I've tested dozens of products this year and if I had to pick my favorite the Apollo 7 wireless Bluetooth earphones would definitely be in the running. Here are the ways Erato--the company which makes them--nailed the device's design.
1. It solves a consumer problem.
When it comes to earbuds, the cord is the problem. If you ever set your phone on the water bottle ledge of a treadmill and tried running, there's a good chance your swinging arms will snag the cord and your phone will go flying. Or, if you run in the wind the cords can awkwardly get pushed to one side of your body. While Erato isn't the only company working on wireless earbuds, it is one of a few in production.
2. The functionality offers an element of surprise.
In other words, in using the product a consumer stumbles upon a feature he or she wasn't expecting, but really loves. In the case of the Apollo 7 it's enough for me to lose the cords. But two functions especially surprised and impressed me. First, the ability to skip Spotify tracks with a two-second push on one of the earbuds is wonderful. (Who wants to tap around on a phone during a run?) But even more remarkable: Phone calls actually work. Even though the built-in microphone sits in a wearer's ear, the people I had phone conversations with heard me just fine, and vice versa.
3. The designers thought of something new.
Sort of like a power bank, the charge case can charge the earbuds without being plugged in. Once the case is charged it can fully recharge the earbuds twice.
4. The packaging makes a good first impression.
Before a consumer actually uses a product, he or she interacts with the packaging which should communicate something, whether it's a sense of being high tech, elitist, easy to use or whatever makes sense for a particular brand. Apollo 7 comes in a small gold box with a magnetic closure and an interior lined with a black satin pillow. To me, it comes off as streamlined and high quality--both true of the product inside. Using the compact earbuds is straightforward and mostly involves clicking a small button on each device.
5. The consumer has choices.
There's something about the ability to choose a color which makes a product seem more individualized to a buyer. Just like Apple offers several classy color options for its devices, Erato lets buyers choose between colors designed to match smartphones or tablets: Silver, gold and rose gold. A limited edition version in black, exclusive to the company's Kickstarter campaign, is also available.
Speaking of Kickstarter, it's where you can currently preorder Apollo 7 at a slight discount--at least for the next week and a half. Following the Kickstarter launch, the earbuds will retail for $299 with shipping slated for June 2016.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.
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