Alongside the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, Apple has also unveiled its take on wireless earbuds, the AirPods. Although they only begin shipping in “late October”, it is worth checking whether you want to spend $219 on something that you might lose or drop in the toilet, etc.
Speaking of audio, I love AirPods. They’re so good, so clever, so well-designed, and such a pleasure to use that they deserve their own standalone review. They’re not cheap at $159, but they make the $199 Beats Powerbeats2 wireless headphones I bought last year look like a joke. They fit great for me — no wiggle at all. I wouldn’t hesitate to jog with them. I used them all day long the day I flew home from San Francisco to Philadelphia. I made a few phone calls, then played music throughout the flight. When I got in the door at home, the AirPods still had 44 percent of their charge, and the case was at like 80 percent or something like that.
But the sound quality is actually noticeably better than the 3.5mm or Lightning AirPods. Bass is clearer and louder, which is always the biggest issue with cheap or weak speakers and headphones. And you can attribute the improvement to the little cutout on the back of the headphones.
The “seamless iCloud pairing” part worked less predictably. The first time I paired the AirPods to a phone, they quickly became available on my MacBook Air, my iPad, my Apple Watch, and the other iPhone that was signed into my Apple account. And the first time I sat down to my Mac with the AirPods in, played a video, and heard it through the AirPods without having to do anything, I was happy with the way that Apple’s products can pleasantly surprise you when everything’s working the way it’s supposed to.
I’ve been using the $159 AirPods since Apple announced them last Wednesday, and they certainly are a mixed bag. They fit nicely in my ears, they sound fine, and Apple finally solved the annoying Bluetooth pairing process. I also enjoyed having a new way to communicate with Siri.
At the same time, a lot about the AirPods make it apparent that this is a version one product, especially when it comes to controlling your music. And that design is likely to remain controversial. Overall though, the AirPods are another example that Apple is laying the groundwork for a future without wires and new methods of interacting with our gadgets. That’s more than enough to make the concept exciting.
After using AirPods in the office, on a plane and on a jog, listening to my tunes untethered, I’m smitten. I will really miss these little guys when I inevitably leave them on a plane, drop them in the toilet or watch as they tumble through a sidewalk grate.
Now, what everyone else thinks about me for wearing AirPods in public is a completely different matter. No other Apple product in recent memory has been the source of so much hostility.
But the $159 AirPods only give you five hours of music listening time and two hours of talk time between charges, though they come in a handy little white case that provides 24 hours of additional juice. Apple notes that it’s proud of those numbers and that a 15-minute charge in the case gets you another 60 percent of rated battery life. It adds that if you use only one AirPod for phone calls, and keep swapping it out for a fresh one, you could talk on and on. Still, to me, they impose a limitation that standard, wired earbuds don’t have.
Not only that, but you have to charge the case periodically. Oh, and they kind of look like white plastic earrings. So, you should hope that’s your style, if you’re planning to buy them.
Overall, the reviews are positive, although, as the WSJ noted “the AirPods resemble a cross between earrings and electric toothbrush heads”. Now it is up to you whether you want to spend that amount on this gadget.