On the Likelihood of Losing Your AirPods

Geoffrey Fowler on Twitter, linking to Joanna Stern’s piece on the new “Find My AirPods” feature in the first iOS 10.3 beta:

This was a no-brainer: Apple’s now got a tool to help locate their tiny $160 wireless earbuds you’re destined to lose.

I’ve seen this “destined to lose” argument in a lot of reviews of the AirPods. Like: “Pros: Good sound, great battery life, easy pairing. Cons: Expensive, easily lost.

And because they’re small, they certainly could be easily lost. But that’s true of all small things. You can easily lose a $100 casino chip. You can easily lose expensive jewelry. It happens. But it’s not that common, because you know these things are valuable. It’s human nature to be more careful with valuable items. If AirPods cost $29 and were included in the box with iPhones, they’d be lost more frequently than they are as a $159 standalone product. (Let alone a $159 product that is still backordered by six weeks.)

I’ve been wearing AirPods almost daily since mid-September, and I’ve only ever had two close calls.

Once, I went for a jog and stopped at the post office to pick up a package they were holding for me. I left the post office, walked to the corner, and as I was about to resume my jog, I realized I only had one AirPod in my ears. I went back into the post office and found the missing AirPod on the counter where I picked up (and signed for) the package. I had taken it out to pause playback and talk to the clerk. Because I didn’t have pockets, I had put it down on the counter.

The second close call was a very cold night just a few weeks ago. I wore a hoodie to cover my head and ears while walking through the city. I pulled the hoodie off a few doors down from my destination, and when I did, it must have popped my right AirPod out. I didn’t notice at the moment, though, because I had already paused playback and my ears were so cold (despite the hoodie) that I didn’t feel it come out. I backtracked and spotted it on the sidewalk, about 20 feet away. The danger wasn’t really that I’d lose it, but that someone else would step on it before I got to it.

The habit I’ve gotten into is taking my case with me everywhere I go wearing AirPods. Whenever I take one or both of them out, I put them into the case. I try never to set them down or put them loose into a pocket. The buds are either in the case, in my ears, or in my fingers.

In short, the best way not to lose them is to treat them as easily lost, valuable objects. I’ve misplaced my AirPods in my house far more often than I’ve come close to actually losing them — so being able to make them beep is the feature I’m most looking forward to with AirPods support in Find My iPhone.

Update: Email from a DF reader this afternoon:

In college I worked for several years at a fancy fountain pen store. We sold pens that ranged from $25 to several thousand dollars. People loved to wander in and say “What’s the point? I always lose my pens.” And we always responded — it was one of the first things I learned working there — “I think you’ll find that once you have a nice one, you won’t lose it.”

Two things about that: (1) I think it’s totally right. (2) Maybe surprisingly, it was very effective as a sales technique. Many times, people responded as if that thought had never occurred to them, and it made a genuine difference in their willingness to consider investing in something nice.