I've got a first generation iPhone. About once a year, like clockwork, the standard Apple iPhone headphones will start to crap-out on me. Audio will flake out in a channel, the clicker will stop answering the phone, and ultimately they'll give up the ghost. The flaking out is an audio-on/audio-off thing, eventually becoming a completely off thing. This is not the schmutz in the iphone problem.

I think I've tracked down the physical defect (but am not a headphone/electrical engineer)

The image above shows two flakey headphone jacks with their protective covering pulled back. It looks like, over time, the plastic covering wears away and exposes the bare wires which, I assume, interferes with the magic that makes the headphone work.

Is there a way to salvage these headphones? How can I keep this from happening to future headphones? Will that happen to all microphone-clicker headphones, or are there's others that will be more resilient? Are there low budget third-party headphones with comparable average audio-quality, a clicker, and will work with a first gen iPhone? I've been wary of trading up lest I'm buying for a new $100 pair of headphones every year (instead of a $30/pair). Is it the design of the iPhone itself that causes this (i.e., something that won't happen with the newer models)

When I'm not using the headphones they get wrapped up in my pocket like this. Is this damaging them? You can also see how the base of the jack casing has split. This is something else that happens to the headphone.

My goal here is to make my headphones last as long as they can.

3 Answers 3


My solution was to get a Shure mic/clicker (about $30-40) and combine it with a pair of sony headphones from amazon. The shure is a really good mic has lasted and lasted and lasted, and the headphones while only $10 sound much better than the apple ones, and when they crap out (about 1.5-2 yrs) are a trivial expense. It's a little more unwieldy than the all in one unit but it's much more durable and cheaper in the long run. I originally did this to get around the nonstandard headphone jack on the 1st gen iphone, but now I stay with it because it's so reliable

  • Does the clicker do the "answer the phone" thing? It's never been clear if that's a bit of apple magic, or some sort of de-facto standard. Commented Mar 29, 2011 at 19:57
  • 1
    @Alan I think it's a de-facto standard. The headphones that came with my Palm Pre would play/pause my iPod touch. (Ironically, they didn't work with the Palm phone they came with.)
    – Cajunluke
    Commented Mar 29, 2011 at 21:22
  • Plus it looks much better to not have the default ugly apple headphone. At least from my taste point of view. But, @Alan, your worrying is very valid. For sure apple's headset's buttons don't work on HTC and Samsung Androids for anything - nor does the HTC phone work on the mac. I've tried all those. Those buttons are not all that standardized.
    – cregox
    Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 15:57

You might want to invest in some rugged earbuds next time. These were very hard to find and took buying one brand of rugged earbuds, having them eaten by my husky (not rugged enough I guess), and Googling for hours thereafter for a better replacement; I didn't like the sound quality of the husky-destroyed set. I've had the problem of sweat (from working out) thrice ruining the Apple brand earbuds and both the above linked sets claim to resist that issue and so far with my experience that's the case. I can personally attest that both sets have a fully functioning iPhone remote and mic.

Also, just a note for regular care of any "corded" electronic (be that earbuds or your MacBooks power adapter) - never tightly coil the cord when prepping it for storage. The cord should be loosely "folded" back and forth creating a bow-tie-like shape. Tight coiling fatigues the cord too quickly. In reference to your photo - I would elongate those folds by double and would not have the tight, middle wrap.


I had my headset from iPhone 3G presenting about the same problems last year (but they didn't looked so destroyed, just stopped working buttons and one side). So I sent them to warranty and got new ones back, after a month or so. I trust it only took a month because I'm in Brazil and things here can be really slow due to a gazillion reasons not only related to bureaucracy and mostly not really apple's fault. That can earn you an extra year of a new working phone, but not more than that since the warranty isn't renewed.

And I agree the phones quality is suboptimal given their cost (converting from current exchange rate, equivalent to U$60 in official stores around here). So, unless you can find the original ones for cheap, it is a good idea to look for alternatives. Just beware the headset buttons don't have only one standard among them so be sure to double check the functionality you desire. On my checklist it has to stop / play / answer / hang up / double-click-next-song both on the iPhone and mac.

In my next headset acquisition, I will take few hours of research on http://ebay.com, http://dealextreme.com, http://google.com/products and local stores to find the best deal.

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