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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

For two years, Apple's AirPods were a bizarre curiosity. They were clever, but they looked odd and didn't sell very well. Then, they exploded, and according to one source, they have sold more units than even the iPhone at the same age.

The state of play: This will come as no surprise to anybody who has walked down the street or taken the subway in New York of late. AirPods had limited availability when they were first released, but as they became more common, they also started to look less weird. With broad adoption, Apple has managed to re-architect what is socially acceptable and even desirable.

The rise of AirPods has also followed the iPhone upgrade cycle. When people get a new iPhone without a headphone jack, that's often their impetus to buy headphones they can use across all of their devices.

  • AirPods are also an elegant solution to a core problem with all smartphones, which is that they're clunky and generally hard to use as a phone.

Our thought bubble, from Axios' Courtenay Brown, who got a pair of AirPods for Christmas: "One day without AirPods taught me that I've forgotten how to talk on the phone and basically do my job without them. Ordinary bluetooth headphones — which squeeze my ears, make them sweat and are just a way less seamless experience — are not an adequate replacement."

Go deeper: The sign that Apple has ripened

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
21 mins ago - Technology
Column / Signal Boost

Microsoft's metaverse maneuvering

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Microsoft is pitching investors and regulators that its $68 billion Activision Blizzard deal is all about the metaverse, that nebulous buzzword taking the tech world by storm.

What they're saying: By my colleague Stephen Totilo's count, Nadella used the word "metaverse" at least five times in his conference call discussing the deal. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick mentioned the metaverse four times, while Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer used the term twice.

Women in same-gender partnerships face a double pay gap

Expand chart
Data: The Hamilton Project; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

A married female couple will bring home lower wages, on average, than an opposite-gender married couple or a same-gender male couple.

Why it matters: Women in same-gender partnerships can experience (at least) two kinds of discrimination, based on their gender and on their sexual orientation.

The high cost of bringing down inflation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Suppose the Federal Reserve had perfect foresight last year, and set out to keep inflation at its 2% target anyway — despite supply disruptions and labor shortages. What would that have looked like?

The answer: A catastrophe for growth, according to new research from the BlackRock Investment Institute. The Fed would have had to crater demand in the economy so much, that it would have pushed the unemployment rate to nearly 10%, the researchers estimate.