apple-iphone-headset-0608My saga of trying to maintain the functionality and longevity of earbuds plays on. In a previous post, Earbud Blues, I chronicled my failure to find a perfect pair of earbuds. I’ve had to accept the fact that all consumer products have built-in obsolescence. My iPhone is near the end of its life because the current iteration of the operating system contains features that just don’t work on my generation of phone. I’m also at the end of my contract with my wireless provider and I’m getting all these incentives to upgrade to the newest version of the phone.


I’ve been very careful to extend the life of my phone. I bought a hard case to protect it from the inevitable case of dropsies that everyone experiences. I try to limit the number of times I have to take the phone out of my pocket and interact with it physically. Hence, my search for the perfect set of earbuds that allow me to control my phone with external controls. On most electronic purchases I refuse to buy the extended warranty because the manufacturer’s warranty is usually sufficient. By the time the warranty is up it’s time to time to replace the device anyway.


I happily paid for the extended warranty from AppleCare. What I didn’t know at the time was that AppleCarewon’t let you renew the warranty after the two-year term is up. The biggest danger with smart phones and tablets is damage to the screen. Apple has a deductible, about 150, to replace a damaged screen. If it’s not under warranty, the replacement cost is nearly $300. I can get a brand-new upgraded device for about the same amount of money, if it’s subsidized by my carrier.image of AT&T logo

I have been thinking hard and long about how to, if not defeat, at least prolong planned obsolescence of my earbuds. Here are five tips to prolong the life of your earbuds:


1.  Stethoscope mode

I always try to keep them in stethoscope mode; the way doctors hang the stethoscopes around the neck. I do it so the cable never gets tangled.

2. Unplug

If I’m not actively using my earbuds I unplug them from the phone. On a crowded subway or bus, someone, usually with a backpack, hooks the cable and yanks the phone out of my pocket. Thanks to the hard case and, despite my vision, I’m agile enough to grab the phone before it hits the floor. I worry that forcefully yanking the earbud from the phone might damage both the phone connection and the earbuds connector.

3. Wraparound

If you’re in a situation where having the cable draping around your neck is inappropriate, I recommend the wraparound. This is where you wrap the cable around the phone. Obviously, this is not ideal. But it puts much less strain on the cable as opposed to wadding it up and jam it into your pocket. It also eliminates cable tangle.

4. Avoid cable tangle

We’ve all seen it – the person desperately trying to untangle the earbud cable so that they can listen to their music or whatever. I’m convinced that constantly untangling the cable causes a short circuit; which gives earbuds the lifespan of a mayfly.

5. Correct Fit

If you have a set of earbuds with the rubber tips that fit inside your ear, make sure you use the correct ones. Everybody’s ear is different and even your left ear might be slightly different from your right ear. Getting a comfortable snug fit is important because you’ll be able to hear better, you can lower the volume, and they won’t keep popping out at inconvenient times. This is an extreme step but, if like me, you wear your earbuds constantly, it might be worth the expense to see an audiologist and let a professional fit your tips.


Listen up.