First, let me clarify: This post is not a sponsored advertisement. It’s simply a recounting of my journey and the satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) I derived from it. Any links here are not affiliated and are used only for reference.

Recently, I made a significant stride in keeping up with the latest tech trends by upgrading all of my frequently used devices to the USB Type-C standard. This transition, largely influenced by EU legislation and the pressure it put on Apple, has been a game-changer in my tech setup.

New headphones!

One of the last milestones in this endeavor was replacing my beloved headphones, which served me well for about ~7 years: the Bose QC35 II. It’s a fine product, with a decent level of active noise cancellation, lovely design, pleasing to my ears level of sound quality, and a fantastic travel hard case I used for not storing the headphones but rather all of the stuff you find helpful during travels: pills, cables, chargers and so on, decent battery level even after all this time.

Here they are

The only problem was its micro-USB charging cable, so, with a heavy hard, I decided to upgrade. I need foldable headphones, decent ANC, nice battery life, looks I like, and type-C. I’ve checked multiple reviews and listened to a bunch of headphones, and the fanboy within me decided to go with the newest version from the same brand: Bose QuietComfort Ultra.

They have a better ANC, share similarities in design and comfort of wearing, decent sound, and the Type-C. What a dream. So I parted with ~ $400$ and ordered them, expecting a smooth transition and a bright future.

Instead, I obtained a lot of pain-in-the-ass moments where I did not expect them.

Main issues

Unpredictable battery life

Old QC35II could be left uncharged for weeks. They drained the battery whenever you used them, and after you stopped doing so with the click of the power toggle, they went to sleep. If, by accident, you forgot to charge them, you could have used the power of the jack and used them infinitely for all important meetings and music listening.

These upgraded headphones are different. They don’t have a distinctive physical power toggle (you’re only given two multifunctional buttons and a sensor volume strip), and automatic shutdown functions don’t seem to work correctly. The perceived work time for them is way lower than it used to be with the older pair. What makes matters substantially worse is that you can no longer use discharged headphones with the cable. For some reason, engineers at Bose decided that the functionality of the pre-amp and all of the cool new features is of more importance than having headphones do their job in case they’re discharged. Imagine being on a long meeting and finding out there’s no way you can make your 400$ headphones play sound, what a journey.

Messy multi-point connection technology

Imagine a normal use-case for the bluetooth headphones: you walk to your office, listening to the music from your phone, come to the office, switch them to your laptop for calls and music surrounding, and swith back to your phone on your way home. Sounds quite simple and the promise is their: automatic multi-point connection up to two devices is a selling point. But it’s just atrocious; I can’t count times when the laptop is in my bag lid closed, but headphones keep thinking it’s still the primary source of audio input, even if you manually select your phone. What makes issues even more frustrating is that event changing the input device in the Bose’s app may not work for some reasons and you get stuck w/o any music playback, or the playback that suddenly stops and requires manual intervention to proceed.

Gesture recognition just sucks

About the manual intervention: new shiny technology provides a way to control your music with automatic head “gestures” recognition: you’re told that your headphones will automatically stop the playback when you put them off of your head (that’s true, it works), but in my case, this system had so many false-positives, that I had to completely disable that functionality. The music stops playing if you make an unlucky nod or head turn, rendering the whole experience infuriating. What makes matters worse is that without that functionality you constantly forget to turn your headphones off (remember, no physical power toggle) and the first pain point finds you even more often.

Physical case got a lot worse

That’s a bonus point just for me, but even the hard-case is dissapointing. Previously, it was just a case, slick and full of internal space that could be used for whatever purpose.

The old case

It was stiff, comfortable, could host whatever you put inside, did not bring any trouble into putting your headphones there, and was an example of excellent minimalistic design.

The new case is worse in every aspect. It is rounded, it is stuffed with some material that allows you to put your phones only in a single possible way and making re-purposing the case impossible, it’s shinier and cheaper looking.

The new case

Rounding up

I don’t want to say these headphones are all bad: they have amazing ANC, great audio quality (subjectively), amazing looks, and highly comfortable sitting so that your head doesn’t get tired quickly and your ears don’t sweat. But the marketing team’s aspirations for the rivalry competition and brand new features seem to have broken whatever was good about the UX and usage aspects of what I assume is one of the best full-sized Bluetooth headphones ever, and I’m disappointed in the product overall. I had to buy a pair of Chinese cable (yeah, hello there, the year 2024) earphones for 50 bucks, and I am now happy: no battery life challenges, no unpredictability in work: you plug them into your laptop or PS5 controller, and they work.

In conclusion, I may say only one thing: do not break your user experience just to stay in the competition. Create decent projects and test them so that every end-to-end flow works flawlessly without being a marketing gimmick. And if you have a decent project already, do not make a new one worse than the previous one.