Sounds In The Sofa: Learning To Love My AirPods

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Many years ago, my family and I went to the pet store to do a little shopping for my guide dog. My twelve year old son and my wife wandered off into some other part of the store while Fantom, my Golden Retriever guide, and I went on our own little adventure.

As Fantom and I explored the toy aisle, I felt a hand brush against mine and it made me smile. I reached out, took the proffered hand, and kept walking. One of the great joys of being a blind father is that it remains socially acceptable for a son in middle school to still hold hands with his dad.

The two of us walked for a bit and then he slowed to a stop. Still holding my hand, he turned to me and said in an unfamiliar Texas drawl, "Howdy stranger. Why are ya holding my hand?"

I quickly let go. The fellow leaned in close, hot breath in my ear, and whispered, "My favorite animal is a chicken."

I do not like surprises. Surprises and change make me uncomfortable. Boring is beautiful. I like my coffee without whipped cream or mocha drizzle. I have been quite pleased living in the same house for twenty-two years. I do not embrace change, or strangers in pet stores.

I am happiest with familiarity. I get very attached to my personal technology. Since the 1960s, I have had wired headphones that directly tethered me to my electronics. Initially, my headphones were the size and weight of two large turtles clamped against the sides of my head. Over the years, my headphones shrunk. Heavy metal shells morphed to lighter plastic cups and then to foam cushions. Finally, with the introduction of the original EarPods, I found a really pleasant way to stay connected.

Now, Apple suddenly expects me to think different. Ugh. They want me to cut the cord. Their new AirPods frighten me. They are so small and ready to fall. Gravity is my enemy. My stuff always lands where it is least convenient, accessible, or clean. Even when found, it can be a loss. I would never put something back into my ears that has gone swimming in a toilet. I'm funny that way.

Still, these newfangled AirPods are intriguing. I have often found the wires on my old EarPods to be a pain. Occasionally, while relaxing with some good music, I have forgotten that I laid my iPhone on a table and then felt it yanked off the edge when I stood up. My EarPod wires have also gotten tangled up on my violin and wrapped around my dog's paws. Most important, I'm told I look really geeky with wires dangling from my head. That is hard news for an old man.

I took a chance. I ordered a pair of AirPods and endured the six week shipping delay. Thankfully, my AirPods arrived a few days early. They looked so tiny. What was I thinking? I have trouble finding my own slippers. The AirPods were so light and comfy in my ears that I immediately forgot that they were even there. Within minutes of the unboxing, I carelessly reached up, dislodging the right AirPod, flinging it into the void. My guts ran cold. If I moved, I might hear a little crunch under my shoe. If I did not, my dog might think I was tossing kibble on the floor. Fortunately, I finally recovered the fugitive AirPod. And, so far, I have found them every time gravity has played me dirty.

I have been impressed with my purchase. Pairing is delightfully simple. The audio quality from my AirPods is really quite good, much better than from my old EarPods. Although the new AirPods have occasionally dropped the wireless connection to my iPhone, I have found the communications quick and easy to reestablish. Battery life is adequate, about five hours per AirPod. The AirPods alert me with a distinctive audible warning when they are down to a ten percent reserve. Charging is quick -- just drop them back into their case and give them fifteen minutes for another three hours of juice. More time, more charge. In the last few weeks, they have only gotten out of synch with each other twice, creating an echo chamber that sounded a bit hallucinogenic until I took the AirPods out and then put them back in. Simple and intuitive. Their BlueTooth range is impressive. I can leave my phone in the living room when I go out on the front porch and still listen to a book. In a very short time, I have gotten quite used to them.

Even so, paranoia runs deep in my psyche and I hate the thought of somehow losing one or both of my AirPods. A few days after they had arrived, I performed a sanity check by purchasing an additional wireless product. I walked into the local Apple Store and picked up their BeatsX wireless headphones. Much of the connectivity technology found in the AirPods is also in the BeatsX. However, the BeatsX is a very different animal. The ear pieces are the type you push into the ear canal, rather than hanging from the outer ear. The two ear pieces and associated hardware are connected by a slim and flexible cable that goes around your neck. BeatsX has good battery life, very good audio reproduction, and an up-down-click switch like the one wired to the original EarPods.

The BeatsX are great for plane travel as they loop around your neck and are much less likely to be jostled out in a terminal or dropped on an aircraft. The BeatsX will also dampen the roar of jet engines. Unfortunately, the BeatsX tendency to block much of the ambient noise is a significant drawback for me. I would not want to walk my neighborhood with them in place for fear of not hearing an approaching car. They also make it hard to hear your spouse, seldom a good thing. Even if I did not mind living in a muffled world, I would still find the BeatsX a less than perfect choice. With the soft nylon tips stuffed into my ear, they cause my ear canal to get rather warm after prolonged use. I swear my ear wax begins to melt.

Like gravity, I have a very strong attraction to my Apple AirPods. I am most comfortable with them when working in my office, relaxing in the house, or riding in a car. That is most of my day. Even so, I still keep a set of my trusty old EarPods handy for times when walking outdoors or when lying in bed. My BeatsX are nice, and I'm glad I bought them, but I will probably use them more when I travel by plane or train, when I am in a crowded venue or when I really want to block out the world.

If the cost was lower and I could glue them to my head, I would use AirPods everywhere and all the time. I really do love my AirPods. I've even ordered a second pair -- just in case.

Although I generally hate surprises, I have been pleasantly surprised by the AirPods. Not all surprises are bad -- even at that pet store so many years ago. As I stood there, next to the dog toys, wondering what the heck had just transpired, I heard the fellow who favored chickens begin to laugh. An innocent laugh. That laugh was wonderfully familiar. It was my son, surprised that he had surprised me. Some surprises I love.

***

G. Morgan Watkins spent thirty years at the University of Texas at Austin, most of it in information technology leadership. He also enjoyed thirteen years on the Board of Directors at Guide Dogs for the Blind. After retiring from the University, Morgan served as the Guide Dogs for the Blind Acting President and CEO.

Morgan is now happily retired again, and relaxing after a wonderful six month adventure that culminated in a spectacular wedding in India. Morgan has created 16 other blogs for AppleVis, including "Blind Santa: Audible Books from me to me", "No News is Good News: Breaking my iPhone news addiction" and "Sleeping With The Stars: Old Time Radio and my iPhone". Morgan always enjoys your comments and feedback.

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17 Comments

Thanks For The Giggles Once Again

Hello Morgan:

It seems that, every time I read your latest posting, I have smiles and giggles all around. I can so relate to your guide dog thinking that your beloved AirPods just might be some kibble.

The story about your Texas drawling son just cracked me up.

Beware of these guide dogs. They think that just about anything might be something good to eat. As I'm currently on my fourth dog, with 36 years of use behind me, I think I've seen just about everything. Dogs do love their food.

Keep the great articles coming.

Thanks Roxann

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Dear Roxann,

I always enjoy hearing from you. And, thanks for the kind words.

It was fun to hear that you are now working your fourth dog. I'm partnered with Number Three. Fortunately, none of my dogs have ever shown an interest in eating any of my technology or cabling. So far, so good.

Best wishes,

Morgan

Wow!

Hi Morgan,
This is Geneva. You've heard for me once before, but I always read your post. This one made me laugh a little bit, and a bit ashamed. I'm not good with keeping up with stuff. I'm very sloppy. I've got to work on that, any tips? Can't wait until I'm old enough to get a guy dog. My teacher says that I should get one at 18. She says, I do not need one in high school or middle school. But, I love all dogs. We have four dogs.

Wireless headphones similar to earpods?

Hello All
Love your post morgan. I am looking for a set of wireless headphones myself. I have the blue tiger sound pods, bought them because they can also connect with a wired connection. They however completely cover your ears, like the huge old phones from the 80's. I'm looking for a set made just like the earpods or the earbuds that were popular in the early 90's. Not the ones with jell pieces or completely round cylinders if that makes sense. Any suggestions? The cheaper the better of course but if there is a more expensive model out there, it might just go on sale so suggest away!
Thanks!

Good read

Enjoyed reading from my hospital bed, cheered me up although I feel awful

Dogs

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Geneva,

Good to hear from you again.

You'll know when it is time to consider a guide dog. They take time and lots of attention, but they are a neat alternative to a cane. I waited to get my first dog until I knew that I really had the time to build that partnership. We have so many great options, including some excellent iPhone apps that provide lots of travel guidance and assistance.

Take care,

Morgan

Ideal headphones

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Howdy Ftealucard,

The AirPods described in my blog are very similar in shape and size to the original wired EarPods from Apple. The AirPods are a bit larger, but are not weighed down by wires and are extremely comfortable. They are expensive though, and yet I find them very much worth the cost. An excellent first generation product.

I am using my AirPods as I write my note to you. Very nice sound.

Before I ordered my first set, I went by the local Apple Store and they had some demo AirPods I could try on. Some folks may have trouble keeping the original EarPods in place and they just might find the same difficulty with the new AirPods. I recommend trying them on before ordering, if you have a nearby Apple Store or someone around willing to let you experiment. For me, the AirPods are great.

From my perspective, the biggest concern is that I might bump one off my ear, which I have done a few times, and if lost, I worry about them staying lost. Luckily, according to what I've read, iOS 10.3 has a mechanism in "Find Your iPhone" that can sometimes help you locate them.

Still, after more than three weeks of heavy testing, I am getting very used to my AirPods and love the freedom they give me. Right now, my phone is sitting on a different table, getting charged up, and I am sitting with a lightweight Keys-To-Go BlueTooth keyboard on my lap and my AirPods talking to me as I relax in my comfy chair. Life is good.

Now, just convince a special friend or family member that they ought to buy you a set for Tax Day, May Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, or Flag Day. Use your own birthday if it is real soon. More great gift dates provided on request.

Good luck, and I hope you find some excellent headphones that work for you,

Morgan

Howdy Bryan

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Dear Bryan,

Thanks for your note. I am really glad it cheered you up. And, I do hope you get to feeling better very soon.

Best wishes,

Morgan

Hello

Hello again,
I liked your post. I shared it on Facebook, and a friend also shared my post. She said that this blog was one of the best things she has read in awhile. She like me thinks your an amazing writer. I wish I could write better. LOL
Geneva

Thanks John

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

John,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the BT Waves ear buds. I did follow your link and found them at less than half their regular price. I know absolutely nothing about this product, but it did tempt me and I will try them out. I have no idea if they will prove useful or comfortable, but I love a good experiment. My new Apple AirPods are still hanging on, so I have nothing new to report about my tug-o-war with gravity. I'm actually using the AirPods even more than I had anticipated. They have stayed with me so far. They are delightful.
I think I really have made the conversion to wireless!

Thanks for writing and sharing your own discovery,

Morgan

BT Waves

How does the audio quality of the above mentioned BT earbuds compare to the Apple supplied earbuds? Are the BT earbuds suitable for listening to music?

Also, how much external sound is blocked? I want to be able to hear someone talk to me without removing the earbuds.

Finally, I, too, want to thank you, Morgan. I always enjoy your blog posts.

Good questions

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Jeff,

You bring up excellent questions about the BT Waves ear buds. I hope that John sees your inquiry and offers even more feedback.

I did order a set of the BT Waves ear buds and they wil arrive in a week or so. I'm curious, too.

Thanks for your feedback about my blogs. I appreciate the kind words.

Best wishes,

Morgan

Hello Morgan

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Hello Morgan,
Thank you for another excellent blog post! I have read this three times and come away feeling great with each reading. Really very nice! I think if my son ever surprised me like that he would owe me two home-made chocolate Sundaes to make up for it, I hate to eat alone. :-)
This was a wonderful read!
Thanks again for sharing.

Howdy Nicholas

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Nicholas,

My son really surprised me that day 17 years ago. At the moment, when the purported stranger mentioned his favorite animal, I was mortified and really hoped that my family might return and rescue me. That concern evaporated when I realized that it had always been my son. He had not anticipated how successful his ruse would be. It was clever, fun and perfectly playful. Still... . Now, was there pay-back for his stunt? Of course! When my son and I reminisce about this memorable moment, we always talk about how I returned the favor a year later. Perhaps I will share the second chapter of that story in a future blog.

Take care,

Morgan

Morgan,

Morgan,

I echo everything that has been said thus far, be it in this thread or those made in other entries. Whenever one of your excellent blog posts appears, I don't hesitate in clicking on it. Your content never ceases to be funny, uplifting, and all around refreshing. I hope to read more in the future, especially about the playful retaliation toward your son.

Howdy Bahzad

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Bahzad,

Thank you for such a thoughtful message. The only feedback for AppleVis blogs comes from notes like yours. You were very kind and I appreciate your taking the time to make contact.

I have already been pondering what I will write for my next AppleVis blog. I have some early notes and I'll wait to see which story takes flight first. I do enjoy sharing these narratives.

Again, it was great hearing from you!

Best wishes,

Morgan