All new iPhone 5 comes with the new EarPods which Apple claims spent 3 years in R&D. It is indeed a radical design, somewhat common sensical, if you ask me, that the speaker driver outlets ought to face towards the ear canal instead of against the ear wall. I am sure many some earphone manufacturers would reference the EarPod, working its way around the patent to avoid any infringement.
The EarPod rests comfortably in my ears and feels next to nothing. There is no rubber lining to grip the EarPods to the ear, so I don’t think it will work well for active activities. The EarPods feel loose and there is a tendency to try to adjust the position in hoping for an optimal listening fit. When I try to push the EarPods further into my ear canals, I can get quite a good balance of bass and clear treble. If I let it rest in my ears, the bass is still audible but does not give the deep feel-good punch. Plus the fact that it’s not in-ear, the bass frequency will definitely be lost among the ambient noise. The treble sound clear though, and definitely better sounding than the predecessors.
Apple claims that the EarPods could match earphones costing hundreds of dollars. Judge for yourself: look for a friend with an iPhone 5 and borrow for a test drive. My take is: you probably will like the sound of it at first go. But once you do a side-by-side comparison with any third party earphones, you will favour the latter.
I like how Apple includes the EarPod case with the iPhone 5 to allow better storage. Chances are, they will remain there throughout your iPhone ownership. Pity the fact that Apple spent 3 years to design a nice pair of earphones only to be bundled with iPhone 5 rather than to be sold separately as premium accessory. Perhaps they knew it wasn’t that good enough as a standalone product. Perhaps they needed a unique feature to talk about for the iPhone 5 launch.