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Apple AirPods 3 need to ditch the stems — here’s why

Apple AirPods need to ditch the stem — here’s why
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I hope the Apple AirPods 3 or Apple AirPods Pro 2 don’t have stems. But I know the rumored next-generation versions of Apple’s earbuds probably won’t ditch the product’s iconic design element, especially not for a minor — and very “me” — inconvenience.

I’ve had my ears pierced since the third grade, and through waves of different styles of earrings regularly. Right now, I’m wearing simple pearl studs after being gifted a pair a few weeks ago. But as long as I want to keep my lobes adorned, I might need to avoid Apple AirPods, some of the best wireless earbuds around.

Sitting at a desk most of the day, I didn’t realize the stems of my AirPods Pro graze the top of my ear candy. But as I shuffled around my apartment I noticed a clicking noise. I can’t say it bothered me enough to investigate.

However, when I kept in my AirPods Pro while continuing a phone call on a short walk to the pharmacy, the person on the other end asked if I were using a typewriter.

I couldn’t hear the severity of the rhythmic clacking my call mate complained about, but I could certainly feel it — the light tapping of my earbud stem against my earring. Perhaps “rattling” is a better way to explain the sensation. I twisted the bud to orient more horizontally than I usually wear AirPods Pro so the stem wouldn’t come near my jewelry. 

Promising to call my friend back later while stationary in a quiet apartment, I continued my walk, but the adjustment I made didn’t last. Before I got back home, the stems once again made contact with my earrings.

Look, I’ve preached about breaking up with wireless earbuds entirely for almost a year. Plenty of the best headphones don't have stems (or fall out of my ears while I'm running,) but the convenience of AirPods is hard to beat. 

Between the effortless pairing via H1, good battery life and exceptional portability, I'm still attracted to AirPods after testing alternatives like the PowerBeats Pro and Jabra Elite Active 75t. I wear Apple AirPods Max when I can, but those are hard to tote around. Yes, even with the case that turns the headband into a carrying handle.

I wish Apple would make a pair of AirPods just as reliable as the rest, that fit in my pocket and don't have stems. And I might not be the only person who has this request. I found a Reddit thread and a MacRumors support forum where users discuss suffering my same issue.

One respondent who probably doesn't wear earrings suggested taking off earrings when you wear AirPods. Hello? My style reputation is already fragile enough from nearly two years of working from home in sweatpants. So If the AirPods holds on to its stems, I guess I'll need these earrings from Amazon that hold AirPods in place.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is a senior writer at Tom’s Guide covering wearables, TVs and everything smart-home related. When she’s not in cyborg mode, you can find her on an exercise bike or channeling her inner celebrity chef. She and her robot army will rule the world one day, but until then, reach her at kate.kozuch@futurenet.com.