Despite an over-abundance of hype heralding their arrival, the first product from Carl Pei’s Nothing, the ear (1) wireless earbuds, was a solid alternative to pricier options like Apple’s AirPods Pro. The only real downside was a lack of access to popular smart assistants: a feature that Nothing is finally adding through a software update announced yesterday.
The ear (1) raised the bar while lowering the cost of entry for wireless earbuds that still provided more advanced features like active noise cancellation, on-ear gesture controls, and 11-millimeter drivers for excellent sound. But their $99 price tag meant there had to be some compromises: the most glaring being the lack of access to voice assistants while using them.
That feature apparently wasn’t a hardware limitation, however, because yesterday Nothing released a new firmware update for its ear (1) wireless earbuds that, among other updates and fixes, finally adds on-ear access to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Assistant—but there’s a catch.
Unlike the wireless earbuds offered by Apple, Amazon, and Google that allow users direct access to their respective smart assistants through the use of simple wake words (“Hey, Siri,” “Hey, Google,” etc.) the ear (1) require users to first physically interact with the earbuds before the assistants start paying attention to spoken requests.
Unfortunately, while a tap or a ‘tap and hold’ are all that’s required with other wireless earbuds, accessing a voice assistant on the ear (1) is only available with a triple tap on either the left or right earbud. The shortcut also means users can no longer triple-tap one bud to advance track playback, and triple-tap the other bud to jump back in a playlist. It’s one or the other, and hopefully, that’s a usability limitation that Nothing addresses in future firmware updates, improving the customizability of tap gestures so that voice assistants become more easily accessible.