25/12/2016

AirPods… FTW

When I saw the Apple Airpods announced alongside the iPhone 7 I thought they looked interesting, but was a bit skeptical that they would be impractical for my workout needs. Like many, I was worried that they would drop out of my ears easily during a workout.

When it was clear that they would be delayed I decided to get the Powerbeats3 wireless headphones, partly because they were available, but mostly because I was fairly sure they would be better suited to use during exercise.

Turns out that the Beats headphones died within a few weeks - first the volume buttone stopped working, then the cetre button to start/stop/answer phone calls, and finally the power button died. Based on my experience:

Powerbeats = no power and no beats.

in mid-December I heard mention on several podcasts that the Airpods were released and there would be some availability pre-Christmas. On a whim I took a look at the Apple Australia website and there they were available - so I ordered a pair and they were delivered to me at home spot on time on 19 December1.

The Airpods are brilliant. They are simply the best wireless in-ear style headphones I’ve used.

Pairing

Like other recently released Apple bluetooth peripherals, the pairing process on these is brilliant. Open the Airpod case, ensure the iPhone (or other device) is unlocked and the pairing screen should pop up.

There’s not much further to say, because it was the simplest and most straightforward device pairing I’ve experienced2.

As a bonus, once the pairing was completed with one device, every other Apple device connected to the same Apple ID is also paired3.

General Use

I’ve used the Airpods now for a week, and love them. I have used them walking to/from work, shopping, out making photos and even on a plane4. I have also used them exercising, but will talk more about that in a moment.

They fit comfortably5, and for normal use I have no fear that they will bounce out.

When I first unboxed the Airpods my wife immediately stressed that it was important I keep them in their case - she was right from the point of view of not losing them, as well as from the perspective of the case being they way the Airpods are charged.

I saw a Daring Fireball post where John Gruber talked about David Pogues’ comment that rather than being concerned about the Airpods falling out of year, the greater concern is dropping them between their two homes: the case and your earholes”.

I concur.

This is a big advantage of having to have the case whereever you take the Airpods - they can easily be returned to their home. I would suggest that the suggestions by my wife, Gruber and Pogue converge on the same point:

Airpods have two natural states - in your ears or in their case.

I love the feature where removing an Airpod from the ear pauses the playback, and replacing the Airpod resumes it. A simple one step process.

Double tapping either Airpod brings up Siri. So far I haven’t been able to get Siri to reduce or increase volume. Its a useful feature for making calls, but some sort of offline Siri’ for adjusting volume, rewinding, etc, would be great.

I am not an audiophile, so can only say that the Airpods deliver a quality of sound for music, podcasts and audio books that I am very happy with. FWIW, they sound a little better to me than the Powerbeats36.

Use During Exercise

This is where I have been blown away - Airpods stay in my ears, even when running or when doing HIIT routines that include skipping ropes and other exercises.

There’s not a lot else to say. Airpods deliver quality sound while staying snugly in place during most exerise routines.

I generally get a reasonable sweat up during my routines, so will be interested to see how that will effect the Airpods in time7.

Battery Life

Very good. I haven’t pushed any limits on the Airpods or their case, but so far I have reason to doubt the 5 hours for the actual Airpods and the 24 hours for the case that Apple claims.

What I have observed is that popping one/both Airpods back in the case for 15 minutes is very effective in bringing up the charge levels.

Final Thoughts

I really like the Airpods, and am happy using them.

For future iterations, I’d love to see some way of adjusting voume that doesn’t rely on Siri (at least the current version of Siri that needs a web connection), and I’d love some sort of feature that allowed you to find a dropped Airpod.

Other than that, they’re a device I would be happy to recommend to anyone needing wireless earphones that are simple to use and reliable for a range of uses.


  1. Glad I did - as of 25 December there is a 6 week wait on new orders.

  2. The Powerbeats3 had a similar but not quite as elegant process. I believe these use the same chipset.

  3. I’ve tested this on an Apple Watch, an iPad Pro and a MacBook Pro. Quite seamless.

  4. I’d actually advise against using Airpods on a plane. The critical point for potentially dropping Airpods is taking them in and out of your ears and the case. The chance of dropping them between/behind a seat is too high. Plus, radio devices should not be used on a plane!

  5. At least they fit me comfortably. YMMV.

  6. A little less tinny’ if that explains anything.

  7. No cause for concer to date, but wonder out loud.


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