Airpods and How Uselessness Easily is Transferred Through Fashion

A pair of Apple Airpods 2nd gen laying beside the charging case on a white surface lighted by a left light source.
Photo by Dagny Reese on Unsplash

You know all the earbuds with the stem? They all are just “the fake Gucci bag” version of Airpods!

No surprise, Airpods are easily the most popular earbuds in the world right now and people buy them religiously.

Apple shaped their wireless earbuds as a genius reference to the design of the wired ones, resulting in a continued brand identity. Just as the notch on the new Macbooks as reference to their iPhones. As AirPods understandably became fashionable, others started to copy their look, and without the original reference to Apple’s brand identity and the wired EarPods, the feature is useless.

JBL, Urbanears, and many others copied this look, characterized by the long antennas on each side and usually no silicone tips. Now, where some find the lack of silicone tips to be more comfortable, then the Airpods generally receives bad reviews by many.

Most earbuds that are focused on function, either in sound performance, athletic use or call performance don’t use this shape. Examples like Sony, Jabra, Sennheiser and Jaybird shows that this isn’t it. Apple itself doesn’t continue this reference in their Beats Studio buds, as it wouldn’t make sense to the brand identity. Similarly, the long line of Airpods copies doesn’t have any cultural reason to include this reference either.

Where AirPods originally was a homage to the iconic EarPods, other earbuds now indirectly pay homage to AirPods (kind of in the same way a fake Gucci bag does). But as they say, copying is the biggest form of flattery and through this reverence and broad reception on the market, AirPods now has become an iconic design in itself. Even the newer and differently shaped AirPods Pro have been copied by the hyped Nothing Ear (1) earbuds, cementing just how iconic Apple’s lineup of wireless earbuds are.

The distinction between referencing a culture or brand identity and just copying is quite important. As cultural values lie inherently in the original reference, only functional value can be transferred through copying. In this embarrassing case, there is no functional value. Trying to copy cultural value is then only milking its meaning for money.

Even then, is copying an instant icon a good business opportunity or a failed opportunity to create your own?

While the copycats most definitely have made money, then it’s nothing compared to the original. It’s estimated that if AirPods was its own company, it would be the 32nd biggest in the US. It pays to be the original, so why shouldn’t the copycats just strive for it themselves?

You can make iconic designs such as Apple’s AirPods, and if you want to know how, then be sure to read my guide on how to create iconic design.

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Morten Thorn

Morten Thorn

Designculture graduate enthusiastic about the link between Design and Culture and the effect it has on you.

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