I’ve been using my AirPods for about 3 months now and my overall impression of them is positive. In this review I’ll cover the pros and cons of this revolutionary new product by Apple.
The first thing I’d like to address is the price. Many people think that they are overpriced, however when you consider how much technology goes into these earbuds, you will likely change your mind. First off, the W1 chip is a true leap forward for bluetooth connectivity. Typical pairing procedures for bluetooth devices is terrible – but with the W1 chip on board the AirPods, it makes all of this much easier. After your first connection to your iPhone (or iPad/Mac) the AirPods are linked to your iCloud account, and will automatically show up as an available output on all of your iCloud devices (except the Apple TV). Going forward, you can easily switch between your devices in an instant. This type of setup is simply not possible with any other bluetooth headphones. The next breakthrough in technology comes from the fact that the AirPods must act completely independent of each other while staying perfectly in sync. Typical bluetooth headphones are connected with either a wire or a headband, and while one earpiece acts as the bluetooth receiver, the other earpiece is simply connected via a wire to keep audio in sync – this greatly reduces the amount of technology required. So in order to compare the AirPods on price to other headphones, you must compare apples-to-apples. Once you start looking for truly comparable products, you will realize that AirPods are more than a fair price. In fact, it’s my opinion that Apple wants to drive the cost of these down as quickly as possible, so that one day soon they will be including them with every new iPhone sold – the same way they did with the iconic white wired earbuds in the past with all iPods and iPhones.
In 3 months I have never had to worry about battery life once. According to Apple, they will last 5 hours of continuous use before requiring a recharge. In the time since I’ve purchased them I haven’t listed to them for 5 hours straight. However, I have listened to them for a full 10-11 hour workday. Here’s how – I listen to them for a couple hours, at which point I’ll stop for a break/food/whatever. Before walking away from my desk I put them in the charging case so I don’t lose them. If I’m gone from my desk for 5-15 minutes, they’ve sufficiently charged enough to listen for another 3-4 hours! At which point I would have taken a break. The same pattern would hold true on an international flight. Watch a movie, listen to a podcast, then get up for a stretch and a bathroom break. By the time you’re settled back into your seat, you’re good to go for another few hours. Unless you’re in a marathon working session where you refuse to get up to eat, or go to the bathroom at least once in 5 hours, you will be likely have very few instances where the battery dies and they are unusable – unless of course you forgot to charge the case which is a whole other issue. Battery percentages are available for the AirPods and the case via the Today View widgets on iOS which should further help you manage your battery life.
In 3 months I’ve only dropped the case once, and an AirPod once – both on to concrete floors from about 3 feet. Because they are relatively light and well built, I didn’t have any issues. However, if you step on them or roll over them on your chair, you will likely break them. Luckily Apple will replace each piece individually, so you can avoid having to buy the whole package over again. Overall, I have been satisfied with the build quality. I do hope apple will one day make the charging case out of aluminium though :)
Last but obviously not least – is the sound quality. If you liked the sound quality of the EarPods, you will definitely like the sound quality of the AirPods. In my opinion, they offer improved sound quality over their predecessor. I’m not an audiophile by any stretch, but I can still notice the slight improvement between the two. I was already happy with the audio from the EarPods, and the AirPods are no different. If you want to get a feel for what the sound quality will be, test out some readily available EarPods, and you’ll have a good idea of what they will sound like (and fit like as well!).
The main issue I have experienced with these is remembering to carry them with me. I want to use them at the office, and again when I get to the gym. This requires me to always make sure I put them in my jacket pocket before I leave the office. Sometimes I forget and have to resort to EarPods – which is painful when you have experienced the freedom of no wires at the gym! The other (albeit superficial) issue is how they look – some people think they look like earrings, and someone thought I had a cotton swab in my ear one time. In general, they are a bit futuristic for some people, but I’m hoping the perception of them will change in the near future – until then, you will get a few stares here and there.
Overall, I am very happy with the AirPods. I am curious to see where Apple will go next with these. Different colours? Different case/AirPod materials? Advancements in the W-series chip line? Time will tell. For now, I will continue to use these daily, and carry them with me everywhere.