Top 5 Reasons Why Apple Should Announce Smart EarPods Tomorrow

Christmas Eve for Apple Fans

For the first time in a long time, tonight feels like Christmas Eve. For those of us who have closely followed Apple for any number of years, tomorrow’s keynote can’t come soon enough. Just like when we were kids, as Christmas morning inches closer and closer, time feels to pass more slowly than it did weeks ago, when only the most meaningless details of possible new products had leaked. Judging from sentiments expressed today on Twitter, these last few hours of anticipation appear to have been rather painful for even the most apathetic tech observers, with reports pointing to a particularly nasty strain of first-world anxiety spreading with virulent efficiency among message boards and comment threads.

What makes this keynote different from any of the last handful? Again, think back to being a kid. Some years you might have had a hunch as the days ticked by that Christmas would be good. Other years (most likely due to economic factors) you knew not to expect so much. Regardless of any hunches you may have had as a result of reading your parents’ tea leaves, a truly unexpected gift always made Christmas morning better.

4 years have passed since Apple blew our minds with something truly new. Tomorrow feels like another big one.

— Xeni Jardin (@xeni)
September 9, 2014

The sense I have tonight is that when Tim Cook takes the stage tomorrow morning, we’ll be rewarded with both. Not only will Apple fans be vindicated in clinging to high expectations, but that “One more thing…” moment will inevitably arrive and we’ll finally know with complete certainty what new product category Apple will venture into.

The Anticipated Obvious

It’s clear that Apple will unveil the next new iPhone in two sizes. Some bloggers have been speculating on the naming scheme, throwing around iPhone Air, iPhone Pro, etc. I suspect that if the only significant difference between the two models is display size, Apple will simply go with iPhone. If there turns out to be any significant difference in features between the two, they may use two slightly different names.

Whatever the case, we know we’re going to see the new iPhone and a demo of the nearly finished iOS 8. Not unexpected, but highly anticipated.

The Delightful Unknown

We all know by now (or do we?) that what will come after the iPhone announcement will undoubtedly be some sort of wearable device. The general consensus is that the device will be an iWatch-like device designed for the wrist.

I admit this seems to be the most likely outcome, but the strongest evidence I’ve seen to support this point is that everyone else (re: Android OEMs) is doing it but that Apple can/will do it better. Maybe so. Personally, I think I’ll own a smartwatch someday, but the idea doesn’t excite me all that much, and I’ll probably never feel like the purchase was worth it. I just don’t care that much.

Whatever the case, the mystery device is even more highly anticipated than the new iPhone, and carries with it the high likelihood of being both surprising (to some degree) and delightful (to a large degree). The promise of this device is the real source of bated breath for the majority of Apple watchers.

.@JoannaStern leaked.

— t_chrisburns (@t_chrisburns) September 4, 2014

EarPods by Dre

Another less likely but not entirely improbable wearable device would be a smart earbud, aka a next gen EarPod.

I’ve come to feel like a broken record with regard to Apple’s Earpods, as I’ve tweeted about them multiple times with little effect or response. When Tim Cook announced the 2012 redesign of Apple’s iconic earbud at their September event, I took it as a sign of things to come.

After all, why go through all the trouble of EarPods™? Why specifically dedicate a portion of onstage time to the design story of a new product that could have just as easily been streamlined into the market if it wasn’t part of a larger strategy?

I still want Apple to turn EarPods into a truly advanced wireless headset. “EarPods: Unleash your music.” ?

— Joshua Judd (@JoshuaEJudd)
February 27, 2014

Then Apple acquired Beats, and soon after the acquisition was announced, The Verge ran a piece about the possibility of the purchase being a wearables play. I couldn’t help myself:

EarPods by Dre, coming Holiday 2014.

— Joshua Judd (@JoshuaEJudd)
May 28, 2014

Wish We Could Say More

I’ve never thought much of predictions based on Apple’s event invitations themselves, but they have been known to occaisionally include bits of insight that make sense in hindsight of the event’s revelations. What if the “Wish we could say more” line for Tuesday’s event is a nod to a move in the direction of Speech + Siri as the next generation interface for computing?

Here are my top 5 reasons for why it would be a smart move for Apple, and why it just makes sense.

  1. Accessibility: Speech is a natural, human interface. Accurate speech-to-text dictation is still a challenge for computing giants, but it’s getting better every year and is nearly solved. Simple voice commands are even easier for humans to learn and machines to process. Speech is a natural, human way of interacting with technology that has yet to reach its full potential. It’s hands-free, and eyes-free, making it a prime interface for CarPlay, HomeKit, and for users with special needs.
  2. Existing hardware lineup: Next gen EarPods would compliment existing iPhone, iPad, and Mac sales without cannibalizing them. Use of existing Apple products would be enhanced with EarPods as we finally learn to interact with our devices using natural human language.
  3. The Promise of Wearables: Well-designed technology melts away and makes us more human. Wearable tech is about embedding technology into our lives in ways that are natural and intuitive, not clunky and obtrusive like some products now on the market. EarPods could easily be worn all day without becoming distracting to the user or making you look like a cyborg.
    HealthKit: The ear is a great location to gather HealthKit data. Pulse, body temperature, daily steps, etc. would easily be recorded by such a device.
  4. Consumers are already sold: We’ve already seen in mass media how smart earbuds can be used in ways that make sense, and don’t require selling consumers on far-fetched use-cases. Think Her and the Ender’s Game series. These examples make the idea appealing on multiple levels. They’re obviously useful, easy to use, and unassuming. Much more so than a $300 computer on your wrist or a $1,500 computer on your face.

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