Yesterday, I had my fifth set of AfterShokz wireless headphones fail; making that 5 out of the 6 that I have owned.
Typically, I have used the headphones for 2-3 hours daily.
Am I unreasonable to expect a set of headphones costing in the region of US$100 to last for very long with this level of use? Or have I just been unlucky?
The headphones are always handled and treated with care; and I don't recall others commenting on similar problems. So, maybe I have just been unlucky.
But, boy is it making it difficult to consider a seventh set of these headphones. And, that's incredibly sad and frustrating, as I really, really like them and struggle to know what I would choose to replace them with.
Okay, the sound and call quality aren't great. But, that's not why these headphones have become one of my favourite ever gadgets. I love them because of the added value that they offer to me as a blind user. There are just so many times each and every day when having my ears open to what's going on around me whilst listening to a podcast or book is something that I would really miss.
So, what's the story here AfterShokz?
Do you have a great product that's ultimately going to be ruined by poor quality control?
I was prepared to accept that the failings of my first two sets of Bluez was due to early teething problems. After all, that's what you told me at the time. You told me that the first batch of these into the country were fitted with faulty bluetooth modules. I accepted this, but wasn't prepared to take the risk with a third pair.
It was only after the release of the Bluez 2 that I was prepared to dust off my credit card again. In no small part due to the movement of the bluetooth module from the back to the side of the headset, which suggested that there might have been other reasons than a 'faulty' module to explain why I encountered connectivity problems with the first generation model.
And, for several months I was extremely pleased that I had given these headphones another chance.
But, then, one morning ... I reached for them, only to find that the band had decided at some point overnight to spontaneously split right down the center. Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds, Things simply don't spontaneously break in that way. But, guess what, as unlikely as it sounds, this really is what happened.
Fortunately, these Bluez 2 had been bought from my local Apple Store, which meant that I was more open to the idea of showing them the headphones and starting my explanation of how they got that way with "you aren't going to believe this, but ..."
But, do you know what? They did believe me; as they saw how perfectly straight the break line was, and how there were quite literally hundreds of tiny stress fractures around that break line; stress fractures which could only have built up over time; stress fractures in the area of the band where it should naturally flex during what should be normal use. Built up to the level where simply placing the headphones on my desk in the evening was enough to add that one last fracture that was enough to quite literally have things reach breaking point.
One piece of good news here, is that the replacement set of Bluez 2 given to me by that Apple Store is still sitting in working order on my desk. Perhaps, if asked, though, they might admit to reading this post and feelinfg a little nervous about their future.
So, my fourth set of AfterShokz headphones lives on.
Sadly, 5 and 6 have come and gone in the meantime.
Number 5 was a set of Bluez 2S. Not really too different to the previous iteration, but they did manage to find a new way to fail. This time, the rubber seal on the part of the headphone which touches against your cheek and where all of the bone conducting magic takes place decided to 'blow'; meaning that this magic now only happened on one side.
This was after 10 months, so a better survival time than had been typical.
I also need to give AfterShokz credit here. As they didn't just replace them, they replaced them with a set of the newer Trekz Titanium. Woohoo, indeed, as these are a significant improvement on the Bluez.
Okay, "woohoo" and "improvement' until yesterday, when I picked them up to find that one of those rubber seals mentioned earlier had mostly detached from the headphone.
I could take the Superglue to them; and hope that the initial break of that seal won't have let the bone conduction 'magic' escape.
But, I am just so tired by yet another set of AfterShokz failing. I have so much love for the technology and what it offers to me when its working.
But, AfterShokz; really; come on. That's 5 sets of your headphones which have failed for me. With each failure, a little more of the love for the technology and the goodwill towards you guys for delivering it erodes.
Right now, there really isn't much love or goodwill left. Probably not enough to have me give you one more opportunity, to reach for my credit card one more time.
As said earlier, that's both sad and frustrating. In no small part because I don't know right now where my next set of bluetooth headphones is going to come from.
But, it's sure looking like this is my 'Dear John' letter for AfterShokz.