Will.i.am's wireless earphones beat Apple's AirPods
The musician who remixed his legal name, William Adams, en route to co-founding the Black Eyes Peas and winning seven Grammys has released a set of wireless headphones.
Will.i.am's tech company, I.am+, Buttons (tagline: "Bluetooth earphones for the dope").
Each set of Buttons features two earpieces backed by metallic circles. The earpieces are connected to each other by a woven fabric cord and to your playlist by an 11-millimetre driver unit.
They harken back to his one unqualified success as a tech entrepreneur; Will.i.am was, with Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, an equity partner in Beats Electronics, quiet but influential.
In fact, not only has he launched an earphone brand before - he's launched a wireless earphone brand already.
In 2016 he tried a similar project in the spring with EPs, which were greeted with the immediate derision of the tech press (which has grown weary of chortling at Will.i.am+'s failures) and the near-total uninterest of the public.
"The headphones that we had before, the EPs, were an accessory to our wearable phone," he said.
He went on to tick through the upgrades to the originals that are supposed to justify Buttons' US$230 price tag - the adjustable earpads, the amped-up battery life, the magnetic discs that shimmer like swanky tribal earplates.
In his press presentation, he didn't mention the indefinite delay of Apple's AirPods or the negative popular response to their design-two facts that will likely help Buttons' commercial prospects.
That's pretty much the only thing he left unsaid as the evening drew on.
Will.i.am discussed the scheduled January debut of Gucci-designed Buttons and he offered some rather vague talk about the very concrete pending launch of I.am+'s AI system, a digital assistant named AneedA.
ARE THE BUTTONS ANY GOOD?
In the days after, I used a demo set of Buttons to listen to my recording of the interview during my commute.
The set up was easy. Keeping the things tucked behind my tragus was hard - until I discovered my correct size among the package's cornucopia of replacement earpads.
They were, in fact, so secure that the cord draped across the nape of my neck was most useful when I need to fish the things out of my bag.
To test sound quality, I played the two musical acts called out in an accompanying glossy booklet: The drone and rocking lilt of Stereolab came through loud and clear, while Drake sounded, as usual, totally adequate.
To test visual quality, I walked around New York, where I attracted glances that combined admiration and curiosity in somewhat the way I.am+ aims to combine fashion and technology.