As interesting as the iWatch rumors is the hope that with it will come a re-invention of the wireless headphone. A wireless display on your wrist would almost certainly beg an Apple-made new wireless headset, as we can’t imagine Jony Ive passing for an up-the-arm-routed headphone cable.
Apple ventured into the Bluetooth headset world with the original iPhone, presumably only to complement their revolutionary device with an Apple take on the familiar ear dongle. Removing the standard ear clip and relying on the earbud to keep the unit secure, lots of people liked the design, but function suffered for those without the perfect ear size.
After six years and a rethink of standard earbuds design, I think it’s time for Apple to try a redesigned wireless approach.
The first place you can look for a vision of next-generation headphones might be a Kickstarter campaign from Sound Band. Connecting wirelessly via Bluetooth, Sound Band attaches behind your ears, almost invisible from the front with nothing sticking in or on top of the ear. There are actually no speakers and the headset uses what the company call surface sound, basically bone conduction like that employed in Google Glass. Sound Band has passed their goal of $175,000, which is a good indicator that demand is in place for a new type of headset.
When indie developers are successful venturing into new waters, it leads speculation to bigger companies being willing to test their own hand at a product category. Many have pointed at Kickstarter’s most successfully funded project to-date, the Pebble smartwatch, as precursor to Apple’s own offering. Earning more than $10 million, Pebble has proven that a notification-based phone companion is not only possible, but in demand.
Another current Kickstarter campaign looking to change the way people listen to music on the go is Syphon Soundwrap. The Soundwrap is different from the Sound Band and uses electrostatic speaker technology, which is basically very thin speakers placed right next to your head rather than in or on your ears. Meant to be attached to the inside of a helmet, beanie, hat, or other headgear, Soundwrap is aimed at sports enthusiasts but could work in many different situations.
Of course, a pair of Apple Bluetooth headphones wouldn’t be trying anything that other electronics company hadn’t. Wireless headphones exist on the market today, but the hideous designs and deal-breaker battery life have kept them a niche product. Even as desirable as Sound Band might be, the product still lacks an appealing design; it’s clear that Google Glass, Pebble, and the new class of wearable devices are only going to raise expectations further.
[Image: Flickr user Gabriel Rocha]