I've never found a good compact headset. The default Apple ear buds that ship with the iPhone (and every iPod) just don't stay in my (must be mutant) ears. Likewise every other earbud I've tried had fallen out in the matter of seconds. Even the ones with over-ear hooks flop to the sides with annoying consistency. And Apple's original in-ear headset? Didn't quite fit in my ears so I gave them to my sister.
So it was with great and possible anticipointment that I decided to brave this world again and hope beyond hope that not only would Apple's new In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic work well and be convenient, but that it would work at all.
Did it? Find out after the break!
Not iPhone Compatible
No, that's not a typo. Apple clearly lists the new In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic as not iPhone compatible. However, I am using it with the iPhone and it does work, except for the volume controls (which double as the skip forward/back). Hopefully this will be addressed in the next iPhone OS update, as it's a pretty puzzling omission.
In the box are two plastic capsules. The first is a rounded triangle that contains the ear pieces in the center and the cord wrapped around the edge. With no indentation between the clear top and white plastic bottom, getting this capsule apart is tricky. If you intend to store your headphones in this handy container, the lack of an even more handy finger recess or other easy-opening point could prove consistently annoying.
The second capsule contains smaller and larger silicone ear tips in case the default ones don't fit you properly. While also seamless clear and white plastic, the cylindrical makes this container much easier to open -- ironic since you will likely need to open it much less frequently, if ever again.
Lastly, kudos to Apple for providing 2 extra replacement mesh caps for the headphones. Hopefully you'll never need them, but if you do, having them included is priceless (well, technically, worth the price of a new headset!)
The headphones themselves are quintessential Apple -- white, plastic, with that special firmness that resists tangling.
New to this model is a small control module attached. The center of the module has a recessed play/pause button. The outer outer sides provide the volume up and down buttons (which are NOT supported by the iPhone) and, if you double-click, track forward and back.
Over the last week, I've found Apple's new In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic to be quite good, and an excellent value for the price (something many joke is impossible for Apple). Sound quality is very good, mic quality acceptable given the type of device, and best of all -- they mostly stayed in my ears.
Not having used in-ear headphones before (because they never fit right for me), I did find the experience a little distracting at first. The sound of the cord being tapped, of eating, of everything going on in my head took me out of the experience. However, I've come to notice this less and less as time goes on.
I did find that, when walking around, I would typically take one earpiece out so I could hear and keep track of my surroundings. For people using them for outside, safety alone would make this a must.
Bonus for MacBook Users
When Apple introduced these near earphones, they were quick to point out that they're fully supported by the new (late 2008) MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro. In tests, I found them to work well for making Skype calls and recording audio. They supposedly allow iTunes control as well, but I could not get this functionality working on my late 2008 MacBook Air, however the internet seems to show many people having better luck with it (maybe my set has a problem with the volume control?). If they work for you, anyone owning a recent Apple laptop may consider these killer just for the multi-tasking functionality.
I finally found a compact headphones that I can use! Granted, there may be others towards the higher end, but for their price, especially with the added MacBook compatibility, these will become my new standard headphones. Now if only Apple would fix the iPhone compatibility...
Note: I haven't had a chance to try them with VoIP on an iPod touch, but I hope to in the near future.
- Excellent sound quality for the price
- Elegant remote control features
- MacBook compatibility for some
- Limited iPhone compatibility
TiPb Review Rating
Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.