Fancy stuff leads to more usage

A couple of months back, I decided to splurge a bit and treat myself to a pair of AirPods. Not the Pro version, which hadn’t yet been released, but this was the last generation. For someone who had hardly ever bought earphones in life (mostly using the ones that came bundled with phones), and for someone who would incessantly research before buying electronics, this counted as an impulse purchase.

A few months back a friend had told me that he had researched all the earphones in the market, and concluded that the best one for making calls is the AirPods. As it happens, he has an Android phone, and so decided it’s not worth it in the absence of an iPhone. And when he told me this, I figured that with an all-Apple lineup of devices, this is something I should seriously consider.

In the past I’d never been that much of a earphone user, mostly using them to listen to music when seated with my laptop outdoors. I hardly ever used them with my phone (a cable jutting out of the pocket was cumbersome). Based on that rationale, when I was in the market for a pair last year, I ended up buying a random cheap pair.

What my AirPods have shown me is that having a good device makes you use it so much more.

The UX on the AirPods is excellent and intuitive. Right now, for example, they’re connected to my laptop as I listen to music while writing this. If I were to get a call right now, I can very quickly switch them to pair with my phone, and talk on. And then after the call it’s two clicks to get them back to pair with the laptop.

This kind of experience is something that cannot be quantified, and because you cannot quantify and compare this across competing devices, in deep research you can miss out on this. This is one of those points that Rory Sutherland makes in Alchemy, which I read last month. And you fail to appreciate things like experience until you have really experienced it.

The amazing UX on the AirPods, not to talk about the great sound, means that I’ve, in a month, used them far more than I’d use other earphones in a year. Even when alone at home, I don’t blast music on my computer now – it’s always through the AirPods. I sometimes wear them while going on walks (though long walks are reserved for introspection with nothing streaming through my ears).

I was in Mumbai on Tuesday, and on the flight on both ways, I listened to podcasts using the AirPods. I’m surprised I had never thought of the idea before – it’s incredibly neat since you can close your eyes and listen, and sleep at your leisure. On commutes between meetings in Mumbai, I listened to podcasts in taxis. And so on.

So this is a learning for the next time – when I’m researching for a product that I think I may not use frequently, I need to keep in mind that if I like it I will use it far more than whatever it replaces. And if that is going to make my life better, the premium I would have paid for it will be really really worth it.

Oh, and coming back to AirPods, one question I keep getting is if they’re easy to lose. Based on the evidence so far, the biggest risk on that count is the daughter running off with one or both of them and misplacing them somewhere!