to use them to use my headphones.

It comes down to the first sign-in of the app. Loads of them require you to make an account so that you can start to use the app, and in some cases, by extension, the headphones. That means signing a user agreement that for all I know reads ‘I agree to give up my kidneys after 30 years have passed since the time of this agreement’ on line 4567 that I’m not going to read because who has the time? I don’t. I want to use my headphones and listen to my music.

Why you should care too

Sony LinkBuds S

(Image credit: Tammy Rogers/ iMore)

Because things could be better. It’s great having so many different options available so that you can choose something that's just right for you. There really has never been a better time to be a headphone consumer, with some of the best-sounding budget options with wireless connectivity coming out all the time. The envelope is being continuously pushed in sound quality and convenience, and it’s brilliant. I love it.

But the envelope is also being pushed in how much these companies can annoy their consumers. ‘Let’s hide some of the features in an app, that’ll be good.’ No, it’s not, and we need to stop pretending that it is. Like AirPods, those features should be accessible from the settings menu of my device, without having to download, install and muck about with anything. Maybe it’s not even the manufacturer's fault, maybe they’re restricted in what they can do within the settings menu. But then, the fact still remains – there is something that needs to be done to make using new headphones less of a pain. After all, the best in-ear wireless earbuds are those without an app.

Maybe it’s not even the manufacturer's fault, maybe they’re restricted in what they can do within the settings menu.

So I’m still going to comment on apps when I review headphones – they are an important part of the user experience now, after all. But every time I open a new pair of headphones and discover a little piece of card with a QR code on it I’m going to wish a gentle curse on the person that signed it off. May all your socks be moist when you go to put them on for the next year.

Tammy Rogers
Senior Staff Writer

As iMore's Senior Staff writer, Tammy uses her background in audio and Masters in screenwriting to pen engaging product reviews and informative buying guides. The resident audiophile (or audio weirdo), she's got an eye for detail and a love of top-quality sound. Apple is her bread and butter, with attention on HomeKit and Apple iPhone and Mac hardware. You won't find her far away from a keyboard even outside of working at iMore – in her spare time, she spends her free time writing feature-length and TV screenplays. Also known to enjoy driving digital cars around virtual circuits, to varying degrees of success. Just don't ask her about AirPods Max - you probably won't like her answer.