If you own AirPods, you know that they’re prone to getting lost. And while their location can be tracked using the Find My iPhone app, the small size of the earbuds themselves means that they can easily end up in hard-to-reach places. And now, New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is apparently getting so tired of retrieving lost AirPods on subway tracks that it may issue an official warning to commuters.
More specifically, the MTA is considering initiating a public service announcement asking subway riders to avoid taking their AirPods on or off while entering or exiting trains, a spokesperson for the agency told The Wall Street Journal.
“They’re tiny, they’re really hard to find,” MTA maintenance supervisor Steven Dluginski told the WSJ. “The only saving grace is that they’re white.”
That has led many AirPods owners to resort to improvised measures to get them back — including everything from brooms with duct tape on them to dental floss tied to magnetic e-cigarette chargers.
But lost AirPods are also becoming a problem for the MTA, since there are obvious dangers to passengers attempting to climb onto subway tracks to search for them. Lost AirPods can also cause train delays, since MTA employees often find themselves retrieving lost AirPods for passengers.
“AirPod rescues” from New York subways apparently began ramping up in March, likely after Apple launched a second generation of the wireless EarPods. The number of lost AirPods also began spiking in the summer, likely because of sweaty ears and hands caused by the heat and humidity.
Rather than improvised solutions, MTA workers use a long pole with soft grippers to pick up AirPods. Dluginski referred to the tool as the “picker-upper thing.”
Lost AirPods aren’t just a problem in New York subways. The small size, smooth finish and lack of any retention mechanism has made AirPods a precariously easy-to-lose item.
This has even lead Loup Ventures analyst Gene Munster to tell the WSJ that lost AirPods may actually be a key sales driver for Apple’s audio accessories business. For his part, Munster admits to having lost at least 10 pairs and a charging case himself.
Despite that problem, AirPods have been a standout success for Apple. Within Apple’s booming Wearables, Home and Accessories category, AirPods and the Apple Watch are largely believed to be the biggest drivers of growth. The case of losing AirPods has probably not been lost on Apple.
While there are plenty of third-party retention accessories, the Cupertino tech giant has also patented several possible solutions itself. Apple’s new Powerbeats Pro, which are similar to AirPods, are larger and feature an earhook design.
Apple currently charges $69 to replace a lost AirPod and $59 for a replacement charging case.