cost-benefit ratios

Now that Apple has announced its next-generation AirPods, I see that I can get a charging pad that will charge the charging case that will charge the earbuds that allow me to play audio on my phone.

It seems to me that we’ve reached a point in consumer electronics at which the cost/benefit ratios are all out of whack. Indeed it is convenient to have wireless earbuds — or it would be if the number of devices that need charging weren’t proliferating. Moreover, the battery life of the AirPods is continually declining, something that can be “fixed” only by buying another set of AirPods. I don’t like the tradeoffs here. When I use my wired earbuds, it’s true that I have to deal with the wire, but it’s also true that they always work. They work on a wide range of devices, and they don’t decline in usability over time. (Though by eliminating the headphone jack from their phones Apple has made it more difficult for people to have one set of [wired] headphones to use in every situation. Which I think is an asshole move.)

Or consider wireless charging of phones: It sounds cool, but because the charging is so slow experts recommend that you keep a wired charger around for when you’re in a hurry. Or, alternatively, you could just not buy a wireless charger and accept the additional eight-tenths of a second it takes to plug your phone into a cord.

A similar logic applies to the “smart home”: when I finally thought about the amount of time that I have spent trying to get smart lightbulbs to work, and then trying to get them up and running again after a power outage, I realized that the infinitesimal savings of time and energy they provided made them a net drain on my life. Get up and flip a switch on the wall! It’s not hard!

And now I’m reading about people who are struggling with the inability to reboot their shoes. It’s not that these products don’t offer benefits, but that the benefits are tiny in comparison to the investment of time/energy/money that you have to make in order to get them and keep them working. I think I’l continue to opt out of most of them.