Thomas Howard: When we first started thinking about nothing, the idea was to have ‘transparency’. We won’t win the technical race, that’s for sure. But if we want to get a chance, we need to be really good at engineering. So let’s get rid of the facade, get rid of everything on the outside and turn ourselves inwards, because that’s what matters.
From a distance, you’ll be interesting but things seem fairly simple, and then slowly you start looking at the surface, at the same time as the product details reveal themselves. But, again, we didn’t really know what kind of problems transparency would cause.
TH: The biggest thing was that the two sides of the transparent housing blended together. To find the right balance, we’ve done many, many, many repetitions – even up to last week. If you do wrong, you will see glue around the edges. So it will no longer look transparent. Instead it will be scattered. It throws the whole thing out of balance.
We tried alternatives to glue, different types of laser welding, ultrasonic welding – things that may be more convenient to yield, but, of course, it is a learning process for us. It just wasn’t at the top of our minds [when we started], But for future products it is now the first thing we think about.
Carl Pei: The yield rate for the 1st year is only 50 percent. We want to get it in the 90s. We are improving day by day.
That’s why you didn’t choose earbuds or case to be perfectly clear? Is it just too hard and you get such a high product failure rate?
TH: On Year 1 and the case we have challenged to disclose as much engineering as possible. But you have to try to make products that are as neutral as possible. You need to be balanced and you don’t have to scream “engineering”. So we choose to package or blur some components so as not to be blocked or distracted. That’s why we have this big white barrier inside this case. But we did our best to make it transparent.
CP: The technology of many of our customers seemed increasingly similar. It was important to find the language of design with which we could stick. Jasper [Kouthoofd, founder and CEO of Teenage Engineering] He showed us a picture of the Sony Museum where there was a bunch of products on the wall. You will be able to see consistent vision. Companies today don’t really have a design vision, they do everything they can in fashion every quarter.
The trick is to find something different that is desirable, but not just for the sake of it. Pure transparent design, wherever you look Everything Even on earbuds and case it does not meet the criteria. We want to make products accessible to more people. It would be very special if it was completely transparent.
Year 1S vs AirPods Pro
What’s with all those points? Dot logo. Texture points on this case. The red dot on the right earbud.
TH: We’re trying to remove jobs for ourselves that we don’t like. We had to create a logo. We wanted the look to be industrial. So … [Howard pulls out something that looks like a large gun.] This is amazing, this thing. This is what they use to mark pipes in an industrial environment where you cannot print on them. It makes a kind of ink. But it’s basically no matrix. We thought, let the machine create the logo for us. See where that path takes us. Then we started using that kind of stuff for a lot of stuff.