Apple quietly updates In-Ear Headphones

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    Revised: The plug on Apple's In-Ear Headphones now comes with a hard-plastic cap, instead of a rubber one.
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Remember these? The $80 Apple earbuds "engineered for superior acoustic accuracy, balance, and clarity," whose built-in volume control didn't work with the then-current iPhone 3G?

Looks like sometime in the recent past Apple changed their design, swapping out the rubber 3.5 mm plug-surround for a hard plastic one that closely resembles the company's Mag-Safe notebook power adapter.

What's the big whoop?

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These are the headphones that were roundly beaten around for their problems – from their easy-to-lose silicon ear tips (and Apple reportedly doesn't sell replacements) to their incompatibility with the iPhone 3G, to their easily-unglued rubber cord sleeves (the issue responsible for this writer's complimentary Apple Retail Store replacement).

Other reviews on Apple's product page for these – there are 876 as of this writing – complain of their lack of bass response (Apple sez: make a good seal), poor performance in cold weather, and wind noise transmitted through the cable. And don't forget that though these were unveiled at a September 2008 Apple event with a promised ship date of mid-November, they weren't available until almost a month later.

These were also the buds that launched numerous Apple support discussions because of their unnerving tendency to transfer static electricity from the air into people's eardrums (yow! – Apple's response: avoid very dry environments, stay grounded.)

With the new plastic hardware, has the company changed anything else to address complaints about this much-maligned product?

Asked for comment on the design change Monday, Apple has yet to respond.

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