How the Apple Dress Code Undermined the iPhone

The iPhone mic snags on any button-down collar, but not t shirts.

I can’t be the only one. The only lifelong Apple fan boy who wears shirts with collars on occasion. Am I?

I ask because if there were others, if maybe even one of us worked for Apple on the iPhone team, the iPhone headphones would be designed differently. It’s a fact – no two ways about it. That somehow this critical design flaw should never have survived the Apple design process, unless of course, they really all do wear t-shirts – exclusively.

Hey, I wear t shirts. Cool ones too. But now and again – and maybe more often than some, I wear similarly stylish button-down shirts with collars. And this is where the design flaw reveals itself.

See, the wired iPhone mic catches on your shirt collar. And by catches on your collar, I mean the sharp edge of the mic invariably snags your collar with enough force to tug the earpiece out of you ear, and then the earpiece and mic fall 4 feet to your knees mid-conversation. It never fails. Turn your head an inch too far and – pop.

“Wait, HELLO!? Hold on, I can’t hear you – sorry! Hello? you still there? Oh hi, sorry – my headphone just popped out of my….” Never fails. I really don’t get it.

Oh sure, it looks nice. It looks awesome. And it even feels nice in your fingers; that little wired mic. But by God, as sure as I am writing “mac genius” that headphone catches on my collar and pops out of my ear.

Maybe like you, I’ve become subconsciously sensitive to the problem. I have developed this acute reflex due to “the pull”. That feeling when the cord tugs at my earbud, the mic having snagged my collar. At the slightest resistance, my head freezes and I carefully bring it back to center, just shy of popping the earbud from my ear. There was a point where I would use my patented oval-head-move to release the mic from said collar. I’d gotten pretty good at that too, that oval-head-move; made me look like a pigeon walking down the street. But alas – whatever momentary satisfaction I may have had at releasing the mic – it only caught again a moment later. Without fail.

As a result I finally gave up and now walk around with one hand holding the mic to my mouth. Just like I did years ago with poorer sets designed by your average run-of-the-mill, low-end industrial designers. It would appear to most passersby that I am actually holding the mic to my mouth so that my voice is better heard, but no. The mic works fine without that. No, I am simply trying to keep the earbud in place, simple as that.

Naturally, this never happens when I wear a t shirt. And maybe that’s the idea.

…………………….. UPDATE ……………………..

With the release of the iPhone 5, Apple has introduced Ear Pods.  Apple has clearly attempted to address this problem with the new Ear Pod mic (pictured right) which now has rounded edges at the top of the mic – limiting the likelihood of catching.  Additionally the functionality of the mic buttons feel improved – they are much more responsive and easily controlled. The sound quality of Ear Pods is better, the fit, in-ear, is also vastly improved.  To be honest, I’m not sure what they could do to make these much better.  An “untangle” button maybe?

Indeed I can report that if the previous mic made you crazy, you will be quite please with Ear Pods.  What a relief.

If you would like to get Ear Pods – and forego the added cost of a new iPhone 5, they can be purchased at Apple’s website. I did, and for less than 30 bucks it was totally wort it.

16 Comments How the Apple Dress Code Undermined the iPhone

  1. B

    I couldn’t agree more. I wear collared shirts all the time and absolutely hate the feeling of the tug on my collar. I’ve settled with wrapping a small piece of cellophane tape in a cone shape around the very top of the button (careful not to cover the microphone) when wearing a collared shirt. Not the most fashionable decision, but hardly noticeable. Wonderful device; horrible design flaw.

  2. W

    You are not alone. Everyone in my office complains about this. One couldn’t design that mic to catch on a collar so well if they actually tried. It is frustraitingly reliable.

  3. rbergen

    I thought I was the only one haha I remember searching for hours shortly after the 3gs first came out to find an alternative. I gave up then, but am just starting to search again. At least now it looks like there are a lot of options out there now. Just trying to do some research to figure out which one is the best for the $$$

  4. Jason Sewell

    Christ this is frustrating. I just tweeted about it before finding your blog. A tapered design would solve this problem quite nicely.

  5. M

    This is by far the most irritating thing I’ve had the non-pleasure of using. I am glad that I am not the only one who experiences this. I probably curse the earbud designer about 27 times a day. Apple earbuds just barely stay in my ears as it is. I did some consulting work at Apple last month and it’s true: t-shirts everywhere. Damn.

  6. Jeffrey

    I simply rigged up a small clip similar to one that comes with competing earbuds, like the Etymotic, or MeElectronic brands. easy enough…

  7. Dr Z

    I can hardly believe this – and I thought I couldn’t possibly be the only sufferer. The sharp microphone edges suck / yet it would seem so easy to correct the problem: just make it slide across the collar rather than to snag …

  8. Victor

    Ummm… yeah, about the collar-snagging mic on the Apple earphones, just don’t wear a dress shirt. Problem solved.

    I’m channeling Steve “just don’t hold it that way” Jobs’ ghost (sorry if that’s too soon. I’m a fan of Steve – to an extent).

  9. Candace Barr

    Happens to me all the time. Maybe because I like to dress my age instead of like some teenage hipster with his jeans down around his ankles and his wallet on a chain.

    I’ll tell you, for all the people who are ready to suck off Johny Ive, I think the guy sucks royally at design. Headphone clicker, the iPhone4 antenna problem (the electrical engineers were overridden by His Royal Highness, Sir Johny), vibe slider that changes too easily, etc.

    It’s funny – I would have bet anyone my left nut (or maybe Johny Ive’s left nut, since he’s the culprit) that when I googled “iphone headphones collar” there would be many hits. Of course, I wasn’t disappointed.

    Anyone know where I can get a job designing sub-par products like Not Ivey League & get paid truckloads of cash like he does? Because he sucks but someone that doesn’t seem to impact his paycheck. Where do I get a job like that?

  10. Namaste

    When this first happened to me I thought, “What am I doing wrong?”. I am so glad I found a support group for this. I have about gone mad. And, tapering this off using using, well, tape is just apple ghetto.

  11. Khanh

    Hahaha it’s funny to see how many people with the same complain. I thought I was picky. Obviously the late Mr. Steve himself never wore a shirt with collar, but always a turtle neck T-shirt, so they never really thought of it, didn’t they?

  12. Dan

    You must be thrilled to hear that the mic design didn’t change one bit with the iPhone5. What makes it even worse is the smug Apple TV ad showing off the new headphone ear bud design and proclaiming “I don’t know what shape that is, but its not round. An earbud shouldn’t be round!” …. ಠ_ಠ …. yeah …. APPLE! …. No F?$&@!% shit it shouldn’t be round.

  13. Andy

    This has bugged me so much that I did a google search and found your rant. I can’t believe how much this bugs me. It’s almost like they designed it at the perfect length to snag. Arrrrgggg!!!

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