Apple is famous for their minimalist aesthetic, and infamous for occasionally taking the aesthetic too far and sacrificing usability. There’s the famous round mouse for the original iMac. There’s the symmetrical third-generation iPod remote control whose identical volume and previous/next buttons are impossible to distinguish.
While not as egregious as the previous examples, Apple’s iPod and iPhone earbuds have, to me, always suffered from just a tiny bit of this over-aestheticization. The earbuds are specific to your left and right ears, but are differentiated only by a microscopic and light-gray “R” and “L” to tell you which earbud is which. It takes a few seconds to figure out which ear each bud is intended to go into.
But for years I’ve had a solution. I’ve been using a little strip of tape to hack/solve the problem of undifferentiated iPod headphones.
A single wrap with a thin strip of tape, and viola! At a glance, or even by touch, it is now easy to tell which earbud is which: the one with the tape goes in the right ear. And design-wise it looks pretty good — simple, consistent with the Apple aesthetic, fairly subtle. Steve Jobs would probably have a fit over the asymmetry, but I think this solution is is something so obvious that every earbud manufacturer should do it, or at least something like it.