Apple scanned hundreds of ears to create the perfect AirPods

By

AirPods Pro settings
Apple created a massive ear database to ensure the perfect AirPod fit.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

To make sure that the AirPods fit as many ears as possible, Apple engineers worked with Stanford University to create a giant database of information about ear dimensions.

That’s according to Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of product marketing, quoted in a new article for Wired, published over the weekend.

“We had done work with Stanford to 3D-scan hundreds of different ears and ear styles and shapes in order to make a design that would work as a one-size solution across a broad set of the population,” Joswiak said in the article, published Saturday. “With AirPods Pro, we took that research further – studied more ears, more ear types. And that enabled us to develop a design that, along with the three different tip sizes, works across an overwhelming percentage of the worldwide population.”

Apple’s ear-fort seems to have paid off

Joswiak doesn’t reveal any more information about the ear study, such as the number of participants involved. (Or whether, at some point, Apple expressly hired an expert in three-dimensional scanning to measure Apple fans’ ears.)

Nonetheless, it’s an interesting anecdote revealing just how much care and attention Apple lavishes on its products. The Wired article suggests that Apple started working on the research “to combat the poor fit and sound bleed” of earlier earbuds.

He also said that Apple’s dream for wireless AirPods started with a typically Apple conceit: Not wanting to sully the iPhone with something as ugly as wires. “We had this incredible wireless product, the iPhone,” he said. “And yet, what began to feel odd is when you saw somebody using wired headphones. Right then you thought, why would you attach the wire?”

The effort seems to have paid off, though. AirPods have been an enormous hit for Apple. This year, they are projected to sell more than 100 million units. They’ve also become one of Apple’s most iconic designs in recent years. Joswiak said that, “it was almost like wildfire how quickly it spread. It’s done even better than we could ever imagine.”