This Apple EarPods concept reimagines the wired earbuds — and we love it

9to5Mac's EarPods concept on a purple background
(Image credit: 9to5Mac)

Apple's latest AirPods 3 are another masterclass in wireless earbuds, but some users would much rather Apple take a more lo-tech approach for a new product. That includes Parker Ortolani and José Adorno of 9to5Mac, who have made a pitch for a revived wired pair of Apple earbuds.

Do you remember the EarPods? The default headphones you used to get with Apple's mobile products? They're still around as a sold-separately accessory, but this concept made by Ortolani and Adorno revitalizes the idea, combining the shape of the AirPods 3 with the braided USB-C to Lightning cable design we saw included with the iMac 2021, with either a traditional white finish or a new black one. It's simple, but oddly compelling.

A mock-up of a store page for 9to5Mac's EarPods concept

(Image credit: 9to5Mac)

While the best wireless earbuds provide high-quality audio without the cables, the design does have its limitations. 

For example, wireless is always going to be more expensive than an equivalent wired design, and relies on a separate battery rather than power drawn from the device you're listening too. The sound quality of the built-in microphones on earbuds pales in comparison to the in-line mics on wired earbuds as well. Plus you can more easily position the wired mic, whereas most wireless earbuds go to sleep the moment you remove them from your ears.

9to5Mac's EarPods concept in black

(Image credit: 9to5Mac)

Ortolani and Adorno mention that this concept of theirs would also offer Apple's Spatial Audio 360-degree sound standard. Spatial Audio is currently only usable on the AirPods 3, the AirPods Pro and the AirPods Max. So adding a new, and much cheaper, compatible product would be an excellent move on Apple's part. 

9to5Mac's EarPods concept

(Image credit: 9to5Mac)

The two writers also imagine that Apple would also sell these earbuds in a 3.5mm jack connector version as well as a Lightning connector version. Offering the 3.5mm jack would allow these EarPods to work with all sorts of devices beyond iPhones, iPods and iPads. And since Apple currently sells EarPods with both ends, it would make sense for it to do the same with a new edition. Arguably a USB-C version would be welcome too, considering certain MacBooks and iPads only offer the oval-shaped port for connectivity.

9to5Mac's EarPods concept, with one bud in white and one in black

(Image credit: 9to5Mac)

There would be little hope of any future EarPods being a bundled item with other products. Apple removed the included EarPods, and more prominently the charging brick, from its iPhone boxes with the iPhone 12. It's a trend that more and more companies are adopting, so we don't see Apple reversing course, were it to update the EarPods.

Another important rumor to keep in mind when daydreaming of new EarPods is that Apple is supposed to be moving to a portless iPhone in just a couple of generations' time. With MagSafe charging, AirPods audio and AirDrop data transfer all well established, Apple is well prepared for the move to all-wireless iPhones. So as much as we'd love to see Apple possibly start a new trend for up-to-date wired earbuds, it seems like a long shot.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.