When there is a discount on offer and you know nothing about the product you want to buy, you need to step up. A decision has to be made quickly, but it cannot be made lightly. This is my story of one such decision. I hope it helps you in your time of need.
7th February, 2022
After months of blaming my sloppy form during Pamela Reif's intense ab workouts on my neolithic wired bluetooth earphones—whose endless stuffing in and out of sports bras is evidence enough of their burden on civilization and the need for the earpods segment—I decided it was time to stop being stingy and invest in a pair myself.
Immediately I typed 'bose soundsport' into Amazon's overburdened grey search bar. My eyes lit up at the Rs 13,760 number next to a scratched out Rs 18,990 — a limited time deal. Upon going to the detail page, however, excitement turned into consternation as I noticed I had only 1h 34m to order if I wanted to claim the discount.
Having always thought that I'd have made it in life if I could thoughtlessly buy earphones that cost tens of thousands of rupees, I was willing to suffer the illusion that I had, in fact, made it in life (if only to scour the materialistic world for new benchmarks of ‘making it in life’ in an hour).
I’d use a new, coveted (by me) job opportunity as an excuse. I wasn’t sure how to connect potentially better workouts with improved job performance, but such important matters would have to wait until after the purchase.
I had only 1h 12m left.
For ages, marketers have targeted consumers at new life stages. At such inflection points, ranging from personal milestones (e.g. graduating or getting married) to cultural moments (e.g. a global pandemic), consumers are filled with insecurity and/or the desire to do better in life’s new chapter.
Deciding how to decide
The Bose SoundSport offered 5 hours of playback with each charge, much lower than my current Sony WI-C200 at 15 hours. But the SoundSport also offered "an additional 10 hours of playback time with the included charging case", which confused me. (How could something that held 5 hours per charge hold 10 hours? Would I have to listen while the earpods were hooked to the charging case? Were these even Bluetooth then?!) After a few minutes of solemn contemplation, I realised this meant that the charging case, when fully charged itself, could impart 10-hours worth of charge to the earpods, which could hold only 5-hours at once.
Unfortunately, although my current earphones were higher on charge-capacity, they weren’t immune to sweat and water. If you're wondering how I could possibly sweat so much for this to be a major criterion of evaluation, behold this timelapse video of me working out. You’d agree I need sweat-proof earphones, right?
Perhaps more objectively, also consider that the SoundSport has an IPX4 rating, which is a measure of water-resistance (the two digits after IP, which stands for “Ingress Protection”, refers to the level of resistance against solids and water repsectively). Bose need not have invested in this unless it was a real concern and point of differentiation.
There is also the question of overall-sound-and-listening-experience, for which Bose has an impeccable reputation. Back in a dark, crowded hostel room, I remember Starboy by The Weeknd emanating from somebody's Bose SoundLink speakers. I thought to myself, drowning out the chatter around me, that the music was high-quality-if-not-as-loud-as-with-cheaper-speakers, perhaps in the same way that a Lindt Dark Chocolate is less chocolate-y but superior (for some) to a ten-rupee Munch. I’m not an audiophile/snob (this is as technical as the language in this piece gets when it comes to uSeR pErSonA), and since I would not be able to differentiate one kind of bassy/trebly device versus another as better, I’d expect that whatever I buy that satisfies the above requirements would also have great listening experience.
With this basic list of parameters in mind to evaluate sports earpods — charge capacity (individually and with case), sweatproof-ness, music experience, price, and brand — I set out compare the Bose SoundSport with its competitors. While appearance and colour were important to me after I'd narrowed down on a device, they were not decision-making variables in themselves.
Making the decision
Perhaps most crucial to my purchase decision was the ticking clock. I had 38m left now. The deal had planted in me an impulse to buy something TODAY, which meant I was going to order some pair of earpods within the hour and obtain them the next day. This not only constrained my research but also my willingness to consider brands and names I'd never heard of.
I modified the search to 'sports wireless earphones' and scanned the first page of results. My unwritten lower price limit ruled out some of the products on it, from worthy contenders like boAt, Boult, pTron, and other D2C brands with one strategically placed capital letter in their names. These players and their entry-level products are driving the astonishing growth of the $0.3bn True Wireless Stereo (TWS) market segment in India, which grew 92% in Q3’21, even as the rest of the world lagged in anticipation of the upcoming Airpods. (Airpods occupy 63% of the premium segment within TWS (pairs priced Rs 5,000 and above), but I didn’t consider them because I don’t have an iPhone (because the two I owned previously met unfortunate ends). I also didn’t consider the entry-level products of boAt and Boult because I’d already tried them; they stopped working within a few months, sadly, causing all the upgrades and this entire story).
Realizing thus that the first few pages may not be relevant, and also that reversing the sort on Price from High to Low would be equally unhelpful, I modified the filters on the left to choose only the brands I knew I could count on. On the way up, Jabra's sponsored brand slot caught my eye.
I opened up a new tab for the Jabra Elite Active 65t, and also filtered Sony and Jabra from the names on the side (I missed seeing Sennheiser on the list, and I'd once had a bad experience with JBL, whose expensive Charge3 came with a battery that died in fourteen months.)
Now, in case you're wondering what it is with me and these earphones and speakers that stop working, and whether I should be asking myself questions like Do I use them too much?, Do I use them wrongly?, Am I a good human being? etc., here is my comprehensive rebuttal:
- I listen to a decent amount of music. My Spotify Wrapped said I’d spent 48K minutes on the app, much higher than my top two—okay, whatever, my only—friends at 31K and 19K.
- What is using them ‘wrongly’? Do I drop them? No, I do not drop earphones so much as lose them entirely; I have probably lost ten pairs in my life. Do I drop speakers too much? No more than the average person, I’m sure. Even if I were wrong in my self-assessment and belonged to the topmost percentile of speaker-droppers, I'd best not return to brands that couldn't handle it.
- Am I a good human being? Look, as I've said multiple times to anyone whose ears have twitched in my direction, there is no objective 'good' and 'bad', okay? We've got to stop holding ourselves to cooked-up moral codes, accept that they were invented so we could all live together and sell things to each other. We play along so that we can hold jobs and conversations and appear sane. I deem as ‘good’ doing whatever makes you happy and be more yourself. Before you angrily close this tab, may I point you to a new article I’m working on, an expansion of this line of thought? Signup to get my deeply philosophical and possibly infuriating views in your inbox. ✨ CTA✨
More pertinently, I was beginning to settle on the Jabra Elite Active 65t, what with its promising title: “Jabra Elite Active 65t Alexa Enabled True Wireless in Ear Sports Earbuds with Mic, 15 Hours Battery, Titanium Black, Designed in Denmark”
It was a fraction of SoundSport's cost at Rs 5,999 — not as big an indulgence as I was okay with, but big enough to make me realize I didn’t want pour money on something I could get for cheaper. Elite Active 65t also came with a two-year warranty against water and dust, which suddenly sounded necessary, considering my history. It would also pause if I took the left earbud out, and resume if I put it back on in under 60 seconds. This seemed incredibly useful, living as I was then at home: every time my mother entered my room, I'd have to pause what I was listening to, unhook my earphones, and ask "What?" to a by-then also irritated person repeating herself.
I skimmed down the page to its reviews, dismayed to see a rather low 3.6/5 stars over 2,000+ reviews. SoundSport was a 3.8/5 stars, but a quick look at the negative reviews on both revealed a pattern: everyone seemed to be complaining about the same things, trashing the audio or bluetooth, how they just didn't expect this from Jabra/Bose/Amazon, and how their festive seasons had been ruined. I wondered if this was just a phenomenon with earphones as a product, with people wanting to have high standards only to be let down so as to appear haughty on Amazon reviews. I quickly checked my current earphone's ratings. My Sony WI-C200 also had a 3.8/5, even though I loved it bluetooth-, sound-, and battery-wise. I decided to ignore Amazon's reviews for this decision.
With only 12m now left to the Bose deal, I quickly went back to the Sony-and-Jabra filtered page, opening only one more link: the Sony WF-XB700, which was available for ~Rs 8k. This table below is what I ended up with a mental image of.
All things considered, I decided to go for the cheapest of the lot—still expensive—but also with the best features. I was getting the highest water protection, more charge than I’d need for the average workout (1 hour), and the feeling of treating myself to something — even though I didn’t have to make this decision as urgently as I did at all, not having claimed that Bose discount.
Now, my life has changed. This is the before-and-after of me on the job with new earpods.
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