In AirPods, Apple has found it's stride again. Ignore the naysayers that say these are just a marginal improvement of a decades-old technology. Instead, Apple debuts what I am calling, The Digital Whisper. And with this new paradigm for audio, Apple will again reshape our relationship with mobile technology.
The Oxford English Dictionary definition
whisper, n. 2. — A secret or slight utterance, mention, or report; a suggestion, insinuation, hint, light rumour (communicated in a whispering voice, or fig. by a soft rustling sound (cf. 3) or mentally);
And cites the following example amongst it's many:
"A whisper from those recesses of the heart in which lies much that the owner does not know of." — Scott Quentin D. (1823)
Where We've Been
Wearables, augmented/virtual reality, dongles, apps, our lexicon overflows with words for the things that augment our technological lives. But in the most general form, all of these ideas are nothing more than accessories. They integrate with our phones (computers) — receiving input from us and providing a corresponding output. Some accessories plug in, others pair, and more yet are downloaded (apps), but they all exist in service to the dominating force of our times our phone.
Our phones have become constituent parts of our physical mind. Our devices receives inputs and invite us to seamlessly access an ever-expanding array of repositories, each filling at an accelerating rate, with consumable content. With this infrastructure, we use it to make notes and payments, it can easily search out news and find us opinions to hear. Primarily it serves to help us communicate, learn, and even add to our own custom libraries of actions we like to take.
There are still endless amounts of things we do outside of our devices. But the horizon of that infinity gets a bit closer every single day. One thing we already do — with gluttonous mirth — is consume. Written words, captured photography, rendered images, sounds, and video swirl in the gulf between us and our daily companions. The target of our appetites is this content.
But frustrations abound. Even if we understand our devices and have cultivated that relationship, we are bound to encounter flaws and frustrations. Audio transmission has been one of the largest flaws to date. Until now, your device hasn't been able to whisper to you as any true friend does.
But with the AirPods that has changed. On it's face, it's not revolutionary. But the Digital Whisper is what it's all about. It's something you likely don't know you need or want until you try it.
What's in a whisper
A Digital Whisper is a direct audio channel between you and your mobile device. Private, complete, and seamless, this channel enables the consumption of content with renewed efficiency.
A very small subset of the population have attempted their own hacks in the hopes of achieving their own homebrew Digital Whisper. Most attempts get us halfway there, but nothing like the experience offered by AirPods.
The most common example of these hacks is the one-earbud-in lifestyle. It's fraught with all kinds of issues and AirPods solve those issues one by one. And so it seems that even more people will, in a sense, flock to the Digital Whisper as offered by AirPods.
Great products deliver delicious behaviors in new ways even to those already engaged in said behavior.
That's what the AirPods do. Most people are probably not a one-earbud-in types. But a large majority of people are about to become rabid AirPod users. Your behavior will look alot like that of the one-earbud-in people.
Is It Innovative?
Yes, this will be a huge hit. It's going to take time, but these will be the next must-have piece of technology once people wrap their minds around how a Digital Whisper can benefit them. It's innovation exists in the fact that it fixes the litany of last-mile issues that exist with mobile Audio Transmission. That's all it takes to be truly innovative. Fix around the edges with special attention to the few details that can be the difference maker. That's what Apple did here. It's not surprising to see most of the reviewers getting it wrong.
Great products modify our behavior. This product, when you eventually buy it, will greatly modify your behavior.
The biggest mistake is that they did not make the charging case black. My reasoning is that this case will inevitably find itself in the proximity of the glass screen of your phone. Like for instance, when you place this case and your phone on your desk at work. The screen of all iPhones is perfectly consistent, it's black. They call our screens black mirrors for a reason. To make the floss case black would've been just perfect. That the contrast of the white AirPods coming out of a black case would look amazing just an added bonus.
Where We're Going
I already was a one-earbud-in type user. So it's no surprise that I love this product. But I think that we're going to see these AirPods blowup in popularity, in large part because many more people will be the new one-AirPod-in type. Great products unify behaviors not thru endorsement but via enablement. The Digital Whisper is very likely to be something you will use and then come to rely on. Buy the AirPods for your first taste of life with a Digital Whisper.