In the days after Apple announced its wireless AirPods in 2016, comedian Conan O’Brien suspected their smooth surface and one-size-fits-all design might result in the earbuds slipping out from time to time — a potentially costly accident considering their $200 price tag.
Turns out he was right. New York City’s Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) is so fed up with disrupting subway services to retrieve dropped AirPods from the tracks that it’s considering creating a public service announcement imploring AirPod owners to be more careful, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Journal said that recent months have seen an uptick in the number of incidents where AirPods have ended up on the tracks, with the increase possibly related to sweaty (and therefore slippery) situations caused by the city’s stifling summer heat.
In the space of a single lunchtime last week, the MTA received 18 requests from subway riders to retrieve items from the tracks — six of them for AirPods.
“They’re tiny, they’re hard to find,” Steven Dluginski, an MTA maintenance supervisor, told the Journal. “Given the darkened tracks where they drop, the only saving grace is that they’re white.”
To gather up dropped items, station staff use a long pole with two rubber cups at the end that function as a grabber. Once returned, the owner must then consider where the AirPod has been and decide if they really want to put it back into their ear. If not, they’ll have to fork out $69 for a replacement.
At the time of their release three years ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook, having used them for a while, said in an interview, “I have never personally had them fall out … I’ve been on treadmills, walking, doing all the things that I normally do.” Presumably he hadn’t then made it to New York City’s subway in the height of summer.
More recently, in Digital Trends’ review of the second-generation AirPods that launched earlier this year, we described them as “pretty secure overall,” adding, “They always feel just shy of falling out.”
If you’ve ever lost an AirPod or two and worry that it might happen again, there’s one surefire way to secure those suckers for good.