Smartphones today are central to our lives, and personal audio is a vital extension of the way we use them.
A few weeks ago when Apple, a world leader in smartphones, made announcements about the iPhone 7 and AirPods, there was a mixture of excitement and frustration around the latest news.
They got rid of the 3.5mm auxiliary connector that most people use for their headphones, citing “Courage” as the reasoning behind this choice, yet many of us are still left wondering who are actually the winners and losers of this change. As I commented in Inc Magazine, I think that this is one of the most polarizing decisions Apple has made to date. It’s not yet clear what Apple is hoping to gain from it, or if they have done enough to compensate for the pain this change is expected to cause. However these uncertainties haven’t kept folks from drawing lines in the sand.
You could see this as a big push by Apple to encourage the adoption of wireless headphones. A recent milestone occurred where Bluetooth headset sales surpassed those of wired ones, but the other half of that story shows that 83% of people are still using wired headphones. Eighty-three percent.
I don’t disagree that wireless protocols are going to be the standard for peripherals of “the future”, but the electronics industry hasn’t yet figured out how to provide a truly wireless lifestyle without introducing more friction into your life.
I created Tinsel because I wanted to elevate the experience a woman has with the smartphone always at her fingertips. Giving her a dependable way to listen to it is part of that.
Based on my experience building an audio product, I give you the three main arguments in favor of keeping the cord.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, we hate charging devices. For me, there are very few moments in a day’s natural flow to charge extraneous accessories. Meanwhile, battery life remains a challenge for the consumer electronics industry.
Despite the breakneck pace of hardware development, there’s been very little progress with increasing the capacity of batteries or the energy efficiency of our core devices. One of the things holding back the adoption of wearables and wireless peripherals is the fact that they have to be charged at some point. Without power they are completely useless.
The average bluetooth headphone set gets 6–8 hours of life on a full charge (AirPods are advertised at ~5 hours). Your average wired headset doesn’t ever need to be charged. It’s ready when you are. No charging, no syncing.
Better Sound Quality
I’m with the Woz on this one. Bluetooth headsets can’t match the audio quality of a wired headset. For those of us who care about how good our music sounds — ahem, THIS girl — a wired headset is a trusted companion.
One of the primary reasons Tinsel decided to make our audio necklace a wired one is because we wanted to build a product with top notch sound. We wouldn’t reach our benchmark with where Bluetooth is today.
Bluetooth Still Needs Work
Bluetooth is improving, but the experience is still prone to interference, latency, and wireless range can vary dramatically from device to device. Some people are completely taken with the idea of totally wireless buds like the Bragi Dash or the Here One, but these products will never work perfectly with the current limitations of Bluetooth.
Okay, points made.
I do think that the world is ultimately going to shift to “all wireless everything”, but it’s going to take time. Arguably, Apple is about to push this a step forward with the iPhone 7, but the transition is going to be rife with pain as the wireless lifestyle still has technical limitations.
Tinsel is in production at this moment with the most gorgeous wired headphones you’ve ever seen. And we’re getting requests to create a jewelry adapter for users with an iPhone 7. If we see the phone’s adoption follow Apple’s previous smartphone successes, we’ll make a lightning version of our audio necklace, as well. Interestingly enough, we’re also developing a Bluetooth audio necklace… because options. But the constraints I mentioned still apply.
We’re working on ways to make the experience the best it can be.
At this time, I see wires as an opportunity. We cannot be fully untethered, yet cables are unsightly. Tinsel is making them into something that allows you to express yourself. I love my Dipper and the chains that house the wires are the best part. Granted I’m a tad biased, but I believe we’ve successfully turned a nuisance into art.
We’re banking that we’re not the only ones with this belief, and so far so good. Now let’s see what the future brings.