There’s something in your ear
As a user of Apple AirPods from the day they went on sale in December 2016, I have observed firsthand how they went from objects of confusion and ridicule to a common sight.
I used to get funny looks from people every day, but this year they’ve become so commonplace that I barely get a puzzled glance anymore. And other tech companies are making their own tiny Bluetooth earbuds in response. Just this week it was reported that Microsoft is planning to launch ‘Surface Buds.’
“The AirPods Barrier, as you might call it, has become a nuisance for everyone from servers to lovers hoping to interact with AirPods-wearers. And while there are certainly more rude uses of technology — try staring down at your phone every five seconds while having a conversation — AirPods are creating new digital etiquette dilemmas. Wearing them while speaking with someone isn’t quite as rude as talking on your phone while you interact with a person IRL, but it’s just disrespectful enough to give someone pause.”
I try to remember to take my AirPods out whenever I interact with anyone, but it’s sometimes easy to forget as they’re so light. Sure, I’ll always pause my music or podcast when waiting to be served in a shop but I’m sure there are several occasions when I’ve annoyed a staff member by forgetting to take my AirPods out, even though all my attention was on that person.
Who knows how norms will evolve – maybe in 10 years, the idea of not
having earbuds in at all times while out in public will seem unusual. There’s plenty of potential for these devices to do more. Google’s Pixel Buds
aren’t perfect, but their automated language translation feature is a glimpse of the future of how our every day lives are likely to become more augmented by technology over time.
For now, I’ve got a more pressing problem. My two-and-a-half-year-old AirPods are getting tired. Their battery life is noticeably shorter than it was, and at least once per day they disconnect from my phone unprompted even if they have plenty of battery left. Funnily enough, the new version of AirPods launched just a few weeks ago…