This is a story of how Apple’s wireless airpods have made my life worse even though I am not even a customer.

As is true for many software teams today, ours is a mixture of people from multiple cultures and backgrounds. Along with all the bonuses this brings, there is also the small inconvenience of varying accents.

I consider my accent-understanding skills to be decent. I can make sense of all but the most extreme ones. And I like to think mine is at least intelligible to most others.

Face-to-face conversations in person are rare, since our team is highly distributed across geographies and timezones. We use Google Meet and Slack huddles to converse with each other. Both of these tools’ audio quality is excellent (although Google Meet’s screen sharing quality leaves a lot to be desired).

Everybody’s voice comes out crystal clear, even when network connections are not the best.

In recent times, I’ve started noticing something. Some people’s voice seems to be extremely low fidelity. It sounds like they are on the other side of a kiddie walkie-talkie, operating at the limit of its range. Coupled with my inability to comprehend all accents equally, it gets really hard to follow what’s being said.

I was puzzled, because the same meeting would have everybody loud and clear, and a couple of people muffled and quiet and generally low-quality. Over the last few months I’ve figured it out.

Everybody who sounds muffled is using an Apple airpod. That’s it. The mic on this fancy device is worse than on children’s toys from the 90s.

So whoever is reading this, if you’re using an airpod, please don’t use it in meetings. It will help you get your point across much more clearly if you ditch the low quality mics that are built into the contraption.

Thanks for tuning into my Apple rant of the week.