Our DNA is written in Swift

Control of Cables

Ever since I got my first earbuds with an Apple device (must have been an original iPhone) I’ve been wondering something, maybe you as well: what is the purpose of this extra clip on the wire. There’s this movable thingy between where the cable parts and the earpiece.

In fact if you google that, then there’s only one other person that asks the same question:

On my iPhone headset (the one that came with the device, as well as the in-ear buds) there’s a little piece of plastic that slides on the cable to one earbud, and can clip onto the other cable.

  • It’s not large enough to accommodate the headset cable below the split, so it can’t be used to somehow hold the cable in place when it’s curled up.
  • It’s not tight enough to stay in place if I slide it nearer the earbud, so it can’t be used to essentially move the point where the cable splits closer to the earbuds.
  • It’s not tight enough to really hold on to the other earbud cable. It takes nearly no effort at all to pull the cables apart.

What in the world is it good for?!?

After some research we found what it is mean to be used for, as well as several other tricks with Apple cables that you might not have known.

When I asked my twitter followers if they had any good explanations, one stood out:

… either to hold slack under your chin or to hold the buds together at the top when you wrap them up. That’s how I use it anyway. – Jonathan H.

The one place that we SHOULD consult as the authoritative source on the meaning of the clip is Apple. Or rather the user guides. And indeed I found an illustration in the iPod User Guide:

So the answer to my question is that this clip is indeed meant to shift the place where the cables split closer to your throat. There might be physical activities where you want less dangling cable in front of you. Like when I am gardening (read: shoveling) I usually let my cord run under my T-Shirt so that it does not get tangled with the equipment. Don’t you love how Apple describes this feature? “The earphone cord is adjustable”, indeed, any other company would have put an exclamation mark there instead of a period and put this into the advertisement brochure.

Remotely In Command

The above graphic also reminds us of the fact that we are blessed with a remote control on the other wire. I usually listen on my iPhone to podcasts while walking the dog and love to be collecting miles at the same time with Nike+. Now if you have an app that plays background audio it will take over the remote control API and interpret your commands itself.

Because of this I go used to the original set of commands that work while Nike+ is running:

  • One pinch: Play, Pause which are also starting and stopping the workout
  • Double pinch: skip to next track
  • Triple pinch: skip to previous track
  • Long pinch: voice information on how quick you are running/moving

But that Nike+ only supports these commands, does not mean that there aren’t any more. I often found that I wanted to skip Leo Laporte’s advertisements, which I do by going into the iPod app and hitting the 2x button while he tells me for the umpteenth time that I should pay for carbonate. But if you don’t have an app in charge of the interpretation of your remote commands, then here’s the complete list, again from the user guide.

  • Pause a song or video: Press the center button. Press again to resume playback.
  • Skip to the next song: Press the center button twice quickly.
  • Return to previous song: Press the center button three times quickly.
  • Fast-forward: Press the center button twice quickly and hold.
  • Rewind: Press the center button three times quickly and hold.
  • Adjust the volume: Press the + or – button.
  • Answer an incoming call: Press the center button.
  • End the current call: Press the center button.
  • Decline an incoming call: Press and hold the center button for about two seconds, then let go. Two low beeps confirm you declined the call.
  • Switch to an incoming or on-hold call and put the current call on hold: Press the center button. Press again to switch back to the first call.
  • Switch to an incoming or on-hold call and end the current call: Press and hold the center button for about two seconds, then let go. Two low beeps confirm you ended the first call.
  • Use Voice Control – Press and hold the center button.

I made the items bold that I bet you did not know about. I know I didn’t, boy how would I love the fast-forward function for those ads … but for some reason Apple/Nike did not think it would be useful to fast-forward a workout. 🙂

How you Wind it

Since it was suspected that this mysterious clip might play a role our interest shifted to researching methods to wrap up your earphones in a way that would not be hazardous to their health. It has since been established that you cannot use the clip for that because it is too small to clip onto the cable below the split where there are two cables. I found 3 methods.

The Devil’s Horn

This employs the gesture invented by none other than John Lennon to warp up the cord and then it up with itself. The gesture itself makes it Rock’n’Roll.

The Lifehacker Wrap

This is similar to the horn but does not use the gesture. Instead of the tight wrapping at the end the elasticity of the cable itself is used by simply sticking it through the loop.

Unfortunately the video is on Yahoo from where I could not embed it. Watch it in the original article.

The Ultimate Wrap

HackCollege first bashes all other methods for they are twisting and turning the cable causing it to age quickly. Their method comes from a technique that IT guys have known for use with other long cables since the dark ages.

This third wrap employes a little extra gimmick to keep the coiled up cable together, but that’s a small price to pay compared to what new earphones are costing these day. So that’s the one I use from now on. If you don’t have this extra thing handy then I suggest practicing the devil’s horn but instead of the tight final wrap simply stick the end through the loop as in the Lifehacker wrap.

Bonus: Saving your Power Adapters

Since we are speaking of cables, here’s a trick that was shown to me by the guys that made Superpin.

Apple power adapters for MacBooks some with a wonderful mechanism to roll up the cord and I trust that you know how this is used. But what you probably don’t know is that with a little trick you can roll it up in a way that you can have gravity unroll it without doing any harm to it.

Instead of starting to roll it up the normal way, you make an extra loop like shown in this picture.

To unroll you simply take the end of the cable, hold your hand sufficiently high and let the adapter give in to gravity. Because of this extra loop the weight of the adapter will not rip the cable out of the case. Or if this bungee jumping action is too much for your stomach, then let the adapter fall on a sofa or bed. But because of this extra measure the wear on the connection is significantly reduced.

Unless of course you have cats. There’s no way of wrapping you can employ to prevent these critters from gnawing away on the cord.


Categories: Mac


  1. That clip used to be permanently attached to both of the cables but had to be changed after the introduction of the remote.

    I’d like to add one more tip which Jonathan doesn’t mention. I too attach the wires together at the top. This prevents the wires from getting tangled up no matter how you wrap them (and even when you don’t).