Exert from Verge's iPhone 7 review
The Lightning EarPods are exactly like Apple’s regular EarPods, which is to say that they sound average-to-bad and fit either fine or not-great depending on your ears. Competitors like LG and HTC ship much higher quality headphones with their flagship phones, and Apple owns Beats, so it’s just really hard to understand why it’s still shipping such decidedly mediocre headphones with the iPhone. Especially when the company is trying to get everyone to be enthusiastic about the move away from 3.5mm. But here we are.
Of course, the real move Apple’s trying to make is to wireless audio, and the company also gave me a preproduction set of its AirPods wireless earbuds to try out. I can’t fully review them here since they’re not final, but they worked well — they’re basically Bluetooth headphones that pair easier and faster with Apple’s products because of a proprietary controller chip called the W1 and special software built into iOS, macOS, and watchOS. Once you pair the AirPods with one Apple device, they can seamlessly switch to all the others, which is very cool. But AirPods sound just like EarPods because they’re basically EarPods without wires, so what you’re getting for your $159 is convenience and early adopter status, not necessarily sound quality.
That's right. Neither the packed in Lightning EarPods or the new AirPods (preproduction) sound any better than the old 3.5mm EarPods. I hope everyone understands what this means. Apple took away our headphone jacks without giving us anything new. Anything better. Apple loves to discuss trade offs when talking about design and when they made decisions to remove technology from products, but there was no real "trade" made here.
We get clunky adapters, headphones that will be more expensive due to having to licence Apple's proprietary Lightning standard and a line of Bluetooth 4.0 headphones from Apple and Beats that will pair to devices a little easier due to the W1 chip.
I keep asking. What's the benefit? What do we users receive in this trade? Nothing. All those "benefits" listed above will work just fine on older iPhone models. It's a joke.
As Nilay goes on to point out that this whole move would have made much more sense had Apple introduced a new "revolutionary" wireless standard. Something that beats the pants off Bluetooth. Something that users would benefit greatly from in the long run. As it is today, Apple customers just got screwed.