The Verge’s newest Apple’s Airpods “review” reads like an over the top infomercial written by a professional Apple fanboy copywriter.
Let me preface this critique of The Verge’s Apple’s AirPods pseudo-review (written by Vlad Savov) by saying I’m not a fan of Bluetooth headphones in general. Simply for the fact(s) that they need charging and that to get a decent sound you need to pay twice or thrice the price of comparably sounding wired ones. Though in the case of the AirPods you need to pay SIX TIMES the price for an equally mediocre sound quality as the already overpriced $25 EarPods.
But, still, I wouldn’t say Apple’s Airpods are garbage. I think they have an adequate, a bit higher than average, battery life. More so, if you consider the 20 hours of added time the charging case offers. They’re easy to pair, have a solid Bluetooth connection and… that’s about it. Objectively, there are way better (sounding), and less ridiculously looking, products offering a good or better battery life and Bluetooth connection as well as a charging case, for the same price out there.
But, if we look at the sales, the AirPods value proposition seems to be enough for most people to consider them to be a good purchase. Maybe because they have been told that they were great earphones by reviewers/influencers (like this one) and Apple fanboys alike (sometimes they’re one and the same)… a lot, constantly. Plus, they sport an Apple logo, so it helps a lot too… even in the way we believe they sound. Subjectivity and bias (an “a priori” opinion) influence everything we believe and feel. That’s a fact.
This “review” plays on this knowledge to try and convince us that these AirPods are the best wireless earphones on the market. It’s using different known marketing and psychology techniques with the obvious goal of making us believe the AirPods are a great product (great enough to want to buy them).
It’s like the intent behind every single word written in this review is to persuade us. Not inform us at all, but convince us of how magical the AirPods are… The compromises exist but they are “acceptable”. So, and even if you’re an Android user since they “work brilliantly with Android devices too”, you should buy them, now, for the “fair” price of $159.
It really reads like an infomercial.
And even though, by judging the number of positive (those, not censored, left) comments under it, plenty of people liked his review (most of them because of confirmation bias – Wikipedia – i.e. it makes them feel good and reassure them about the validity and merit of their purchase), I had to try and expose this review for what I think it is: an infomercial.
Anyway, this being said let’s begin…
Oh… One more thing… I’m not a native English speaker. So, and I say this for the grammar Nazis out there, no need to waste your time criticizing this blog post for its sometimes approximate syntax or grammar. [I apologize as bad grammar can be annoying. But this is not a passage of one of my books. I don’t intend to include this blog post in one either. And I must admit I don’t put the same effort and work into my blog posts since I mostly come here to vent and talk about topics that annoy me. So, even the tone of the posts themselves is different.]
So, try and focus on the content, please. Thank you.
– The author uses every trick in the book to convince us the AirPods are the best buy you could make.
First, it’s another ridiculously biased Apple’s product “review” by The Verge. But this one may be the worst I’ve read yet. As I said, the Airpods are not a bad product per se. But they don’t deserve half of the praises enounced in this piece.
To me, it just sounds like a bad, over the top, infomercial (this is the best word, in my opinion, describing this “review” because of how clearly biased it is, the exaggerated terms and language it uses as well as the author’s comments in the thread below it and the 2 Amazon affiliate links included in it).
So over the top, it’s downright cringe worthy and a pain to read. At first, I laughed at the obvious marketing tricks and psychology techniques used. But then, I asked myself if it wasn’t a good opportunity to denounce the way more and more reviews are written. They appeal to our feelings instead of our logic. They are PR pieces instead of informative articles. They are biased instead of presenting us the facts. They try and persuade us instead of making us think for ourselves etc…
In, short, most reviewers just can’t be trusted anymore. And I’m just fed up with it. And this review is almost the epitome of all that.
The author uses every trick in the book (it’s just way too much. I don’t know how anyone can find this “review” remotely sincere or objective) to try and persuade us the AirPods are the best Bluetooth headphones; that their “good enough” sound (objectively the same mediocre sound, with maybe some added bass, than Apple’s wired EarPods) somehow makes them the best sounding wireless earbuds on the market; that they’re stylish (LOL?) etc…
This review is full of… hot air. There’s almost no objective information in there. Just overly exaggerated feeling-related terms after overly exaggerated feeling-related terms.
So much so, that this whole review sounds hollow and completely fake.
But it has weight since Vlad Savov is supposed to be an Android user (though he possesses a MacBook Pro) and previously mocked (the concept of) the AirPods. So, we can believe him, right? Everything he says must be true.
The fact that he seems to have changed his mind after using them looks like an old and common trick used by marketers. You’ve seen that plenty of times in (bad) advertisings. Because admitting to have been wrong takes “courage” (no pun intended) and can be difficult as far as most people’s Ego is concerned. Most people usually don’t confess to have been wrong if they don’t have a good reason for it.
So, this makes us believe that if he does, he can only be sincere.
Some comments under the review reflect just that:
“@ Vlad: Thank you for your honest written mindchange. I don’t see (read!) something like that very often.”
“This is an honest review and a guy who can admit he was wrong.”
A honest review? Really? This is one of my problems with this article. Nothing in it sounds sincere or true.
In his previous article on the AirPods, Vlad Savov states that the sound quality of the EarPods is, and I quote, “terrible”. That the EarPods are a “bad thing on this planet.”
And, speaking about Apple’s claim that the AirPods have better sound quality (than the EarPods), he said:
“Your claims of superior sound quality are about as thin as your iPhones. The AirPods don’t sound any better than the EarPods.”
So, ok, anyone can change her/his mind about something. But to the degree displayed in this “review”? Seriously?
Sorry, but I don’t buy it.
But, even if we accept the remote possibility that, somehow, he really changed his mind on the AirPods sound since, if we believe him, he didn’t try them before (but he changed his mind on the EarPods too? How?). Now he outright finds them to be the best sounding wireless earplugs (he’s listened to)?? That’s quite the 180°.
And even if we put this “epiphany” aside, I still don’t find this review to be objective at all. I didn’t see much information and truth in it. What I think is that it’s not about confessing anything. He just uses his past reaction and opinion to further give weight to the claims he makes in his review.
I don’t know this for a fact. I don’t pretend I do. This is just how it looks to me. He could be completely sincere and be overzealous now, just to compensate for the bit of shame he could feel to have been wrong. I guess there’s a slight chance it’s possible. You’ll be the judge of that.
But the result is the same: a biased (so, not a synonym of objective or truthful by any stretch) infomercial-like “review”. And that’s what I’m denouncing here. As much as I try and guess it, his true motivation for writing it is relevant.
What other techniques are used in this pseudo-review?
First, the “appeal to authority” fallacy (Logically fallacious – you should really take a look at all these logical fallacies since they are used every day and everywhere. Plus it’s a great starting point to think about what are valid arguments and how to spot stupid/illogical or manipulative ones) is embedded straight in the title “Apple Airpods: the audiophile review”. If Vlad Savov is an audiophile, he knows what he’s talking about and his words have value as an expert, right?
So, that’s already 3 good reasons (Android user, audiophile and didn’t like the Airpods) to believe that everything he’s going to say in his editorial will be fair, informative and truthful.
In my opinion, though, none of these adjectives apply to this “review”. But that’s the effect these 3 factors have on readers, even unconsciously. And this is used to deliver and give more credit to the sales pitch that follows.
[Hypothetical: If your company were to try and sell (or write a PR piece on) a product, who would you chose to make the pitch? The person that for x, y and/or z reasons people are most likely to believe, right? Even if s/he didn’t like the product, you’d just have to tell her/him: “That’s your job. You liking it or not is irrelevant. What you have to do is make readers, potential customers, like it enough to buy it.” Maybe you could even ad an incentive like a percentage of sales, for example.]
As usual, the whole review emphasizes the positive points and dismisses, justifies or hides the negatives. But I won’t get much into that. It would take too long.
– Apple now prioritizes function over form (LOL). And yet, the AirPods design is “stylized“…
But I’ll use one example of how he even tries to transform negatives by straight up inventing positive results or reasons for them.
Apple is making ugly designed products because it prioritizes function over aesthetics now? Is that what we’re supposed to believe? And does he know for a fact that the Airpods are “designed for function first”? Or is it an invention?
Because claiming that Apple is all about function first, even for a single product like these Airpods is quite daring. With Apple, it’s almost always looks/aesthetics first and functionality/usability, second. Though it seems that recently Apple users don’t get any of these two things..
And, he tries to subtly plant the idea that even while not being designed with looks as a priority, they still look awesome (stylized). Sure…
The first half of his sentence means something like: “if you have these ugly stems looking like cigarette butts protruding from your ears, it’s because Apple has spent years of research trying to come up with the best design ever to maximize functionality and usability.“
Yeah… or they didn’t bother finding a new design for their latest $159 product and just took, the regular Earpods and simply added the electronics and battery inside the earbud and in the stems. End of story.
– … AND their sound quality is also the best (!)
In the same vein, according to him, the Airpods sound the best among all wireless earbuds he’s tried because as “Apple moved the Bluetooth electronics and batteries to the stem, it was able to use the full cavity of each bud for sound reproduction.”
So, that’s what makes the AirPods sound so good… I see. Except it’s just another invention and a doubly false claim:
First, Apple didn’t “move” anything. It’s a first gen product so, where did it move the electronics from, exactly? What previous Bluetooth earbuds did Apple design?
To move something means it was somewhere else before. This is not the case, here. But saying this gives the illusion that Apple changed the design compared to the earbuds already on the market, to make the AirPods sound better.
So it’s false. Apple took the EarPods design and added the electronics and battery in the earpiece itself and in the stems by making them bigger. It’s a different design that the other earplugs on the market, that’s for sure, but it’s the same external one as the EarPods.
Second, Apple doesn’t use the “full cavity of each bud for sound reproduction”. It’s also false. The cavity inside the AirPods is actually smaller than the EarPods since there’s electronics now in there too.
See picture originally from the iFixit teardown.
And yet, somehow (thanks to magic again, I suppose), the still similar earpiece design, but with less space to work with for sound reproduction, transforms the mediocre sound of the EarPods in the best of any wireless earbuds (he’s tried).
Functional or not, the external design is the same as the EarPods, just with bigger rods. It was a no-brainer, lazy choice. Plus, it allows Apple to save on mold costs. That is the most likely reason as to why Apple made it.
And the AirPods are certainly not stylish or beautiful. Stylized, maybe, but in a more restrictive sense, then. Meaning recognizable as Apple’s Airpods. They are recognizable, all right… by being very white, very noticeable and ugly as hell.
But then to drive his point home he states:
“both form and function are served to the utmost degree”
He tries to, again and not so subtly this time, make you believe the AirPods design and functionality couldn’t both, taken as a set, be any better.
“to the outmost degree”. This is getting ridiculous.
Somehow if you combine a horrid design, mediocre sound and poor functionality, it creates a product where “both form and function are served to the outmost degree”?
Sure… Can I have some of that Kool Aid you’re drinking? Seems potent, though, so just a wee bit, alright?
– Actually, let’s get crazy and claim it: Apple’s AirPods have the best design of any earplug…
He actually says word for word that:
“the Apple’s Airpods design, which I initially ridiculed, is actually the best and most functional one available for truly wireless buds today.”
Best design… No… Come on… Did he actually write that? Did he really have to go that far?
This would be hilarious if it wasn’t supposed to be serious… Even for an Apple fanboy it would be a ridiculous statement to make.
How can this review be considered honest/unbiased?
And most functional? With no buttons, only two programmable tap gestures (though not for sound volume) combined with the impossibility to use voice control when not connected to internet, no ambient noise cancellation etc..?
Moreover, if you take off one AirPod, both stop playing. Annoying.
If you turn off Automatic Ear detection and take one off, the one you take off will keep on playing, and thus it will keep on uselessly lose battery life. Annoying.
In fact, both will keep on playing even if you take the two of them off. And if you turn on automatic ear detection and take them both off, the music won’t stop playing, audio will automatically play through your paired device speakers. Annoying. And this is just basic stuff.
But yeah, their design is the “most” functional. Sure.
And he insists on the “which I originally ridiculed”. Though now you could guess why. In my opinion (though you can believe otherwise) it’s not some kind of mea culpa. No. It’s, yet again, using this technique to give more weight (and credibility) to his claims and persuade us that the Airpods are the best looking (and functional) earbuds on the market.
And he sure needs to use all the tricks he can to convince us of that.
– When you mistake “bad luck” for actual flaws. If that’s indeed just bad luck…
Then, he goes on unjustly criticizing the competition for a problem only he seems to have encountered (try googling “Elite 65t (Bluetooth) connection problems” and tell me if you get any hit. I didn’t, not a single one.) and by doing so inventing a deal breaker:
“the Elite 65t, which sound good, but I can’t listen to them for longer than 15 seconds without the wireless connection dropping out.”
Really? The connection drops every 15 seconds? He can always say that’s his experience and no one could disprove it. But are we supposed to believe it?
And contrary to what he claims further in his review, almost all new (those being launched since Q4 2017) wireless earplugs in this price range now have a very reliable Bluetooth connection, thanks. So no advantage there (anymore) for the Airpods.
Here’s a real review of the Jabra Elite 65t by Digital Trends:
“Step aside, AirPods! Jabra’s Elite 65t are the fully wireless headphones to beat.”
And of course they didn’t have any connection problem whatsoever. On the contrary, Parker Hall, the author of the review states:
“The connection is so solid, we often forgot that there were no strings attached.”
And about sound quality:
“When it comes to competitors, we do (slightly) prefer the more balanced tonality and richer detail offered by The Headphone, but the Elite 65t absolutely outshine the AirPods”
Parker Hall is an audiophile (who doesn’t need to proclaim it) and a professional musician.
Like for all the non-Apple products reviewed by The Verge, they have to try hard to find stuff to ding competitors with. Here, still on the Jabra Elite 65t, but this time about the charging case (versus the AirPods one):
“When I was trying out the Elite 65t, by contrast, I managed to chip a nail trying to open their (similarly shaped, but infinitely more finicky) case.”
He chipped a nail. “Oh, poor him. Did he go the emergency room? How many sick days did he have to take?”
That’s something I could say if I was being facetious or wanted to be sarcastic. But, as I’m not and don’t want to, I won’t.
No, but seriously he’s very unlucky with the Elite 65t, right? He managed to try maybe the only ones that had Bluetooth connection issues on the market and its “infinitely more finicky” (no exaggeration at all there) case cost him a chipped fingernail.
Worst luck ever.
These repeated attacks against the Elite 65t earbuds prove one thing, though. It’s that that he clearly knows that they are the most serious AirPods competitor since they are better in almost every way.
They have [most of these selling points were taken from different reviews like the one above. And they all agree. The 65t are vastly superior to the Airpods] a very reliable solid Bluetooth connection, great passive noise isolation (+ a let through feature you can control the level of), punchy bass and bright highs, good sound (slightly inferior to the Bragi The Headphone but miles ahead of the mediocre sounding AirPods), advanced features, good battery life (5 hours + 2 charges = 15 hours total with the included battery case). Plus, they are a breeze to pair and IP55 certified.
But they’re not the only ones. There are the Jabra Elite Sport, the Optoma NuForce BE Free8, the Sony WF-1000X, B&O Beoplay E8, the Bragi The Headphone (but the Bragi The Headphone don’t have a charging case) and now the Huawei FreeBuds (I still don’t like the design but at leasrt, they’re sold in black too) which offer 20 HOURS of BATTERY LIFE IN ONE CHARGE. I’m yelling but this is enormous. All of these have better sound quality than the Airpods. But I guess the Elite 65t were the newest one on the market at the time of the author’s review and the ones most tech blogs were presenting as the true “Airpods killer”.
And then he adds a second sentence to the quote above:
“Anyone who’s used the AirPods will know the experience of absent-mindedly opening and closing their case for minutes at a time.”
It’s interesting because the charging case, which he further down declares the design to be “a total masterpiece” (total master piece for a white plastic box with a battery inside, no exaggeration at all there either):
– doubles as an anti-stress gadget. It’s an added bonus. And it’s so great, it can even make you daydream.
– allows you to participate in a shared experience with a community of privileged users. So, come on and join us as a happy, full of positive feelings, Apple user owning this magical product.
This review is packed with subliminal messages. But…
– The overwhelming use of strong, feeling-enhanced buzzwords is just (way) too much.
That is what made it TOO MUCH for me. Though maybe it’s the accumulation of it all. The epiphanic revelation, the bias, the inventions and/or false statements, the bad luck, the exaggerations and now the strong, feeling-enhanced words that finally took their toll.
He doesn’t stop employing preposterous feeling-related words. Surely to, again, increase the weight and power of his review but also to create positive feelings and emotions in the readers mind and link them with the AirPods (this is a technique derived from NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming – Wikipedia) and anchoring.
But he does that way too much. So much so, that it makes us completely lose any of the little trust in this review we could have had left. It sounds so fake, overdone and over the top it’s painful to read and impossible to take seriously.
[Note: I know, I may not be the best placed person to speak about being taken seriously… because of the name of my blog. It’s also exaggerated and may not sound very serious or professional indeed. But it’s presented and assumed as such. I don’t pretend it to be the truth. It’s just a punchy name and marketing choice. Anyway, I’m talking about the most important thing here: content (of the review) and actual statements or arguments; not the cosmetics: a brand (blog) name.]
Plus, it often doesn’t make any sense. That’s what happens when you try and say everything and its contrary, I guess.
When he compares the sound to the $25 Earpods (and that’s Apple pricing, you should be able to get earphones sounding as “good” as Apple’s Earpods for about $5), he says (this sentence made me laugh out loud):
“I find their sound is also more dynamic and emotive than anything I’ve heard from the EarPods.”
“emotive” LOL. He really wants to make them sound good.
“Airpods, the same (crappy) sound as the Earpods… but more emotive.”
That should be a slogan. But that’s the kind of things that, after a good laugh, made me think: “Ok, this really is too much, now.”
Moreover, he says:
“Apple’s sound is good enough for most people, myself included”.
As he’s an “audiophile”, the fact that he adds: “myself included” is supposed to make the sound become more than good enough for most people.
So, as from just good enough, it becomes good enough for an audiophile (that’s what the “myself included” surreptitiously suggests), doesn’t that make the Airpods sound quality way better than just “good enough”? Yes because he then says:
“In the category of truly wireless earbuds, the AirPods are the best I’ve yet heard.”
So, we went from just good enough (what most people think about the EarPods and thus the Airpods sound quality), to the best sounding earbuds, just like that. Again, it’s clever because our brain doesn’t have the time to react, or take a pause and reconsider what he’s saying because of all the powerful feeling-enhanced (yet hollow and completely disproportionate) words he’s bombarding us with between the two sentences.
His use of the word “earbuds” is important as well because it gets rid of all the already much better sounding Bluetooth earphones that are connected together by a wire.
Still, when someone, declaring himself to be an “audiophile” no less, states that the Airpods are the best sounding wireless earbuds, it should raise all sorts of red flags.
Another feeling-enhanced, yet contradictory (or with fake complexity and nuance) statement that tries to say it all at once:
“The AirPods convey a full sense of the mood and intent of the music I listen to. By that, I mean that they’re not technically spectacular. […] ”
This is a non-sequitur. The first sentence has absolutely no cognitive link to the second and yet he says “By that, I mean” trying to link them anyway.
The paragraph goes on to explain what he actually means but again, it’s nonsensical:
“they still put me in that longing, wistful mood”.
Err, what? He’s actually saying that, the AirPods, not the music, put him in a “longing, wistful mood”. Crazy.
Surely, no other headphones could play music and actually make you hear/feel it… No. Only the AirPods.
“AirPods… the only earphones that make you hear feel music.” See, we have another slogan.
And he plays again with the use of feeling-enhanced words. Were you in a longing wistful mood (even just a little bit) yourself when reading his words?
See, I told you: “every trick in the book”.
Ok, I think that’s enough to get my point across. I could write an entire book about his review if I wanted to go into details and point out every (exaggerated) words he wrote or explain every techniques he uses.
But I think more than a more than 4300 words blog post on a less than 1500 word “article” is enough, don’t you think?
I just hope that even if you disagree with 90% of this blog post, even if you find half of it to be utterly ridiculous… At least some of it had you thinking. That’s the reason why I mostly only write long blog posts… And only once every week or 2 weeks (can’t write posts that long every day, right? Plus, I won’t force myself to write –about– something. I need to actually have –hopefully interesting– things to say).
I really try to share the most I can and, often using an article or review as a starting point, write about (tech) topics that can have a direct impact in your everyday life, that you don’t hear or read much about, or with a different take on them… a more annoyed or cynical one. 😀
It sometimes, like now, prevents me to write my books as quickly as I’d like. But it’s a choice.
Until next time.