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Apple EarPods (USB-C) review

EarPods make their return, this time with USB-C.
By

Published onDecember 15, 2023

A hand holding the Apple EarPods in their fingertips.
Adam Birney / SoundGuys

Now that Apple has released iPhones with USB-C connections instead of Lightning connectors, what happens to the cheap wired EarPods? Enter the Apple EarPods (USB-C), Apple’s first USB-C wired audio product. Geared towards the kind of folks that really only need something to play back audio on the cheap, Apple’s EarPods aren’t going to make you forget about the best earbuds out there. But that’s not what they’re for. Let’s take a listen.

Apple EarPods (USB-C) review: At a glance

  • What is it? The Apple EarPods (USB-C) are an addition to Apple's line of cheap earbuds designed to be compatible with the latest USB-C iPhones.
  • What is the price? The Apple EarPods (USB-C) are available for $19.
  • Where can you buy it? The Apple EarPods (USB-C) are available to buy on Apple.com, and many big-box stores.
  • How did we test it? "We tested the Apple EarPods (USB-C) for 3 days. The review unit was purchased by SoundGuys.
  • Is it worth it? If cheap earphones are all you want, sure — but they don't work with all phones, and they aren't going to make you forget better headphones.

What I like about the Apple EarPods (USB-C)

The Apple EarPods sitting atop a piece of dark-grained wood.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
The Apple EarPods look identical to every other generation of EarPods, they just have USB-C this time.

Well, they’re cheap. This kind of product exists mainly to satisfy those who don’t want anything fancy, just what they’re used to using. With the release of the new iPhones with USB-C connections, a new model of EarPods had to be released.

To the Apple EarPods (USB-C)’s credit, they don’t do anything to change the formula that Apple users have been used to for over a decade now. The Apple EarPods (USB-C) are very similar in shape to the 2nd generation of AirPods, with an ovoid opening at the end of a rather round, hard plastic earbud. Controls are limited to the remote found in-line with the cable, including a volume rocker and multifunction button — but there really doesn’t need to be anything more complicated than this.

Back when earbuds used to come with your phone, they often looked a lot like the Apple EarPods (USB-C) — in fact, the current EarPods look virtually identical to the ones released in 2012. There really aren’t any new features or upsides to go over here, outside of the fact that the USB-C connection means you can use the EarPods with non-Apple sources again. There’s no app, no spatial audio — nothing. Just plug and play audio. Sometimes you just need a cheap thing that does what you ask of it.

What I don’t like about the Apple EarPods (USB-C)

Apple EarPods (USB-C) sit atop dark wood, with a focus on the controls.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
The control brick is as basic as it gets.

Because the Apple EarPods (USB-C) is a set of hyper-cheap earbuds, it’s hard to be honest without being unfair to them. However, these are not the earbuds to get if you care about sound quality, mic quality, fit, comfort, features, or… really anything but “cheap earbuds.” You will notice a distinct lack of bass, a lot of noise leaking through to your ears, and many songs will have weak vocals, as well. Despite the fact that Apple makes the EarPods (USB-C), they’re nothing like AirPods.

We often take a dim view of earbuds that don’t block out much outside noise, and we do here as well. Because there’s no ear tip or other grippy material meant to hold the buds in place, many people will have fit issues with these. If you were hoping to listen to your tunes at a lower volume (or prevent people nearby from hearing what you’re listening to), these are not the kind of product to buy. These earbuds aren’t designed to seal to your ear, so you’re signing up for all the problems that come with that.

We also don’t recommend the Apple EarPods (USB-C) for working out, as the poor fit and cables will create many opportunities for the earbuds to rocket out of your ears. Something may snag the wire, or the naturally slippery buds could just pop out on their own. You’ll have better luck with earbuds that actually seal to the ear for this activity.

USB-C audio is frustrating in that not every phone supports all USB-C earbuds.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
Beware: these earbuds won’t work on every phone.

There’s also the issue of whether or not the Apple EarPods (USB-C) will even work with your phone at all. Just like the old HTC, Huawei, and Google earbuds, the Apple EarPods (USB-C) don’t work with all other phones. It’s not immediately clear why, but we were unable to get the earbuds to work with Asus phones, but Samsung devices were okay. It’s a frustrating reality of cheap USB-C earbuds.

Apple EarPods (USB-C) specs

Apple EarPods (USB-C)
Size
ear pads/ ear tips in mm
Weight
In grams
Connection
USB-C only
Controls
Button
Noise Cancelling
No
IP Certification
None
Battery life
N/A
Fast charging
N/A
Wireless charging
N/A
Connector
USB-C
Price
$19

Should you buy the Apple EarPods (USB-C)?

Apple EarPods (USB-C) plugged into a blue iPhone on a wooden table next to a copper 3D printed Dragon and a wooden cutout of a boat.
Adam Birney / SoundGuys
No seal on your ear means no isolation, poor sound quality in the presence of outside noise.

If you’re merely looking for earbuds that work with your new iPhone, and you’re not picky about how good they are: the Apple EarPods (USB-C) is a great way to save money while you save for something else. They’re cheap earbuds that may end up in your junk drawer, but they work and cost less than $20.

...you could pick up the Apple USB-C to 3.5mm dongle for about $10, and then use any old earbuds you have lying about instead.

Alternatives to this are going to be few and far between at this price point, but there are a few strategies to keep your purchase price low. For example, you could pick up the Apple USB-C to 3.5mm dongle ($8.48 at Amazon) for about $10, and then use any old earbuds you have lying about instead. If you simply want wired earbuds instead of wireless earbuds, you may find that using the dongle is a great way to protect the cable from breaking, allowing you to shell out a little more cash for something like the Moondrop Chu II ($18.99 at Amazon).

I will also point out that just because your budget is low, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look at wireless options either. For example, the JLab Go Air Pop ($24 at Amazon) or JLab JBuds Mini ($39.99 at Amazon) are below $40, and have none of the major shortcomings of the Apple EarPods (USB-C).

Apple EarPods (USB-C)Apple EarPods (USB-C)
Apple EarPods (USB-C)
Superior comfort • High-quality audio • Built-in remote
MSRP: $19.00

Apple EarPods (USB-C) review: FAQs

The Apple EarPods (USB-C) have a USB-C connection because Apple was forced to make the switch to the connector by a changing regulatory landscape. To meet the needs of its users, USB-C peripherals were required. However, Apple’s USB-C peripherals aren’t made to be compatible with all other phones, so the Apple EarPods (USB-C) may not work with your device.

No.

No.

Yes.

Sometimes. It seems as though the Apple EarPods (USB-C) won’t work with all phones. For example, they work with Samsung phones fairly reliably, but the Asus Zenfone 10 is not compatible with the Apple EarPods (USB-C).

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