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With transparent casing and screen, wireless earbuds are trying different design ideas

Technology in sound cans is improving on top end of spectrum but anything below 3K mark is just ordinary

Mathures Paul Published 27.05.23, 05:32 AM
(Clockwise) Nothing Ear 2; Beats Studio Buds Plus; JBL Tour Pro 2; Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC

(Clockwise) Nothing Ear 2; Beats Studio Buds Plus; JBL Tour Pro 2; Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC

It’s difficult to make wireless earbuds look different. Each small box looks slightly different from the next. The technology in the sound cans is improving on the top end of the spectrum but anything below the 3K mark is just ordinary. Yet, almost all earbuds come with a cliched-looking case.

So why not slap on a screen? Or make it transparent? These are two big trends that are taking over the market. To be fair, the brand Nothing has already taken a lead with its transparent Ear 1 and Ear 2.


Let’s be transparent

The company that has brought back the idea of transparent casing is London-based Nothing. It’s fun. Look at the box closely and you will see the ANC microphones, touch sensors, and a dot. On the side facing the ear, there’s a bit of circuitry, magnets and pins where the earbuds connect to the charging case. After using it for a long time, I haven’t seen dirt enter the earbuds or the box picking up scratches.

Recently, Beats Studio Buds Plus was launched and it looks fantastic. Unlike the transparent casing on Ear 1/Ear 2, this one is translucent. It’s an important difference. Here, you don’t need to worry about fingerprint smudges or hairline scratches showing up on the case over time. Beats has done a fantastic job when it comes to arranging the elements that make the earbuds work. You will notice the magnets beneath their plastic cradle. There is some wiring but everything is neatly arranged. Even though it’s a semitransparent housing, the circular charging status LED shines bright.

All this is taking us back to the days of handheld consoles, especially Gameboy Color. The handheld from 1998 had a transparent purple case, exposing the motherboard and components. And, of course, one can’t forget the brilliant iMac G3 with its colourful transparent shell, allowing owners to peak inside the components.

‘Transparent technology’ is a metaphor for the great things that lie below the surface.

Pack a screen

The second trend is putting a screen on the case that holds the wireless earbuds. The JBL Tour Pro 2 is a great example. There is a colour display that almost matches the size of screens on certain Apple Watches. There is also Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC, which has a slightly smaller screen. Having a screen can be beneficial. It allows you to learn about battery life and some other important functions without having to turn on your phone.

Switching tracks on wireless earbuds is a hassle if you keep changing brands. Apple AirPods has a certain mechanism while Samsung has a different combination.

With the pair of sound cans from JBL, things become easy and you are less likely to bring out the phone. Using the display you can accept calls, see notifications, go through different EQ settings and it helps to have a decent pair of earbuds.

Usually, when you bring out the phone even to change tracks, you end up getting distracted and spend hours on Instagram Reels or YouTube Shorts. What JBL should next look at is allowing you to browse your music library from the screen, taking the experience closer to what was possible with the iPod.

On the Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC, the screen makes it easy to mute yourself during a phone or video call. It’s particularly helpful when you are using the Zoom mobile app.

Needless to say, all the earbuds we have pointed out offer excellent battery life and things like noise cancellation and great fit.

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