Really Stupid Tying


I managed to lose my iPod earphones yesterday. This was very upsetting, because ever since I got the iPod a few months ago I've taken great pains to preserve the little black foam things that go over the ear pieces. And I managed to hang onto them right up until I lost the earpieces themselves.

I set off to the Emeryville Apple Store this afternoon in search of replacement earphones (I know I'm studying for the Bar, but I rationalized this decision based on the fact that I need to be able to listen to the PMBR lectures while working out). Knowing that iPod earphones, being cheap little beasts, had a fair market value of maybe five dollars, I was nonetheless prepared to pay up to $20 for them, knowing what I know about the way Apple conducts its affairs.

[Side complaint here: The Apple Store itself is a monument to Apple's irrational commitment to style over utility. Every other store at the Emeryville mall has a shingle hanging over the sidewalk, rendering them easy to locate and identify. Apple, not wanting to disturb its pristine cubic facade, has no such shingle, meaning that when looking for the Apple Store one must crane one's head up and to the right, as opposed to just up. I almost always have to pass by at least twice before finding it.]

When I arrived at the Apple Store I went over to the iPod accessory section and found a small box (not just a card with plastic molding, of course -- a fucking box) with my coveted replacement earphones, along with a remote control for the iPod. The price for this combined, inseparable package: US$39.99. I didn't, and still have not, allowed my mind to travel down the path of imagining what possible utility could be served by a remote control for a portable device. I can almost understand having a remote for those stupid speakers that you can stick your iPod into, but it simply defies rational thought to imagine earphones and a remote control being used at the same time. I don't want to dwell on this, because my head will explode.

A green-shirted hipster confirmed that the earphones were unavailable without the remote control. I thanked him, put the little box on a shelf (not where I found it), and exited the store. I walked about 100 feet and became a living illustration of how retarded it is for Apple to bundle replacement earphones with a useless remote control at double the price. Entering a non-chain audio-video store, I quickly found a pair of Sony plug-style earphones for $20. I declined the two-year extended warranty for an extra five dollars and went on my way, secure in the knowledge that Apple, arrogant though it is, has yet to develop a proprietary audio interface (my Aiwa tape deck adapter works just dandily with my iPod).

The bottom line: I cannot wait until the portable mp3 player market really opens up and Apple starts getting killed by more sensible rivals, companies who understand that apart from the dying breed of Apple loyalists, most people would trade an ounce of prettiness for a pound of utility. I don't care if I have to re-rip all of my CDs. It'll be worth it to never have to deal with Apple ever again.


I hate to always be the defender of the iPod, but I find the remote quite useful. Since my car stereo was jacked 6 months ago I do most of my iPodding in the car, and it is very nice to leave the 'pod in my bag and clip the remote to the seatbelt so that I can easily change songs and volume...

That said, the white earbuds suck.

Yup, I've ranted extensively about Apple and the iPod on my blog (I've had to have mine replaced FIVE TIMES under the 2-year extended warranty, with escalating hassles each time. And no I didn't break it, these were major hard drive/battery failures).

Anyway there *are* some good competitors coming onto the market, I've been looking at this one from Sony and the Archos Gmini.

Matt, iPod customers are iPod customers in the first place because they are willing to pay more for stuff that looks cool like Apple products look cool. I bet the $40 packs sell well, despite your rage.

Similarly, the reason Apple doesn't have a proper storefront is that they are too cool for you. That which is unattainable is desirable. That's how Apple works. People will buy expensive things and rationalize that those things must be expensive because they are good. Now that's irrational, but that's how our brains work.

And it works, doesn't it, you iPod owner, you? Why did you get an iPod instead of a Creative or Archos or something? Why were you so intent on the first party headphones?

Is the Apple Loyalist actually a dying breed? Or are you just (understandably) pissed off at the moment?

With walnuts and fishcakes,


John - While that's a valid use of the remote control, it still doesn't justify tying it to the headphones, and there's still no rational connection between the two components (remote and earphones).

GG - Damn. I wish I had known about that Sony player.

Zack - I went with the iPod largely because I didn't know of any viable alternatives. When it comes to major purchases I require the security and credibility of a recognizable brand that has been ubiquitously hurled at me from every high-end advertising outlet. Apple's competitors need to get the damn word out.

As for seeking out Apple headphones, I think I was just on autopilot and didn't want to have to decide which store to go to for headphones. I knew exactly where the Apple Store was and knew I could find them there. I suppose I could have just gone to the Radio Shack in Alameda, but I hate Radio Shack almost as much as I hate Apple.

Finally, yes, I think Apple loyalists are a dying breed. Ever since Apple moved the elegance from the inside to the outside, the public's patience has been wearing thin. That's my completely uninformed opinion and I'm sticking with it.

Oh, and Steve Jorbs just entered into a massive deal with Intel, so pretty soon there may not be anything to remain loyal to after all.

A remote would be useful if you had a speaker dock for playing your iPod as a home stereo. In other words, the exact opposite circumstances from when you would be using headphones.


Maybe so, but there's enough of that in society today, what with your Wal-Marts and Costcos and tract housing and Toyota Camrys. Actual prettiness is in precious short supply, and as long as the utility doesn't suffer, we would do well to put the emphasis back on prettiness from time to time.

That said, bundling the earbuds with a remote is stupid, but not as stupid as needing to replace earbuds and trying to buy cheap sucky ones again from Apple. Many people buy an iPod and the first thing they do is replace their earbuds with sensible higher-quality headphones that don't attract murderous thieves.

As for selecting an iPod... what is a good online music store besides iTunes? Are they all pretty good now? Because you never hear about any of the other ones, ever. I think that is one reason people still choose Apple.

Oops. In the place where I have a > I meant to quote Matt's line about most people being willing to trade an ounce of prettiness for a pound of utility. That is what the following lines refer to.

There's nothing dumb about seeking cheap replacement earbuds. The old earbuds suited my purposes, and I didn't want to invest in anything more elaborate. After all, the iPod only provides "near-CD quality" sound.

The iTunes music store and their Big Brother DRM are evil. I just buy regular CDs and import them. But the real reason I was commenting was your mention of Radio Shack.

They have bothered me for the longest time, because I don't understand why they refuse to change the name. "Radio" for an electronics store? How about "Telegraph" or "Gramophone"? And then "Shack"? Who wants to buy anything, especially fine-tuned electronic parts, from anything housed in a "Shack"? It makes me feel like I have to drive through some third-world shantytown made of corrugated steel lean-tos to get there. It was probably a bad name to begin with, but it's 2005, and they still haven't changed it. Get with the program.

As you can see this is something that's been bothering me for awhile, and look, you gave me a chance to rant about it. OK I'm done. :)

You know, you can beat the system with Ebay.

Either way, you got gypped. You should only have bought these to begin with:

Hey, now. We're all friends of Gypsies here. Take that hateful language elsewheres.

I had the exact same experience today. I've had my iPod for two years and I love it, and I really have no complaints about the cheapo earpods, but I refused to pay $40 for a replacement. It's just the principle of the thing. Aren't we allowed to have principles anymore?

I'll probably buy one of the competitor products now, but I would have been perfectly happy overpaying (I agree $20 sounds like the right high-profit-but-not-totally-ridiculous replacement cost) for the same crappy products.

I hate it when companies can't even get it together to sell you crappy products you've resigned yourself to buy for high prices. It reminds me of having to stand in long lines to buy $6 hotdogs at baseball games or $3 coffee at the airport.

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This page contains a single entry by hb published on July 19, 2005 1:54 PM.

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