Monday, 11 November 2019 01:32

Why I reluctantly returned my AirPods Pro for a full refund

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I was very excited to buy a set of AirPods Pro, the new noise cancelling in-ear wireless earphones from Apple, and I did just that last week. Sadly, by the end of last week, I returned them to Apple for a full refund.

Despite an incredible number of generally very positive reviews out there, still appearing every day, I sadly had to return mine because they made my ears hurt. 

In one sense, the overwhelming number of positive reviews is unusual, because so many people seem to love to trash Apple (saying its iPad sounded like a period pad when it first launched, or that the original AirPods looked like tampon strings coming out of your ears, for example, among many others), but AirPods Pro reviews are essentially raving about the fit, comfort and sound quality.

Some people say the noise cancelling isn't as good as the over the head noise cancelling headphones from the likes of Bose and Sony, but hey, to fit in your ears (as opposed to over them) and still deliver noise cancelling that people are enjoying is impressive - especially in earbuds that are smaller than Sony's impressive WF-1000XM3 headphones, which, funnily enough, don't hurt my ears. 

So, why did I return mine? In a word, comfort - as noted above, they made a specific part of my ears hurt!

I looked online, and found a small number of people stating the same thing, but then hey, people were saying that about the original AirPods from late 2016 and the AirPods 2 from earlier this year, and yet that was never a problem I had.

Indeed, I still have my AirPods 1 and 2, and have gone back to my AirPods 2, and they're so comfortable it's possible to forget you have them in. They never fall out for me, and they've never made my ears hurt.

Others had the opposite problem - they couldn't get AirPods to stay in, so with the AirPods Pro having silicon tips on the end that provided noise isolation to augment the separate active noise cancellation, those people are overjoyed that they have AirPods Pro that don't fall out.

The thing for me, though, is that no matter which silicon tips I used - small, medium or large, no matter how deeply or lightly I inserted the AirPods Pro, or adjusted them up, down, left or right, after a few minutes I just had this slight dull pain near the entrance of my ear canal. If you look at this picture from Wikipedia, the pain was in between the "antitragus" and "cavum" area on both ears.

I also tried mixing and matching the silicon tips, with the AirPods Pro test app reporting no problems whichever sized tip I used, but no matter what I did, it ended up hurting, so I returned them for a full refund.

The returns process was simple, with the helpful Apple Store person taking a photo of the serial number of the case to match that on the box. To see the serial number yourself, open the lid of the AirPods Pro case and look up: inside the cut-out section which covers the top of the AirPods Pro, you'll see faint grey text and logos there.  

The only thing I was slightly miffed about was that the reason that had to be selected was "buyer's remorse". I wasn't remorseful about buying them at all, indeed, I wanted them, and heck, I still do, if only they didn't hurt - but there was no option for stating that the item in question was causing pain, so maybe this is worth Apple's store execs noting so that the true reason for a return can be entered, rather than the catch-all of "buyer's remorse". 

After all, knowing why someone returned something would give valuable feedback, so maybe Apple will take this on board. 

Anyway, the noise cancelling was great, the transparency mode was great, the new squeezing interface worked well, (although I still like tapping my AirPods 2 to end a call, for example), and I was all set to enjoy an additional 30 minutes of talk time as compared to the AirPods 2 - but I just couldn't find a way to not have them hurt after a few minutes of listening. 

So, that's why I reluctantly returned my AirPods Pro. 

I'm obviously hoping a future AirPods Pro 2 will be slimmer, so I can try them again. I was also disappointed to discover that my ears just aren't compatible, because in every other respect I loved them, but with Apple designing future products well in advance, the only other annoying thing now is that I'll probably need to wait about a year before AirPods Pro 2 become available. 

That said, I have my AirPods 2 from earlier this year, and I'm absolutely loving those, so at least I still get to continue enjoying AirPods as I have since late December 2016.

May Apple continue to work its minituarisation magic so the future AirPods Pro 2 are the pain-free noise cancelling upgrade answer for me, and everyone else that said they had the same problem.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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