AirPods Your New Best Mate
It's been almost 1 year since Apple announced its wireless version of the AirPods so what better time to write a review of the weird but seriously cool new addition to the Apple family.
I originally posted this article on Medium back in 2017!
First Things First: That design though!
When Apple first announced these things back in December 2016 the memes instantly started rolling in. Here are just a few of my favourite comparisons: They look like toothbrushes, mini hairdryers and lets not forget the case looks like dental floss...
Sure they look kind of weird but I kind of like Apple's approach here. The iconic, white, wired headphones everyone has been wearing for years now is so simple and well designed. Why would they go from that to something completely different? If it's not broke, don't fix it!
If you've ever worn wired AirPods, you'll know that they just fit. I haven't come across anyone that hasn't liked how they feel while wearing them. That doesn't change with the wireless version, Apple spent a lot of money ensuring the shape of these things fit and work for as many ear shapes as possible.
In saying that, they're not for everyone. Headphones are a personal accessory if you ask me, they should reflect your personality and style. But if you're a fan of the classic Apple headphone look and feel plus with a sprinkling of weirdness, join the club!
A Year Later: How we look'n?
Ok this might sound weird but prior to my AirPods purchase, I spent a few days while out grabbing lunch and on coffee runs looking at what headphones other people were using. I don't live in a huge city but I was kind of shocked. I saw 1...Yes 1 person wearing AirPods. I would have expected a few more, they're a pricey wireless headphone ($159USD) if you stack them up against alternatives but nothing crazy. I actually saw more people wearing big on/over ear headphones than in ear which was interesting. There were of course plenty of the classic wired Apple headphones
I assumed that after 1 year of being available that lots of people would be jamming the AirPods, especially considering if you've purchased a new phone in the last year or so you need an adapter of 3 to use wired headphones.
"85% of wireless headphone sales in the US since the start of the year"
Maybe it's an influence thing, New Zealanders probably haven't had the exposure other countries like the US may have had. It must be something like that because Apple has made a tonne of cash from these since launch and according to NPD they accounted for 85% of wireless headphone sales in the US since the start of the year. I would still love to see a bundle option when purchasing a new iPhone, especially considering the headphone jack thing.
Sound Quality: I hear you loud and clear.
We all know the original AirPods never had amazing sound quality, and if you're an audiophile --- why are you even here?
For the rest of us normal folk, the new AirPods deliver perfectly fine audioquality. Yes, you might lose some quality if you crank them all the way up but for your normal walk to work, train ride home or even run around the park they pump out sound that's clear, has decent bass (much more bass than the wired version) and for me at least are much louder.
They have built in microphones for all that Siri integration business. What's really cool though, is that the new integrated W1 chip and beamforming microphones can work out what is your voice and what is background noise and filter it out. This enables Siri to hear you in less quiet situations as well as anyone you might be having a phone call with. I've tried this driving home with the windows down (cool guy right) and my wife and I could hear each other perfectly.
Now if you work in a busy office or get interrupted often the AirPods also have built in optical sensors and motion accelerometers which know when you're listening and when you're not. Take them out of your ears and the music stops, put them back in and you're away laughing. You can even just roll with one headphone which I seem to do in the office a lot, simply put one back in the case and the other pod will still work.
Battery Life: 24hrs baby, kind of.
No one likes charging headphones, there's never a convenient time to do it.\ There are some headphones out there that can offer true 24 hour battery life but they'll likely be large over-ear headphones and lets face it, if you're still reading this then that's not what you're after.
Apple obviously knows (or spent some of that R&D) that normal headphone users don't use them for 24 hours straight, we use them for maybe a few hours at a time, put them down and maybe use them again for another few hours. That's why the AirPods charging case is sooo good.
On a single charge, each headphone gets up to 5 hours and then 15 minutes in the charging case gets you an additional 3 hours. Insane right? The charging case can hold up to 24 hours of charging time which means if you only use your headphones a few hours at a time then you'll barely have to charge the case at all. Trust me this feature alone will make you fall in love.
Apple also recently announced an updated version of the case (not the headphones) which will include wireless charging. Coming in 2018 alongside the new AirPower charging mat (get those memes ready).
Siri & Features: More features please!
Now I'm not the biggest Siri user, I use it mostly on my Apple Watch to set timers and to call people while driving so having her/him in my ear wasn't really why I made the purchase. If you are a Siri power user then wahoo, simply double tap either headphone and its over to you. I'm yet you experience the connivence of this so I wont try and sell it.
That double tap can be changed via settings but unfortunately it's the only command currently so if you're wanting to turn up the volume, you have to ask Siri or on the device your connected to! Sigh...
That little issue aside, you do get Apple's seriously easy and magic like method of connecting to your AirPods thanks to that W1 chip. Basically if you place the case next your iPhone, a picture of your AirPods will appear and you can choose whether or not to connect, that's it. The simplicity is actually rather impressive, no more weird bluetooth setups or pairing. Life's good.
Fitness: Your gym sessions just levelled up!
When I first told my friends I was ordering a pair, the first thing most of them said was: Wont they fall out? Fair question I guess, they hadn't been running with toothbrushes in their ears so were sceptical and to be honest, so was I.
Running was one of the first things I tried when they arrived and just like the original wired version they stayed stuck in my ears with no problems at all. Once they are in, they are in. It takes some force to bump them out so most physical activities should be fine, especially any gym routine! No more having to adjust the cable or accidentally tugging it from your ear while running or cycling etc.
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