Bose updates QC20 for Android, but you can’t just replace the cable

Headphone makers are finally getting on board with devices that have remotes that work on Android, and Bose is one of them, but for its latest pair, you can’t just change the cable like you think you can.

We try to get through as many headphone reviews as we can, and the one constant we’ve found over the past few years is that the majority of devices out there with a cord tend to support Apple’s iPhone first, followed by Android and the other devices second.

That’s something you’ll find with most pairs of earphones or headphones that include a three button remote, and that’s because that remote is designed for Apple’s “MFi” standard, or “Made For iPhone”, which is what MFi means.

This isn’t a simple issue. MFi is rather specific, and so if you have a cable that supports MFi, generally it won’t be compatible with Android, Windows Phone, or to put it simply, anything that isn’t an iPhone.

Instead, on cables like this, the middle button is the only one that works, with the buttons flanking this — volume up and volume down, usually — not functioning at all on something that wasn’t made by Apple.

Recently, though, headphone makers have been waking up to the knowledge that there’s more out there that isn’t made by Apple.

We’ve seen Jays enter this arena with variants of its in-earphones made for the respective devices — Apple, Android, and Windows — and recently Bose did the same thing, releasing an Android-friendly noise-cancelling headphone, the QuietComfort 25 (QC25), which is essentially the regular iPhone-based QC25i headphone but with an Android-friendly cable.

At the time, we checked with Bose to find out whether it would be making the cable available to Android owners at a cost rather than forcing them to buy a new pair of $400 headphones, and while the company never got back to us, we found an extra cable around the office and found it worked, so you could do that too.


Now Bose is at it again with its QC20i headphones, making an Android friendly equivalent, but unfortunately, the process isn’t just as simple as “buy a new cable” and never will be, and that’s because this pair of in-earphones has never has a replaceable cable, not like with the QC25i over-the-ear cans.

Rather, the Bose QC20 in-earphones — no “i”, which means it comes in a variant for Android and one for iPhone — offers active noise cancellation through a small rechargeable brick that is wired to the earphones, offering both actively cancelled sound and sound without that switched on (though without cancellation, useful if you run out of battery power).


“Bose QC20 is revolutionary,” said Bose’s Sean Garrett, Vice President of the Bose Noise Reduction Technology Group.

“No other headphone available delivers this kind of performance and versatility, and owners love it because they can have all the noise cancellation Bose is famous for, in a super-small headphone that sounds amazing, and can be worn comfortably for hours.”


Pricing for the Bose QuietComfort 20 in-earphones (QC20) comes in at the exact same price as its iPhone-only sibling, fetching a recommended retail price of $399.

If you have a pair of the older QC20i and you want them to work on Android or Windows, it’s just that middle button that will work for you, and nothing else, and outside of buying a new pair, there’s not much else you can do.