Tangled Up in White

Like most of you, I suspect, I’ve wound up with an awful lot of white Apple earphones over the last seven years. There have been subtle changes to the earbud shape, and the iPhone introduced the wonderful clicker (click for play/pause, double-click for next track, triple-click for previous track), but one thing has remained a constant: the cords get terribly tangled when bunched up in a pocket or pouch.

This has been a constant irritation for me ever since I first got an iPhone. In the back of my mind, I’ve had the vague hope that the problem would eventually be solved by wireless earphones.

When I got my iPhone 3G in August, I did notice that the cord of the included earphones felt different — they had a distinctly more rubbery, less plasticky texture. I didn’t give it much thought.

On an airplane yesterday, as I took them out of their pouch on my carry-on bag, I suddenly realized that the difference was more than just texture. These new earphone cables are somehow very much tangle-resistant. Back here in my office, where I’ve got a slew of older Apple earphone sets to compare them against, the difference is striking. You can just ball these new ones up into a glob, stuff them in a pocket, and then just shake them straight when you take them out.

Perhaps this new tangle-resistant cable is old news that I somehow missed, but now that I’ve noticed it, I can’t help but hold it up as a quintessential example of Apple sweating the details.

Update, 7 Nov 2008: A well-informed little birdie tells me that the primary reason behind the new earphone cord was environmental. Apple has switched from PVC to PTFE for all cables, and the increased tangle-resistance was a pleasant side-effect.