AirPods are everywhere (except for here)

I’ve been traveling a lot for work lately. While on the road, I’ve noticed some differences between my current hometown (in the rural, remote West Virginia mountains) and the wider world. For example, I’m always encouraged to see more racial and ethnic diversity, compared to the near-monoculture closer to home.

I noticed less profound differences, as well, particularly in the adoption of technology. Take the AirPods, for example. At home, wearing Apple’s wireless earbuds feels awkward, since I rarely see others wearing them. But when traveling, I see AirPods everywhere: in the airport; on city streets; coffeeshops; etc., etc. AirPods have clearly broken through in a huge way—but you wouldn’t know that, walking around my neighborhood.

Why the discrepancy in AirPods adoption? On the one hand, differences in discretionary income probably factor here.All other things being equal, rural West Virginians are less likely to have the financial flexibility to spend $150+ on headphones—especially since perfectly serviceable alternatives come free in the box.

But AirPods’ rarity here may have something to do with lifestyle, as well. Travelers and city-dwellers are more likely to need the AirPods’ flexibility and portability. Commuters spend big chunks of their days sitting on the bus, waiting in airports, and pacing city blocks. Those are ideal use cases for AirPods, but they rarely apply in rural locales. ■