In September, Apple announced the AirPods, the wireless version of their iconic white headphones. They said they were due to ship in October, but because of some unknown circumstances, they were delayed until just before Christmas.
We have had our hands, or ears, on them for a few weeks now, and would like provide a review, as well as 4 different takes on them.
Here are some things to know about AirPods:
- These are truly wireless headphones, with two separate units, one for each ear.
- AirPods are roughly the same shape as the standard EarBuds included with the iPhone. That being said, most people say they fit better and fall out less than their wired sibling.
- They have a special W1 computer chip in each unit, designed by Apple, to provide a better connection and improved sound.
- While not in use, AirPods are stored in a dental floss shaped container, which also serves as a charger. The case is charged by the same lightning connector as your iPhone.
- Battery life is up to 5 hours per AirPod, with more than 24 hours of charge in the case. Just 15 minutes of charging provides 3 hours of battery life.
- Compared to other bluetooth devices, the pairing is seamless with your iPhone. Just open the case near your phone and you are prompted to connect to that device. Doing so also pairs them with other devices connected to your iCloud account, like an iPad or Mac laptop.
- There are no buttons on the AirPods, but there is a double-tap feature that can either be used to trigger Siri or to Play/Pause. It takes some time to perfect.
- The AirPods cost $159, which includes the two headphones, the case and a lightning cable. This is significantly more expensive than the included headphones that come with the iPhone, or the ones next to the register at the gas station, but are very reasonable when compared to other, fully wireless headphones.
Now comes the good part. Instead of just one or two reviews, we have four different people’s impression of the AirPods. It’s important to look at different use cases because not everyone uses headphones the same way.
If you have seen me in person there is a very good chance that you have seen Apple’s EarBuds around my neck, usually with one bud in my ear. My best guess is that I have them in use at least 10 hours a day. I put them on in the morning and often will not take them off until bedtime. Whenever I am doing something that allows me, I am listening to podcasts, but I also use them for music and phone calls. I use them while working, driving, playing with the baby, just about any time that I would not look like a jerk for listening to something. I have tried all kinds of headphones, wired, bluetooth, etc. and have always felt that the EarBuds were the best mix of fit, function and social acceptance.
That being said, I was obviously very excited about the announcement of AirPods. I use headphones a lot, and they were always getting snagged, tangled or in the way. I only use one ear at a time so I wanted something truly wireless. I am a huge Apple fan (they can be used with other devices as well) and I could tell they spent a lot of time making these things right.
Apple had said they would be released in October, so when they didn’t actually release until December I was anxious. As soon as I heard preorders were available I ordered two. The wife and I had decided they would be our Christmas presents. When I found out I wouldn’t get them until mid January, I went to camp out at the Apple Store on Monday, 12/19. I was first in line and got my hands on a pair. You can see my Facebook Live video of just after I left the store. I haven’t used any other headphones since. They are so convenient, and battery life has not been an issue, even when using them all day. When one gives me the audio warning that the battery is low, I switch it out with the one in the charging case (which I charge every few days) and off I go. There has also never been a time when I have worried about them falling out. It took me awhile to get the double-tap down for play/pause, but now it is second nature. I never know if I am getting weird looks due to my moustache or the AirPods, but I have had people in public ask me about them and I don’t have anything bad to say. If people think they are too expensive I let them know that they are worth every penny to me. If you can’t afford them, start saving, but for the features I think they are a value. I love the AirPods, they work as advertised, if not better, and are the headphone solution I want.
I’ve been using headphones almost everyday for about 4-5 years. I listen to music, podcasts, and even take calls with my headphones. I find using headphones on a daily basis now just part of my routine. I don’t leave home without them.
When I first heard of Apple’s attempt at wireless, I was in full support. Headphone life seems simpler to go wireless. I was lucky enough to get a pair of the Apple AirPods shortly after their release. I went in with hesitation, but not because of the price tag. I was already on my second pair of Bose in-ear headphones in four years. I gladly paid over $100 both times. Cost wasn’t necessarily a concern. Mostly, I was nervous of how they would fit, as well as how I would adapt to not having so much bulk to carry with me. It took about 10 seconds to buy in. They are simple to pair and start using right away. They are easy to adapt to. They work seamlessly with the iPhone. Whenever I drive with my family anywhere I always have at least one in-ear headphone in. The AirPods make it that much easier to use. I am able to get in and out of the car without having to mess with cables getting hooked on a seat belt. Having the ability to pause and play automatically without having to press a button on my phone or headphone cable is wonderful. Life is simpler with the AirPods. I am about a three weeks in using my AirPods. For someone that uses headphones everyday, they just make sense.
I am generally listening to something, usually on my iPhone, most of the day. This includes podcasts and audiobooks, and sometimes music. I love reading and started listening to audiobooks several years ago when I discovered I could get through many more books that way, and that I could fill in those boring times like driving in the car or cleaning with something to occupy my mind as well. A couple years ago my husband introduced me to podcasts, and now I listen to several of those each day as well. One of the biggest issues was getting the headphone cord snagged on things, ripping the headphone out of my ear, out of the phone, or causing my phone to jerk out of my pocket and fall to the floor. There was also the annoyance of getting the headphone tangled in the car seat belt, or in my clothes when removing jackets or layers. I tried a couple of wireless headphones previously, but they were usually really bulky and would hurt my ears or even cause headaches after awhile.
When I heard Apple would be making wireless headphones, I couldn’t wait to get them. A lot of people were concerned about the new phone not having a headphone jack, but I know that Apple makes great products and would obviously have a solution for this perceived problem. I was also confident that these wireless headphones would be a superior product to the ones already on the market, because I’ve always loved every Apple product I’ve ever used. When I got them, I read the simple instructions to set them up. It took less than a minute even though I am not super tech-savvy. I am thoroughly enjoying them. It feels great to be ‘unplugged’. I do sometimes have issues with the start/stop double-tapping and some of the iPhone syncing, but I think that’s probably user error. I look forward to when they are able to somehow incorporate volume control on the AirPod itself. It has been wonderful not to get the headphone cord snagged on things. With a young baby, it’s really convenient to not have a cord dangling for her to grab or pull on. They never fall out and are very comfortable. I sometimes realize I’m wearing one when I haven’t even been listening to anything for over an hour because I’ve just forgotten they are there. I find the charging case to be genius! I only use one AirPod at a time, so the other is always charging and ready to go. I have a little concern over losing them, but I’m sure I’ll find a system for minimizing that risk.
I’ve been in the market for a good pair of wireless headphones for a long time. Over the years I have used various models of wireless headphones and have even experimented with using regular headphones with bluetooth transmitters. While functional in their core purpose, delivering wireless audio, none of those products were very good and they always seemed to come with a catch. Either they were too expensive, didn’t work reliably or were a pain to use.
Before you read further, you should know that I can sometimes have ridiculously high standards and take purchasing tech products very seriously. It is not uncommon for me to take several months to research, test and review my options before deciding that I’m getting the absolute best product for the least amount of money. But when Apple announced the AirPods last October, I immediately knew they were the headphones for me.
AirPods are light, comfortable for most people and sound much better than you’d expect. They provide an incredible value, even though $159 seems high for such a small and seemingly simple device. But when you consider the “holistic cost,” as my friend Nate says, they just make sense.
It may seem trivial, but if you are a regular headphone user, consider how many times during your day you have to manage your cord. Without wires you are suddenly free to stand up from your desk, take off your jacket, or get in and out of your car without choreographing your every move.
As I write this review, I’m sitting in a comfy chair at home, using my 2016 MacBook to stream music wirelessly to my AirPods. There are no cords to get in the way and I sometimes forget they are in my ears. With a wired pair of headphones, I would have to decide whether to take them out or haul my laptop into the kitchen with me to get a drink or snack. With AirPods, there is no thinking! I can just get up, get what I want and come back to my chair. Simple.
It’s important to note that the range of the AirPods is fantastic. In my home, I can easily travel 50 feet from my laptop, iPhone or iPad before I have to worry about losing the signal. This means I can travel freely anywhere in my small home without bringing my devices along. I’ve even made it all the way to my car before realizing I’ve left my phone inside. The music just kept on playing like my phone was in my pocket the whole time.
If you’ve been on the fence about buying AirPods, you shouldn’t wait any longer. They live up to the hype and are easily one of the most practical tech purchases I have made in the past 12 months.
If you’ve made it this far, you are probably ready to get your own pair. So, head over to Apple’s website to order yours.
Want to hear Nate and Dave discuss them more? Check out episode 54 and 55 of the podcast.
Have a question or your own take? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook or Twitter.
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