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If you can’t get an iPhone 5 yet, you might get the cool new EarPods

Updated: October 18, 2012 6:25AM

Not every current iPhone owner will be able to get the iPhone 5, because they’re still under contract and don’t yet quality for an upgrade. Not everyone will be able to afford one, either. And not everybody will even necessarily want one.

Everyone will probably want and can afford the redesigned earbuds that come with the iPhone 5, however. They’re available separately for $29 and if you’ve been using Apple’s previous headset all this time, they make for one hell of an upgrade on whatever model iPhone you’re using right now.

I popped them in my ears and the improvement over the classic iPod design was immediately and immensely noticeable.

(No, wait: The Who’s “Quadrophenia” is “classic.” The iPod earbuds were just plain old.)

Bass, particularly, is much rounder and fuller, but the sound is better across the board. The funk is funkier and even classical is classier. The EarPod improved every kind of music I tried them with.

And where the old earbuds were flat, round speakers that wedged inside the cartilage of the outer ear, the EarPod is teardrop shaped and squirts audio forward, directly into your ear canal.

So they sound much better and they feel much more comfortable, too. The old earbuds start to make my ears sore after about a half an hour and I cry “uncle” after 90 minutes. These new ones make their presence known after about an hour, and I found that I could wear them all afternoon.

They do a good job staying in place, too. I wore them on a two-hour walk in San Francisco. They stayed put during brisk walking on flat streets, while jogging across crosswalks, walking normally up hills, and walking slowly and breathing heavily up long and insanely hilly streets that always make me remember that the city planners of Boston had the good sense 175 years ago to flatten down our craziest downtown hill to something sensible. The EarPods even stayed in my ears during 28 minutes of subsequent CPR and defibrillations.

That very last one was a total lie, of course. But the point is that they didn’t require constant readjustment. Though a few times an hour they backed out just enough to merit a tap.

Apple also made the inline controller a little thicker, and it now offers more positive tactile feedback when you click. Nice. I’m just a little bit worried about the EarPod’s thin leads. These things get rolled up and stuck in pockets over and over again. Let’s hope that they can stand up to being handled with something less than loving care. I’m also curious to see how grungy they’ll get over time. The EarPod has three separate ports (which is how it gets such rich sound) and each could collect dirt, grease, and assorted Unmentionable Earhole Awfulness.

My Shure earbuds have lasted me for more than two years, despite the fact that I once closed the cable end in my car door and dragged it along the street for several miles. The EarPod doesn’t sound nearly as nice as these $200 buds, which have built-in silicone seals that shut out most outside noise. But they’re hands-down the best iPod/iPhone headphones I’ve worn that cost under fifty bucks.

There’s a lot of reasons for me to like them. They sound great, they’re comfortable to wear, and they gave me a chance to spend an hour dancing around my hotel room listening to my Peppy Music playlist in the name of journalism.

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