Grime in Your AirPod Case

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

Yesterday I asked Twitter to give me something I never thought I'd ask for: pictures of their earwax.

Well, not quite. I asked for anyone who had wireless headphones if they would send me a picture of their headphones, the case they live in, where they carry them (pocket, bag, etc.), and how long they've owned them. It was an odd request, I'll admit, but the response was great! Here's what I learned.

First and foremost, my followers are not exactly an accurate cross section of the world, or even the US, because basically everyone who responded had AirPods. I know AirPods are doing well, but there is not way they're 90% of the wireless market.

As such, this turned more into a referendum on AirPods than anything else. And what I saw are people having mostly the same experience as me: the white AirPods case collects lint and the like from pockets, which can lead to a less-than-beautiful case.

I personally have one of the cleaner ones, and my cleaning ritual with them is simply to wipe it off quickly with my finger when I'm putting the earbuds back in the case1. I've never taken a cloth or a Q-tip to them, but others have said they've used those to clean them. Others just don't clean them anymore because they know it will get grimy again.

If I were at Apple and had to make AirPods 2 for this fall, I'd be looking at introducing another color for them. People have suggested jet black as a good option, and I would agree that would work pretty well. Even if the case got as dirty as it does today, it would not be as noticible as it is on the pure white case we have right now. There's a reason people don't make white house keys or white wallets.

On the other hand through, white earbuds are iconic for Apple and they likely don't want to give that up. Adding a second SKU with a difference color for people who are bothered by this (or just like black accessories) would make more sense. There was very little anger in my replies from people who thought the case was awful because it could collect some dirt. Most people were just fine with the case, and there was more concern over the nicks and scratches the plastic case could get when in a pocket with keys banging against it all the time. We’re not going to make an AirPods case out of metal, so that just may be a reality of these cases for years2.

There’s totally room for improvement in the AirPods and their case. I personally think the case is one of the major parts of AirPods that makes them so damn good, and the fact that they are pure white and collect dust is a frustration, not a dealbreaker. I believe changing the color would help some, and maybe they could do something with the seal the case makes when closed to try and prevent more stuff from getting in. Either way, Apple hopefully is looking for ways to make this case even better for the next model. AirPods are great, and their case is great as well, but even if it’s a vocal minority, Apple should be making their products as good as they can for the most people possible.

  1. I don’t do this every time, but maybe once a week or so. 
  2. Unless there is some much harder plastic Apple can use at scale with these things. I honestly have no idea.