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AirPods Review: Apple’s Wireless Headphones are Amazeballs

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Okay so we were supposed to get our AirPods yesterday, but there was a SNAFU with Apple and FedEx, but it all got resolved, and in the end these precious wireless headphones made it into our hands this morning.

Unboxing

You’ve probably seen unboxing videos already, so I’ll spare you with pictures only. The embossed image on the front of the compact box is a nice touch and upon seeing the AirPods charging case, it was smaller than I had expected, especially when holding them in my large hands. It definitely resembles a pack of dental floss, and the sturdy hinged lid opens and closes with a satisfying ‘snap’ thanks to magnets. Opening and closing the lid reminds me of opening and closing a Zippo lighter (you know, during my pyro days #notreally)–satisfying.

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The AirPods come out easily from the charging case and when you insert them in to charge, magnets pull them into place with another satisfying click.

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The hinge is glossy metal (feels sturdy); check out that Set up button at the bottom:

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AirPods are 1:1 scale placed on top of the embossed image on the front of the box:

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Pairing to iPhone

Pairing AirPods are stupid easy—just unlock your iPhone to the Home screen, then open the lid of your AirPods case with the headphones inside, tap ‘Connect’ when the menu pops up and then ‘Done’. Your AirPods will now be connected to your associated iOS devices linked to your iCloud account (Apple TV 4 still needs manual pairing for now).

The moment you pop AirPods into your ears, you hear a ‘tone’ to indicate they’re ready. It’s a pleasing sound that makes you want to keep putting them in your ears, like you’re ready to start work or play.

AirPods Look

Yep, they look like white matchsticks in your ears. I haven’t worn these in public yet. You will be judged as an Apple fanboy/girl, but whatever, you have AirPods.

Sound Quality

The first thing I did after popping AirPods into my ears was play music. Immediately, I noticed an improvement in sound quality, especially bass, compared to EarPods, and that was with the Equalizer off. With Apple’s wired headphones, weight of the cords never allow a snug fit—but since this isn’t the case with AirPods, music sounded much better. With the Hip Hop EQ enabled, AirPods sounded pretty good.

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On Wednesdays, we Hit ‘Em Up

Using Siri to change volume up and down is a pain, so you’re going to want to have your iPhone nearby. Default settings have double tapping an AirPod launch Siri, and boy is Apple’s assistant accurate with these beam-forming microphones. The ‘Hey Siri’ feature actually now works the way it should, with less mistakes compared to randomly yelling at my iPhone before.

When you take an AirPod out of your ear, music pauses. Put it back in, and music automatically resumes. This is handy when you’re ignoring the world, someone tries to actually talk to you, and you decide to hear them out.

As for Bluetooth range, we were able to walk around our home including downstairs, away from our iPhone 7 Plus and still have a solid connection. No drops or anything.

AirPods are Comfortable and Do Not Fall Out

Next up was the head shake test. I shook my head side to side and they did not pop out. What did happen was a slight headache from all the bouncing around. These things won’t fall out, since I won the ear DNA lottery. Your ears may vary.

Phone Calls

On phone calls, my test subject (Istvan Fekete) was told to tell me which sounded better: Test A (AirPods); Test B (iPhone); or Test C (iPhone on speaker). He concluded the iPhone call sounded the best, with a rating of 9/10, while the AirPods were only a 7 or 8 out of 10. The iPhone speaker call was the worst. I revealed to Istvan which setup I was using at the end.

Also, the transition between iPhone and AirPods on calls is so frickin’ seamless. If I’m on a call with AirPods and I remove both from my ears simultaneously, the iPhone speaker turns on automatically. Pop AirPods back in, and the call transitions back to the wireless headphones instantly.

To check battery on AirPods and the charging case, there are various ways:

1. Pop open the charging case lid with AirPods inside, placed next to your unlocked iPhone on the Homescreen (it’ll also show in the Batteries widget in Notification Centre). Take one AirPod out and you’ll see the battery percentage for individual AirPods.

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2. While wearing AirPods, check the Battery widget in Notification Centre. Pop open the lid to the charging case and see individual battery life for L and R AirPods.

3. Apple Watch: swipe up from your watch face to Control Centre, then tap the battery percentage icon. You’ll see battery % for each individual AirPod. This is the easiest way.

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4. Ask Siri: Even though Apple says you can can ask “How is the battery on my AirPods?”, Siri hasn’t been able to do so for me yet. She says she “wasn’t able to figure it out”, which is unsurprising given the assistant’s smarts (/sarcasm).

If you want to pair AirPods with a non-iOS device, just tap and hold the Set up button on the back of the charging case with the lid open, and the LED will flash white, which is pairing mode. You’ll need to do this to pair your AirPods to Apple TV 4.

To connect my AirPods to my MacBook Pro, I just need to click the Bluetooth menu and go to ‘Connect’ under ‘Gary’s AirPods’. This automatically shows up because AirPods are tied to the same iCloud account you have across iOS, Apple Watch and macOS devices.

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Also, if you unpair AirPods (by forgetting them in Bluetooth settings), the next attempt to pair them to your phone, the pop up message reads ‘Not Your AirPods’ and guides you through a setup process where you need to press the button on the back of the charging case:

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AirPods Settings are found by going to Settings > Bluetooth > tap the “I” icon next to your AirPods. Here you’ll be able to manage the name, Double Tap settings and Automatic Ear detection and Microphone settings:

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Battery Life

Apple says AirPods give you up to 5 hours of listening time or 2 hours of talk on a single charge, while the case can offer multiple charges for over 24 hours of listening team or 11 hours of talk time. We haven’t had them long enough to put battery claims to the test, but will update this post once we do.

We were able to quickly charge our AirPods to 100%, within the 15 minutes timeframe Apple stated, which offers up to 3 hours of listening and over an hour of talk time. Now if only our new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar came with a battery charging case

Conclusion: AirPods are Worth the Money for Ease of Connectivity 

It’s nice to see an Apple product ‘surprise and delight’ again out of the box, and AirPods do just that. They are comfortable in my ears, don’t fall out, sound decent, can handle phone calls seamlessly and also makes listening to audio on multiple Apple products a breeze. But one of the biggest features is making Siri work really, really well.

AirPods do come at a cost though, as $219 CAD is nothing to sneeze at. But if you’re looking for one set of wireless headphones to rule them all in your growing Apple ecosystem, these are the ones to get. You won’t regret it (unless you have wonky ears).

Right now, Apple Canada has in-store pick up available for AirPods, but dates are set for mid-February. Online orders are noted as ‘6 weeks’ for delivery. Your best bet is to order online as many are getting their shipments early, while also placing a pick-up order if you can.

What do you think of your AirPods so far? Click here to read Nick’s first impressions of his AirPods. Check out Apple’s guides on how to use AirPods here.

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  • Natedog

    Gary. Mine came a whole 7 days early. I agree the bass is a big upgrade from the stock EarPods. I was unsure after reading and seeing all the reviews. However, now that I have them going I am totally convinced. This is the future of apple. Wireless. I could care less they look a little dorky, they sounds great, fit great and are so simple to pair. Never going back to wired.

  • Gary Bowen

    Mine just shipped today. Very excited!

  • Natedog, that is awesome! Yeah, the first thing I noticed was the noticeable increase in bass. The AirPods are bringing it, they are going to sell like hotcakes.

  • Nice, let us know what you think when you get them.

  • Land o Lakes

    Is there a way to skip to the next track without invoking Siri or using the phone? I love shuffle mode but that means that I frequently double-click on my EarPods. Can I do something similar with the AirPods?

  • MrXax

    Aw man. I’m very interested, but I just can’t justify paying 6X+ the price of wired Ear Pods.

  • Not at this time. Hopefully Apple adds new tap gestures. Definitely a limitation for now.

  • Land o Lakes

    So firmware updates can alter the behaviour of the AirPods? Now that is cool!

  • Well, iFixit’s teardown revealed there is a programmable SoC within AirPods…let’s hope we get some future behaviour updates.

  • mrideas

    I agree they are amazeballs!! I think the girl who served me at McDonald’s was more excited than I was about them. She wanted to know all about them and what I thought. They really are seamless to setup. For the first time ever with a Bluetooth anything I wasn’t actually annoyed by lousy pairing or pairing hell! It really did just work. I like that you can take one out and stop the music and then press play again and listen with just the one if you want.

    I find them very comfortable and the bass increase was a welcome surprise.

    I also agree Siri seems to be able to understand me a bit better.

    One thing I find annoying though is skipping songs. I listen to music while on the train and walking from the station to work. I hope a future enhancement allows for song skipping. I miss that from my earbuds. Its a little thing but definitely not a deal breaker. No cords at all is a huge huge plus. I haven’t had them fall out either. I find the battery life is excellent.

    I didn’t know about the phone calls routing back to the phone on speaker so thanks for that hint/tip Gary!

  • haha nice! I am gonna wear these out and get some public reaction soon.

    The calls/speaker was a surprise to me too, definitely gotta love that. Cheers

  • mrideas

    Haha. Yes as I was walking to the train tonight I passed by someone else who had the AirPods. We both just smiled. Was the first person I saw that also had them! Was a funny moment.

  • gerry

    My niece says that I have pop-eye cigarette candies in my ear when she saw my AirPods lol

    On the other note, I wore these bad boys under my toque and I loved the comfortability. Yay.

  • Haha, an even better description!

  • Mark

    “Opening and closing the lid reminds me of opening and closing a Zippo lighter”…just you wait till Samsung makes a pair…

  • It’s like old VW camper van or beetle drivers giving each other acknowledgement, but in 2016 it’s AirPods, baby…lol

  • Jake

    I’m actually having mixed thoughts. When I walk with them and put my iphone in my pocket, I get a lot of breaking up with the signal. I also tried them with my new iMac and they disconnected completely 3 times randomly (then connected back after a few seconds). Not sure if I have a lemon or what, but my beats solo bluetooth headphones have never had these problems.

  • Pablo

    Must agree with the crowd. I received my order on Monday and haven’t been this impressed with an Apple product in quite a while. I do agree that it’s a pain not being able to increase the volume, change songs, etc., through the headphones, but the benefits far outweigh these drawbacks. They sound great, are super comfortable and not having any wires is total bliss and freedom. It’s also incredibly easy to switch devices, check battery life, charge them, etc. These are a total win. I have no regrets spending the money I did on these because I’m going to use them every day.

  • DP

    My Jan 9 ones are arriving Dec 23. That’s not bad! (In BC)

  • jay

    siri is able to skip a song

  • jay

    found the way overpriced and do nothing better than everyone else. at least have some internal storage inside so i can take them for a run without bringing my iphone. the ear is the best way to check the hear rate too. so apple waiting for the 2nd generation.

  • Jimbo

    I had to pick up some gifts at Apple Bayshore in Ottawa mid-afternoon yesterday and I asked my helper if there were any Airpods. Much to my surprise there were 2 pair in stock so I picked up a pair. Agree with everything said here.

    I took the dog for a walk last night and had the pods in my ears and under my toque – what a blast listening to music. My dog had an extra long walk last night!

    These puppies are beauts! I love them.

  • Ron Frass

    …but they’re SO ridiculous looking.

  • swotam

    I’ve been quite happy with mine so far. They haven’t fallen out (and I can’t make them fall out) which is good. Sound is decent, better than EarPods, and the pairing is awesome. Definitely one of those “magical” Apple products.

    Connection is good, only had a couple of brief periods of interference and that’s likely caused by something unrelated to the AirPods themselves (and something I experience with my Beats Studio Wireless as well).

    For those on the fence just remember that you can return them to the Apple Store within 15 days if you don’t like them, so there’s no risk in trying them out to see if they work for you or not. I got them mostly to try them out, but after having them for a couple of days I think I’ll keep them for sure.

  • swotam

    They look fine, no big deal.

  • Sly C

    My SO didn’t want to open her present early so I’m still waiting. Sigh

  • There’s no way to make Bluetooth headsets sexy. It’s impossible.

  • Pretty sure your dog loves them more!

  • Jake

    You can pair them to your apple watch and store your music on there while you run.

  • Lol…maybe it might “accidentally” open on its own…it’s possible

  • David K Koppe

    would love these if you could have a single one in your ear (not both ears) and take calls / listen to music with it.

  • You can 🙂

  • David K Koppe

    I’ve heard other reports saying otherwise…..?

  • You mean use a single AirPod to take calls and also listen to music? Yes you can do that, if I’m understanding you correctly. I have one in my ear right now and it can take calls or listen to music.

  • David K Koppe

    I mean, you can use a single one and keep the other in its case? So just have one ear in?

  • Yes.

    You can just keep switching and have a tonne of battery life.

  • Lakh Jhajj

    I can confirm this too. I tried a single left and a right one. And they worked one at A time individually perfectly. I found volume a bit low when used mono but they work.

  • gerry

    Even if you have the ability to swipe up/down to adjust volume, would be amazeballs.

  • Cornfed710

    Overpriced compared to what?

  • Geeta Dutt

    Got my airpods today, LOVE them and just in time for my upcoming trip. So much better than ordinary BT headphones, the range is amazing! Not to mention the awesome pairing with all of my apple products. Now if Apple can only add volume up/down and skip tracks to them. I haven’t had success with asking Siri to raise/lower the volume or skip tracks.

  • Chrome262

    Ordered mine, lets see if it rally take 6 weeks lol

  • Matt Martone

    Just picked up my pair today at square one. #noregrets works great!

    How come I’m not able to see the airpods battery on my apple watch? I’m not sure how to fix this… Any suggestions?

    Thanks

  • Slide up for control centre on your watch face then tap the battery percentage icon. You’ll see AirPods battery life.

  • Matt Martone

    Yeah its not there for some reason. Any other suggestions?

  • jay

    For what they can do. You can buy a cheap Bluetooth headphones and still does the same thing

  • jay

    Have to get one and see. My fear is that I’ll loose them.

  • Marc S

    One think I was concerned about was music distraction/leak to others. I was amazed that these do no leak out music to others around you like the corded ones. Our desks are so close together I was afraid to distract others. That is worth the $$$.

  • Marc S

    Rideau Centre now has a full stock. Picked some up on the weekend. LUV them.

  • 🙂

  • Was able to reserve and pick at Mtl downtown store yesterday! Yeah!
    So far, it’s great! This is pure Apple Magic 🙂
    After gym, grocery, walk… always in my ears… but even if they stay well, I’m always nervous (still) they will fall… I know I’ll get use to it 🙂

  • Chrome262

    i have issues with it being loose in one ear so i am constantly adjusting them. But only outside, indoors they are great. I have come to the realization is the cold weather. When its warm and you ears are not frozen and bone dry then tend to hold the earphones better. Still want some sour too add-on to keep them it. They don’t stay in well for me while i move run for example, but since I don’t run often not a big deal.

  • I agree… in and out, the ears is very different.
    Noticed also if my ears are a little wet like from shower, they don’t stay as well as when my ears are dry…

    Overall, it’s great…

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