WHEN Apple in early September introduced a new iPhone without a jack for headphones, together with pricey wireless earbuds that you speak into, it did not take long for mocking videos to appear online. In one, an enterprising soul reveals a “secret hack” to get back the jack: he drills a hole into a new iPhone. In another video, a fake commercial, the AirPods, as the untethered headphones are called, keep popping out of users’ ears and are eaten by a dog (pictured).
Whatever one thinks of Apple’s AirPods, which cost $159 a pair and are expected to go on sale in late October, they stand not just for one, but two emerging markets in personal technology. One is called “hearables”—meaning “smart” ear devices. The other is “smart speakers”, like Amazon’s popular Echo product, which sits in people’s homes and can respond to voice commands. Both gadgets herald a world in which people communicate with machines by speaking, much like in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”, in which the crew talked to HAL, a chillingly sentient computer.
Untethered headphones have been…Continue reading