When Apple announced their AirPods wireless headphones, their eventual purchase was not an immediately obvious conclusion. After a lot of consideration, as I presented in my AirPods Decision blog post, I became much more confident that they were the headphone solution that I wanted. Having had my AirPods for more than a month now, I can happily say that I made the right decision. Here is my one month review of one of my favourite pieces of Apple tech.
I love everything about my AirPods. Well, almost everything… but I’ll get to that later. But first, let’s talk about the things that are great about them, which justify spending the money for these costly devices.
I’ll start with the obvious advantage that these headphones have over almost all others: they are truly wireless. They are virtually incomparable to anything else I’ve ever used. When I put them in my ears, I have complete freedom of motion. With traditional wired headphones, like the EarPods included with your iPhone, you have to plug into your phone, and it has to move with you. I’ve inadvertently pulled my iPhone off a table several times using those headphones, and a more serious repair at the Apple Store seemed to be an inevitability. Even if you keep your iPhone safely in your pocket, the wire snaking up to your ears is like a magnet to get caught on door knobs or any other thing that happens to intrude in your path, which causes either your EarPods to come flying out of your ears, or much more seriously, yanks your iPhone from its confines and drops it on the floor. With my AirPods, none of this is a concern. I can move around the house or office completely carefree and without worry of looping my cord on a drawer handle, or standing up abruptly and catapulting the phone. And I can do everything without ever missing a beat of the music.
Even if I compare my AirPods to other wireless Bluetooth headphones that have a wire connecting the two sides, they are still awesome. While those headphones also let me move around unrestricted, the connecting wire still has potential to stick to my neck or tangle in my shirt collar, which can provide just enough of a yank to loosen or free the earbud from my ear. Not a problem with AirPods.
What about the fit, you ask? Do the AirPods ever fall out of my ears? I can honestly say that they have never fallen out. Not once. I constantly move around with them, I exercise with them, I lie down with them. They have never once fallen out of my ears. They don’t hurt after prolonged usage either. I know that not everyone’s ears are the same shape, so I guess I could just be lucky. But I suspect that for most people, there isn’t going to be an issue of them falling out. I seriously believe that all the complaints of EarPods falling out of ears is because of the weight of the cord, constantly dangling and fighting the pull of gravity. With AirPods, they are so light and fit so right that it would take some pretty strong force to dislodge them from my ears inadvertently.
Next, let me talk about their battery and charging system. It’s fantastic too! Apple advises that you can expect about 5 hours of playing time from a fully charged AirPod. Then, you can pop it back in the charging case for a 15 minute quick charge to get another 3 hours of listening time. First of all, I rarely listen to anything for 5 hours at a time, so I can easily say that I have never run out of battery in these things. On top of that, whenever I am not listening to something, I immediately store the AirPods back in their charging case, which starts to charge them up again. The charging case is supposed to provide up to 24 hours of additional playing time. My feeling is that I don’t quite get this much charge out of them, but I’ve never listened so constantly or tried to count out just how much charge the case provides. On top of that, I feel that the case charges the AirPods more efficiently after recent firmware updates, and doesn’t lose as much charge itself to do it. I haven’t actually measured this either. For my uses, I am completely satisfied with the amount of charge that the AirPods themselves hold, and it takes virtually no effort to plug in and recharge the charging case at my desk once every few days, just to quickly boost it back up.
How about their use? Do they actually work as well as Apple says they do? Absolutely! They pair almost instantaneously when you open the charging case lid next to your iPhone. Then, once it has paired to your iCloud account, it is recognized by all your other iOS devices as well. It’s truly magical, when you consider the alternatives offered by nearly every other headphone out there. They also sound amazing; I think they sound even better than regular EarPods. The sounds just seem a bit richer, or the bass a bit deeper – not by a whole lot, and they certainly don’t compare to higher end listening headphones, but definitely good enough for me. The double tapping feature to activate Siri works very well, and Siri is arguable more responsive and better at understanding my voice than when I activate it on the iPhone itself. Probably because of the beam-forming microphones, and their proximity to my voice. But I can get Siri to work and understand me even when I’m speaking just louder than a whisper. After years of using Siri on my iPhone and iPad, and the frustration of it not triggering or understanding me correctly, AirPods make an amazing difference for this!
Controlling the AirPods is also super simple. Since Siri is so good at understanding me now, it is effortless to just ask for the volume to go up or down, or skipping or replaying songs, etc. I honestly don’t think that having physical buttons on the sides of the devices, as some people clamour for, is a good solution. It would add bulk, would be a physical point of wear, plus wouldn’t it be uncomfortable to push a button on something that is in your ear? Tapping for Siri is so easy! Any change in volume can also be controlled by your iPhone in the typical way, with the side volume buttons. And if you want to truly embrace wireless freedom, the AirPods also sync with your Apple Watch. So, I regularly play music on my iPhone, listen through my AirPods, and control playback and volume with the app on my Watch. It’s a fantastic system, and I don’t know if I’d ever want to go back!
I don’t think they look are dorky as some people make them out to be. I think the white colour of them is classic Apple, and they seriously just look like headphones without the wires. I’ve had jokes from friends saying that I look like I have Q-tips sticking out of my ears, but I pay no attention to them. Knowing the freedom that my AirPods give me, and then to walk by these same friends huddled over their phones with wraps of cord dragging papers around their desk and threatening to spill it all over, I’m the one that laughs in the end.
So, is there anything I don’t like about my AirPods? Well, there are two things…
For the first point, I don’t honestly know how much of a concern it actually is. AirPods are not marketed as being sweatproof, and I am scared to run or workout vigorously with them, for fear of sweat getting into them and short circuiting something inside, like I have done with countless EarPods over the years. However, they are incredibly well built, with seams barely visible. I suspect that sweat is not likely to get to the inside of these devices, but for the amount of money I paid for them (in Canadian dollars!), I am very hesitant to do something to them that has a chance of wrecking them. Maybe if I read enough stories about how they perform for other people using them like this, then perhaps I will start to run with them as well.
The second frustration I’ve had with them is with temporarily dropped connections. I usually am using them with my iPhone 6S, though also have them working with my iPad. These devices also have other Bluetooth accessories associated with them, so I don’t know if there is some kind of device confusion going on. Whatever it is, once in a while, the music will stop playing, and them I will get the “connection chime” to indicate that they are paired again. It doesn’t happen frequently, but when it does, it takes away a bit of the magic about them. That being said, I have never been unable to connect, and I am only ever a moment away from listening again.
So, that is my review of my AirPods after having them for more than a month now. I love these things! If I’m not actively using them, I usually have them in my pocket, charged and ready to use. They may be pricey, but with all the miniscule tech buried away inside, plus the incredible functionality of them, I think they are completely worth their price. You can buy $30 wireless Bluetooth headphones on Amazon, but you won’t get the tight integration with the rest of your devices, or the surprisingly good sound that come from these. I haven’t tried the new BeatsX wireless (connected) headphones, or any of the other W1 chip-containing headphones like the Powerbeats, and I’m sure that those headphones have their target audience, but for me and my listening requirements, I am completely satisfied with my AirPods!