The Original earPodâ„¢
Company: AudioOutfitters, LLC
Every iPod user who actually carries the iPod around in his/her pocket knows that the earbuds’ cable is a hassle. You have to stow it in some way that keeps it from flopping around in your pocket, or it tangles and ties knows in itself. Not the kind of thing you want to be dealing with when you step onto the treadmill at the gym.
Many third-party earbuds come with a winder/case. It opens like a clamshell, you put the buds into a space in the center, close the case, and then you crank the wheel built into the case and the cable winds up on a drum. I’ve been using a Sony version of this for years. It’s not perfect — no provision for shortening the cable in use, or for stowing the remote control — but it works for me.
The earPod is an attempt to improve on this kind of winder-case. For starters, you don’t crank the case because there’s no case around the drum — the drum is the case, and you use your god-given fingers to wind the cable on it. This is much simpler and more rugged, though slightly bulkier.
There is a cover to open, though, as you can see in the photos. It swings aside on a pivot at one edge. Now it gets tricky. It took me the longest time to unlatch the lid, because there’s a trick, which is not mentioned on the instruction sheet. You have to squeeze the lid from the point where the swivel is, toward the opposite side where the latch is. And the positions of the swivel and the latch are marked by indentations in the plastic. Identical indentations! The whole thing is an unfair IQ test — not the kind of thing I want to be dealing with as I step off the treadmill after a grueling workout.
Well, you manage to get the lid open, and you see the central chamber where you’re supposed to put the earbuds. But it’s just barely big enough I couldn’t get the lid closed with my iPod buds inside, until I took off the yucky little foam covers, and still the lid had to strain against the pivot. AudioOutfitters claims to have tested this gadget with various in-ear phones, including Apple’s. Since these are bulkier than my standard Apple buds, I’d like to see how it’s done.
Before you close the lid, though, you lead the cable out through one of several slots in the wall of the chamber. Then when you close it, it’s easy to wrap the cable around the drum. And when it’s all wrapped up, guess what? You are supposed to open the lid again, lead the cable back through a slot into the chamber, and fit the plug into the chamber along with the earbuds! I found this just barely possible with a good deal of concentration; the trick, not mentioned on the instruction sheet, is that the tip of the plug has to stick out through one of the other slots.
The instruction sheet describes various tricks for shortening the free length of cable, and I’m sure they work. I didn’t try to follow those instructions in detail, and I’ll tell you why: The entire instruction sheet has been reduced down to where the photos are about a half-inch square and the effective size of the text is maybe four points or less. It was barely possible for me to read by taking off my glasses, holding it six inches from my nose, and squinting. To be perfectly honest, this instruction sheet put me in a negative frame of mind as soon as I laid eyes on it, and maybe that’s why I’m being so hard on the product. But I swear I’m telling you all the good things, and not exaggerating the drawbacks.
For example: the earPod does deal with the problem of the remote control: on either side, there’s a place that fits the clip on the remote. There are additional slots on the edge of the earPod to hold the remote’s own cable.
And there’s a well-designed, rugged belt clip, which you can remove pretty easily but will not come off accidentally.
But overall, I’m afraid I can’t see how this product is an improvement on the old-fashioned winder-case — which you can get by buying a set of $9.99 earbuds and throwing them away.