AirPods have been around since December of 2016, and while they were not an instant hit, their popularity has exploded. Every time I walk around campus I am guaranteed to run into someone with AirPods in and I only really started noticing a large user base during this school year. For $159 you receive wireless earbuds, a charging case, and respect from other people. Several memes have highlighted this “respect” phenomenon that comes with owning AirPods, many of which essentially state that if you own them, you are probably better and richer than anyone around you who does not.
While these memes just seem like harmless jokes, I actually feel the pressure of needing to own AirPods because it feels like everyone around me has them. I have not made the switch yet, and for some reason every time I pull out my wired Apple headphones, I feel some sort of shame come over me. These earbuds were simply created to follow the technological progression of wireless devices, yet they turned into a symbol of wealth and trendiness, both of which are very much in line with Apple as a brand. I have never been an Android user, but I can imagine that Android owners must feel somewhat self-conscious in a world filled with iPhones. To this day, people still make jokes about not wanting to text other people without imessage, even though at the end of the day phone are just phones. People proudly flaunt their iPhone Xs, MacBooks, and Apple Watches, but AirPods take “tech flexing” to a whole new level. I think this is the case because AirPods are so visible and prominent when people wear them compared to other Apple products, and they are still not completely widespread. We do not really do a double take when we see iPhones because so many people own them already, but because AirPods have not entirely replaced every single headphone, we tend to notice them more. When you see someone wearing AirPods, you make the realization that they are essentially hanging $159 from their ears. As crazy as that sounds, these earbuds have created a visual cue for how much money someone has.
At the end of the day, you are paying for pieces of plastic, a wireless experience, and positive acknowledgement from others. Compared to other wireless earbuds, AirPods are certainly not the best in terms of sound quality and battery life, as seen in the chart below.
Many people have also complained that after an hour or so of using them, they tend to hurt their ears because there is no cushion on the part that goes into the ear. Several other competitors have emerged that are arguably better in terms of sound quality and battery life, such as the RHA TrueConnect True Wireless Earbuds, Jabra Elite 65t and Sport True Wireless Earbuds, and Sony WF-SP700N Noise-Cancelling Earbuds.
As discussed in one of the Twitter posts, Samsung also came out with their own wireless earbuds called the Galaxy Buds. They are water resistant, utilize tap controls, and are iOS/Android compatible. For $20 cheaper, they also charge wirelessly, unlike AirPods. Due to the tighter seal that the Galaxy Buds have compared to AirPods, critics have noted that they have a much better sound quality because you hear less of your surroundings.
Many reviews demonstrate that Galaxy Buds perform better than AirPods, but AirPods continue to blow them out of the water. Apple users are so loyal to the brand that even with a cheaper and better alternative, they will continue to buy AirPods over Galaxy Buds. Especially with rumors of a second version of AirPods releasing this year, the likelihood of people switching over to different brands will decline. Apple continues to dominate, even if they do not come out with the best products, because of the loyalty and prestige that comes with the brand. I would have never thought that earbuds would make me feel self-conscious, yet every time I walk through campus with wired headphones I feel judged. It is crazy to me that a brand can make other people feel shameful or embarrassed because they do not own the latest and greatest, yet Apple has done just that through several avenues. All of my major devices are Apple products, so I never really felt this disconnect from my peers, until now. This topic made me realize that people tend to prioritize reputation and appearance over quality when it comes to certain types of technological devices. This seems so backwards considering the price tag that we pay for these devices that we use heavily and daily.
What do you guys think? Will the AirPods fad eventually die out and people will realize they should buy better alternatives, or will users continue to stay loyal to what they know and love?