Apple Wireless AirPods: a Comprehensive Review
They’re here; they’re finally here!
At their event in September, where they presented the iPhone 7, Apple also showcased two tiny earphones they called the AirPods.
Offering a truly wireless experience, these Bluetooth earphones claims to simplify our life by offering a seamless integration to Apple’s other line of products, especially the iPhone 7 without the headphone jack; and no, this does not come with the new iPhones. You have your Lightning headphones and adapter for that.
They were scheduled to be launched in October, but got held back because of issues with both pods communicating with one another.
Anyhow, they became available in December, and I managed to get my hands on a limited pair within the first week before they went out of stock. The estimated delivery time is now 6 weeks, so if you order now you would have to wait until 2017.
Before you order however, I hope this review will help you decide if you should.
Unbox and setup
It comes in a small square white box with 2 embossed AirPods on the lid, which is a nice touch.
Opening it up, you get the user manual. Under that is the charging case for the AirPods and finally a Lightning USB cable to charge the case.
The AirPods themselves are inside the case.
Once I opened the lid, my iPhone detected them and ask if I wanted to connect to them, which was very cool; no need to fiddle around with pairing buttons.
It took two attempts to get them connected, the first few times saying that there was an error connecting. After they’re connected, a tone is heard in the AirPods and all audio is now directed to the pods.
These look exactly like the wired AirPods, but obviously without the wires. Imagine someone chopped off the wires of your wired AirPods, leaving a little bit on the end, and that’s it; so the design could be better.
When wearing them, they do look a bit odd, and one person confused them for hearing aids, especially when I was using a single one.
I had some initial issues when using them, when I wanted to summon Siri, I’d perform the double tap on the right AirPod but Siri came up on my phone’s speaker instead, furthermore it didn’t respond to any of my commands. This was solved by me using the best solution to any tech support, turning the phone off and on!
After that slight hiccup, the AirPods functioned fine, I was able to listen to music, hear Voiceover, make calls, and talk to Siri.
To summon Siri, I just had to double tap either of the AirPods, and I could ask my normal questions about the weather, set up meetings, request an Uber, and one extra command to check the battery on the AirPods; just ask, “What’s my battery level?”
These small earphones has no physical buttons, and every control has to be done via Siri. You have to ask Siri to turn up the volume and play the next track.
Answering incoming calls is simple, just use the two tap on the pods as if you were summoning Siri and it will pick the call up; repeat this if you wish to end the call.
What Did You Say?
At any point you’re listening to music or watching a video, and you pull out one of the pods to hear something, it will automatically pause the media, just pop it back in and it will resume playing.
You can still listen to your phone with one pod in, just hit play after it automatically pauses.
If you take both out, it will automatically disconnect from your phone, very convenient as it allows me to use my phone without messing around with Bluetooth settings or turning them off.
With both AirPods in my ears I can just about shut out the outside world, I can still hear the rumble of a London tube as they do not have noise cancelation. This really depends on the level of volume, and whether you’re listening to a song or a book, but they are really audible!
The quality itself sounds better than the wired version, with a bit more kick to the bass, but it’s far from perfect, and you can get cheaper options for the same quality.
Siri understood me perfectly, even in noisy environments, this is achieved by the two beam-forming microphones located on each long end of the bottom of the pods, this technology allows AirPods to filter out external noise and focus on the sound of my voice, which is pointing towards my mouth.
I have to say though, with one pod in, Siri had issues understanding me when I’m walking on the street.
When on the phone people noted the better quality, they said it didn’t sound like I was using headphones, it sounded like I was talking through my actual phone.
Using third-party apps such as WhatsApp and Skype seems to be a hit and miss, the quality will vary, like if it was encoded in a lower sample rate
If you want a sample of the microphone quality you can take a listen here, but it’s not brilliant, but with phone and FaceTime calls, they sound fantastic.
There is no way to have a private conversation with these in public due to the position of the microphones. You won’t be able to put your mouth close to them like the wired AirPods, and they aren’t really close to your mouth so whispering won’t be an option as well. Any phone calls, or command to Siri will be heard by people near by.
“Play Justin Bieber!”
Are They Secure?
For me? Yes. Instead of using earbuds with interchangeable different sized tips, Apple’s adopted the one-size-fits-all approach, which means due to the size it should fit the majority of people.
If you have issues with the wired ones staying in, there is a good chance you will struggle with these as well.
Just a heads up if you decide to sleep with these on, on the first night, I was listening to an audio book, and by the morning one had fallen out, ended up in the gap between the bed and the wall.
This might be my notorious tossing and turning, but when in contact with something like a bed or a coat hood, they do shift.
Once in though, they are really comfortable, at times I hardly notice they were in, and as much as I tried they just wouldn’t come out!
Lost & Stolen
One thing I have to say is how easy they come out when pulled, someone can very easily come up to you and yank them out and run off with them, and not promoting any theft here, there isn’t even any deactivation procedure to make them useless to thieves, but I would expect you need the case for them to pair to a new device.
Replacing one of these isn’t cheap too.
I am not brave enough to put them through gruelling tests, but I have dropped them from head height before and they worked fine, after trying to find them.
They aren’t officially sweat proof, but I notice they can take a bit of water, I got them wet before by walking home in the rain and they worked okay.
For a more thorough durability test, check out this video from YouTuber EveryThingApplePro.
The small case that it supposed to sit in when not being use act as a charger too, so when you’re not using them they are charging.
From a full charge, the AirPods lasts roughly for 5 hours which is impressive given their size. Once they are dead you can pop them back in the case for only 15 minutes and it will give you 3 hours of use.
Obviously the case itself needs charging as well, and when full will give you 24 hours of charge.
For those who can see it, you can check the battery status of your AirPods by checking on the tiny LED light between the slots where your AirPods sits, and they will give you an idea how much life you got left, green means it’s fully charged, amber meaning it’s still charging, just take them out and the lights reflects the battery life of the case and not the AirPods.
For a more accurate report, just ask Siri “How much battery do my AirPods have?” or you can look at the Notification Centre.
For the case itself, just open the lid near to your iPhone and it will automatically display the battery life of the case.
Probably the most common question I get ask by blind users is, “Is there lag when using Voiceover?”
Yes, but hardly noticeable. These are using Bluetooth so no matter what Apple does, there is no way to provide the same latency as wired AirPods.
The latency is maybe 0.2 seconds maximum, and certainly a smooth experience.
Just like the wired options, Voiceover works really well, but I have noticed a slight bug with selecting audio destination via the Voiceover rotor, once you set the audio to your phone, you can’t flick to switch back and would have to connect via the Control Centre again.
These are Bluetooth headphones so as long as your other devices have Bluetooth, they should work with these, all be limited.
There will not be the instant initial setup found with your Apple devices, and you won’t be able to control music as there are no physical options and Siri won’t be there to help; but you can still listen to audio fine.
To connect them you will need to hit the paring button found at the back of the case, it’s tiny so it might take some time to find, hold that down and it will start to allow other devices to connect to it.
What Is The Range?
These have great range, I can leave my phone charging in the Living Room and move freely around in the adjacent room, my kitchen, without any loss of quality or cut-outs to phone calls and music.
They do start to struggle if I go upstairs though.
How Much Do They Cost?
They cost £159 in the UK, $159 in the US.
To replace either an AirPod or the charging case, Apple will charge you £65 – or $69 – for each item.
I would not be keeping mine, despite its great features, there is one deal breaker for me.
I mentioned that there are no physical way to control your playback, and everything needs to be done via Siri.
I love Siri but as a voice assistance software it is lacking behind competitors such as Alexa on the Amazon Echo. I’m not sure how you’re like speaking to Siri in public, personally I don’t mind, I get a few looks my way when I suddenly start talking, but with the wired AirPods I am able to place my mouth closer to the microphone, it would not be possible with these, and from a passerby’s point of view, not sure how I would have felt if the person who was quiet a minute ago, out of the blue just burst out with a command! Also there is a point where using Siri might not be as sufficient, for a basic command such as volume up, do I really need Siri? What about skipping tracks, do I really want to be sitting there with the person next to me hearing “Next, next, next”?
However, the main issue is connectivity. As you know, Siri requires an internet to work, without Wi-Fi or cellular it will not function. I commute to university and work on the London Underground, and unlike other cities, our subways have limited coverage in the stations, and non-existent connectivity in the tunnels. This mean throughout most of my journey I would need to be reaching into my pocket for my phone to raise the volume and change the song which somewhat defeats the purpose.
One more little thing, it wasn’t as integrated as I expected, I was expecting that I could raise my wrist to check the time on my Apple Watch whiles using my phone, and audio will be streamed to my ears, but no. You would have to go into the Control Panel and select the AirPods via AirPlay.
Currently it only supports streaming from one device at a time, and without automatic switching doesn’t really do it for me.
It’s still early days, and I look forward to software updates.
To conclude, these are fantastic earphones giving me the sense of freedom and movement only wireless earphones could achieve. They are comfortable, and work extremely well with your Apple products.
There is no noticeable lag with Voiceover, and audio quality is great for music and books.
They do not fall out easily, and would make excellent earphones for sports such as running.
These are the best earphones I have tried out so far, the price might be a bit steep, but it’s certainly cheaper than current high end earphones.
If you been holding back in going wireless, or tried Bluetooth earphones with bad results, I would get these, you will not be disappointed.
I just wish it wasn’t so dependent on Siri; also a physical way to control my music would be nice. Looking forward to the next generation of these!
Obviously it’s different for everyone, so I would recommend going into an Apple store to try them out. Don’t worry, they sanitise them after each person is done with them, and they will also allow you to pair them to your personal phone.
Another option is to buy them, and try them for 14 days, as long as you return them within this period, Apple’s return policy allows you to give them back.
I hope this review has helped and answered your questions, if not drop me a comment below and I will answer them.
Please do share your experience as well. I would be very interested to hear them.
Happy New Year!
Devices Accessory Was Used With
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I'm interested in these but only because of the report that the connection to both the phone and the watch would be seemless. The idea of lifting my wrist to check the time with voiceover speaking through the airpods is really what attracted me to these. Are you saying that this isn't seemless? I.E. every time I need to use the watch or the phone, I need to switch? Or there's some other manual step required? I can live with the slight latency as it's the ease of use that I'm really looking for. It's this continuity that is sorely missing from the apple watch at the moment.
Yes sadly, that was one of the reasons why I wanted these as well, I want to use my watch along side my phone.
You mentioned that you used Siri to call an uber. what happens if you need to call the Uber driver? does the call rout through the AirPods?
Calls from Uber drivers were always through your actual phone, and not within an app. So yep you can talk to drivers using the pods
how long does the case to be full charge?
I was really excited about these, and even thought of ordering a pair and waiting. Now I'm glad I didn't. I have my current earpiece (Plantronics Voyager Edge) connected simultaneously to my iPhone and iPad Pro, and would require the same of the Airpods. I would have expected better, especially for this price tag. Fortunately, I like the look of the LG HBS1100 (a better version of the HBS910 I used to have before my cat got hold of it). I'm in the market for a portable, long-lasting, stereo Bluetooth headset with multi-point, and unfortunately the Airpods just don't fit that requirement. Too bad Plantronics don't make a headset version of the Voyager Edge, as I'd buy that in a heartbeat.
Thank you for this, appreciated.
Hello! Thank about your review. I had both them and I am waiteing to get them.
My thought about this and I glad to buy them. I look for a bluetooth hadset that there are no delay with VoiceOver. I looking for a hadset that not will bip when I tatting with VoiceOver running.
I was considering sending mine back until I discovered I can use Now Playing on my Apple Watch to control playback. Double tap play/pause gestures work great, I can tap previous/next to skip tracks, and even use the Digital Crown to control volume.
I have been excited from the very first time I heard about the Airpots. For this reason, I started this topic to hear about other peoples thoughts, and to get peoples feedback in the future:
A lot of people said they wouldn't get them for a lot of reasons which I do understand, but after this topic, I wasn't motivated to tell about my experiences on using my Airpots. With this great review, I will tell a bit about my experiences, and if you have more questions or want me to go in deeper detailes, then please leave a comment.
I bought mine, mainly because I wanted to use them with multiple devices. As you can read in this review, this does simply not work well, and not even as Apple says on the website. It don't happens automatically. I don't know if there'll be made any improvements for this in the new versions of the operating systems. I expected, with those expensive headset, that they supported multiple connections just like my BOse headset, but they don't. So I couldn't use them as expected, and I was close to send them back, telling Apple that they don't work as expected, and not even as Apple says on their website.
But... I started to use them with my primary iPhone, and I quickly noticed how great they fit into my daily life.
I don't listen much to music, so the controls for music playback is not a need for me. I'm always using my airpots when having the phone in my hand, when doing phone calls when the phone is in my pocket or when using GPS apps while the phone is locked in my pocket. I'm not a heavy Siri user, because I like to interact with my phone instead of talking to my phone. Especially when traveling and being out in the public, which I do every day, both privately and during my job.
I use my Airpots when doing phonecalls, when walking to use GPS apps, when checking my Facebook or other more important travel information on my phone when waiting for the train or a buss, when traveling by train or buss, and almost in all siturations where I for some reason want a headset.
Because of the very small size of the battery case, they are always in my jacket pocket. I even have the possibility to take them with me everywhere where I go because of the small battery case, which is so great compared to other headsets I have seen.
They are very easy and fast to take out and put in your ears when needed, and more importantly, fast to take out, put in the battery case and put in your pocket when needed, for example when changing train or buss, which is a must for me when traveling. The other headsets I have seen are bigger, and not that fast to take away.
The battery life is simply amazing. The battery life, the case included, last for like two weeks for me, depending on how much I use them.
You can easily hear what happens around you when using the Airpots, which is also a must for me when traveling, and especially when walking outside. This is an other great reason to get the Airpots.
The sound quality is super, and some of the best I have heard from wireless headsets.
The Airpots does have a lot of limites and I fully understand all the reasons for not getting them but choosing other headsets instead. But for me they are fantastic, and I haven't found other headsets which gives me all what I have described the Airpots does for me, and the way I choose to use them. So I'm glad I didn't send them back, but gave them an extra chance. Yes, there are missing features, and a lot of ways I think they could be improved. I'm very disappointed that the automatic switching between your devices don't work. I have an issue when trying to automatically connect to other devices which is very frustrating. Sometimes, one of the Airpots is connected to for example my iPhone, and the other Airpot is connected to my Mac. This would be an awesome feature if you could control this, but when this happens randomly and out of control, then this becomes very frustrating. I have been in contact with the Apple support about those issues, and I hope they will improve that in the future.
The huge disappointment for me is that the expensive Airpots doesn't support multiple Bluetooth connections. This is, in my opinion, a failure from a big company like Apple, who is expected to make some of the best and high quality products. But all the bad things about the Airpots are not so bad for me, because of the way I choose to use my Airpots. For me, the Airpots have made my iPhone much easier and more flexible to use everyday.
Questions, thoughts and comments are very much welcome.
With my AirPods, I almost never wear the Apple buds that come with the phone. The pods charge quickly; the case holds a long charge, and I think that the sound is better than the headphones that come with the phone. Does anyone who has AirPods have the experience that character echo is sometimes really loud in the pods?
I believed I had lost my pods, something easily done and I was preparing to buy new ones perhaps for the Christmas holiday. Yesterday, I found the case with the pods inside on my window ledge making me extremely pleased! I also confess, waiting for transportation outside, using GPS apps to travel around; largely any use outside my house seems dangerous to me as I fear the loss of one or both bods. They stay in place pretty well for me, but I am not sure they would for everyone. Also, I have knocked one out before with my elbow reaching for something like a strap on a backpack or briefcase. So far that always has occurred in my house and I have always located them. I can't seem to get the find my pods feature to work, which may be that I am not really sure how it is supposed to work. At any rate, I feel more comfortable using them inside my home. I remain a fan though and am glad to have them back available to me. I also only have them paired with my phone and not with multiple IOS devices or non IOS tools.