iHeard it not: Non-Apple iPhone headphones don't work with the iPhone

A trip to the gym reveals another unfortunate iPhone element.

Being brave, I finally took my iPhone to the gym to listen to it while I worked out. No fear of dropping it could stop me now. Usually, I have an8-gig iPod Nano with me. For a workout, I don't usually use the headphones that come with the iPod, since they: (1) fall out of my ears; (2) don't have enough bass to motivate me to run/erg/push that extra mile out; and, (3) let's face it: the standard-issue iPod earphone sound quality, well, just sucks.

To alleviate this unfortunate state of affairs, instead of the standard-issue headphones, I use the Koss Porta Proheadphones. They're light, and the fidelity, bass and overall sound quality is pretty good and true--this includes pop, rock and hip-hop as well as classical and jazz. Likewise, on an airplane, I use theBose Quiet Comfort 2 headphones. I'm a stickler for sound and/or serenity (no, not the "serenity now" deal from Seinfeld, but those headphones save my ears as well as my iPod's battery).

Anyway, back to the gym. I was getting all ready to do a long bike machine set. I adjusted the seat and the pedals, put my Koss headphones and got ready to work out. I had already synced and queued up my workout mix. The mix started with an up-tempo Jamiroquai song ("Don't Give Hate a Chance"). I started my pedaling--only 30 minutes ahead of me, I thought--but then I noticed that every few seconds, there was a popping noise in my headphones. Well, it was three pops in a row, to be absolutely precise. "Pop, pop, pop," it went. I unplugged the headphone cord and the music started to play over the iPhone's speakers. No popping to be heard.

I was perturbed. Did I short out my headphones? It wasn't the track itself. I thought to myself: What gives?

So, being prepared, I got out my Nano (a just-in-case measure in the event of drop-the-iPhone paranoia some can get) and pulled up the same song and plugged in the same Koss headphones into my Nano: no problem, no pops. I did the reverse experiment and plugged in the standard-issue iPhone earphones and, of course, no popping noises.

Later, I tried a similar experiment with my JBL On Time sound dock and got the same result: "Pop, pop, pop."

On closer inspection and through further guesswork I looked at the iPhone's headphone plug and noticed that it was three lines. One for the left channel, one for the right and ah, the microphone! So, that must be it, right? I still have no idea.

But as for the JBL sound dock, which connects with the iPod/iPhone at the bottom? This I'm not so sure about.

Well, at least I have other iPods that I can use my good headphones with, but that seems like a less-than-ideal solution.

That said, I do note that it's kind of cool to have conversations on the iPhone with its earphones because you feel completely enveloped by the other person's voice. Which, depending on who you're talking with, can be a very good thing (imagine your sweetie), or a very bad thing (imagine your boss).

About the author

    Kevin Ho is an attorney living in San Francisco. He's from Iowa originally where he got his first Atari computer when he was little and remembers using the Apple IIGS. He is PC-user but secretly a Mac person in the closet as evidenced by many an iPod cluttering his desk drawers. He'll be writing about his experience with the iPhone. Disclosure.

     

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