The Silence of the Future

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We’ve all seen the AirPods. Everywhere. The little white sticks that awkwardly poke out of people’s ears. My roommate has a pair – and she owns an Android. They’ve taken over the market in one fell swoop, and as you can maybe tell by my tone of voice, I’m slightly displeased about it.

I’ve loved Apple for years, but what irks me most about this trend, is that the design hasn’t really changed – if at all (I’ll admit I haven’t done a lot of research on them) – from their original headphones. It seems as if they chopped off the chords, packaged them in a fancy Tic Tac box, added another zero to the price tag, and called it a day. And everyone went freaking nuts.

I’ve tried them in person (thanks roomie), and I don’t hate them. But quite honestly, I’ll stick to my normal buds, or my big noise-canceling headphones. Which takes me to my topic of the day: what should headphones do when they’re not playing music?

Insofar, headphones have been meant for mainly one thing: music. As somewhat of a purist, I’d argue that maybe that’s all we should be looking for in these products. But wait…there’s more! I’ve seen an increase in the amount of headphones that now have specific purposes. My sister received a set of ear pods as a gift last year. Which, by the way, has there been an official ruling of what to call wireless headphones yet? “AirPods” are strictly Apple, “ear buds” have been around for years so it still connotes wires/cords, and just “pods” sounds strangely biological and invasive.

I’ll be calling them “ear pods” for the remainder of this post, even though I don’t enjoy that either. Regardless, these things she had received, were only meant to play different white noise sounds. I forget the brand, but the premise behind their product was to create a wireless headphone that would put you to sleep – blocking out your immediate surroundings – and gently wake you up. The app that came with it gave you noise options to choose from: waterfalls, crickets, brown noise, white noise, rain, wind, etc. And then it gave you alarm options.

I tried these out – mid airplane flight was probably not the best scenario – and found myself indifferent. Now, if I lived in an extremely busy city with sirens and barking dogs and yelling neighbors, maybe I could see myself wanting to block all of that and fall asleep with these plastic blobs in my ears. I’m still not convinced there’s enough of a reason, or genuine personal curiosity, for me to go out and buy a pair right now.

But, I will say, there is definitely a market for companies to improve upon the horrendous (merely personal opinion) white ear sticks. Take Galaxy for example:

Hopefully you watched the video, because this post is already dragging on, and I won’t do it justice. It’s an interesting idea – having a music-playing product become something that only creates silence. The visuals are great, the technology is cool, and maybe down the line, I’ll understand what the hype is, and pick a pair of blobs up for myself. Until then, I’ll stick to my corded headphones like a 2000s peasant.

when being the same is popular, do something different

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Samsung is one of the biggest tech companies in the world right now. They have been the benchmark for many products in the past, and they just made history this week, bringing out the first foldable phone ever.

Now, I am an avid Apple supporter – mostly due to the fact that I love how efficient the seamlessness is between my iPhone and Mac. Quite frankly, I’ve never been a brand enthusiast. I’m not very particular when it comes to staying true to a company. I like what I like, and what I purchase reflects this – brands typically don’t have a big influence on that. So my current Apple monopoly isn’t necessarily out of respect for the brand, more so the necessity of work flow.

I currently have an iPhone 6 and a 15″ Macbook from 2014. So I’m clearly not concerned with having the latest and greatest gadgets either. My point is, the product development of Apple hasn’t excited me recently. I had no urge to run out and get the iPhone X, and yet, I have no urge to shop around for other brands. Nothing has caught my attention. Apple tends to stick to the same proportions, aesthetic, and materials. I understand it’s a coherent product lineup, but their over-enthusiasm for the “redesign” of the camera from a horizontal orientation to a vertical one, is ridiculous. They could add 1 GB of storage and say it’s a whole new phone with “revolutionary capabilities” and people would eat it up.

I’m being cynical, but as someone who has been directly influenced by the evolution of phones (I had the Motorola Razr and the LG Envy in middle school) it seems ridiculous that nothing has been extremely progressive in the past few years.

Insert Samsung and their most recent Galaxy release. We don’t know the exact name of the phone yet (rumors have dubbed it the X, F, or Fold), but the technology itself seems revolutionary. There’s a slew of problems that will become extremely apparent after consumers get ahold of it, but design isn’t necessarily supposed to have all of the answers in the beginning.

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Innovation starts out with an idea. I had an Apple Shuffle iPod a few years after it came out. It didn’t have a screen, you had no idea what song was coming next, and you had no chance to choose. But, the idea behind it – the most compact music device of the time – was the priority.

I’m trying not to be overly critical about Samsung’s ability to change the phone game – that has been completely stagnant for at least the past 6 years – and frankly, I’m more excited about the prospect that big companies are willing to risk not only their reputation and profitability, but design capabilities, on a new concept.