My Apple AirPods arrived. Hurray! I don’t think you can call this a “review” after just a day of use. Instead, it’s a list of observations from a new user. Before getting started, I should say a little bit about me and bluetooth. For several years now I’ve been carrying around a variety of bluetooth headsets throughout the day. I use them to listen to music and podcasts. I also use them to make a lot of telephone calls. So as an AirPod customer, I am looking for something that sounds good but is also useful for phone calls. With that in mind, here goes…
About the Case
- I like the idea of a battery case. I'm always carrying these Bluetooth headsets in my pocket and the idea of one that can charge them while in my pocket is a great idea.
- The case is heavier than you think it is.
- It’s a good thing the hinge is chrome or I'd never know what side is front … really.
- Since you know which side is front, you also know exactly which AirPod is for the left and right ear when you open it up. This is helpful if you use just one AirPod at a time, which it is already clear I will do often.
- The Magnetic latch for the case is more satisfying than it should be. At some point I started to feel like Captain Queeg and his ball bearings so I put it back in my pocket.
- Overall, the case design is great. It’s about the size of a dental floss container but the edges are much more rounded, making getting it in and out of your pocket much easier.
About the Pairing Experience
- A lot of folks are losing their minds over the pairing process. It is more convenient but I'd consider a side benefit and not a good enough reason to buy AirPods over some other Bluetooth headphone. All of my recently acquired Bluetooth headphones hold a pairing pretty good.
- Setting the previous point aside, using these with multiple Apple devices is far superior to any other Bluetooth device I’ve used. I jumped between iPhone, iPad(s), and Mac(s) at will with these AirPods. None of my other Bluetooth headphones could do this without a lot of work (if at all).
- I couldn’t get the AirPods to pair to the Apple TV automagically. I can get them to pair to Apple TV as a standard Bluetooth headphone but where is the fun in that?
- When you flip open the case, iPhone displays a panel showing the current charge status of each AirPod and the case. Super-slick.
- Once you pair the AirPod's with any iCloud connected Apple device, they are automatically paired to every other device in your iCloud account.
About the Fit
- This is the second time I’ve used AirPods. Again I jumped and shook my head like a crazy man. Again I was unable to make them fall out of my ears. I took a hike with no problem but I wouldn’t use them while playing tennis or climbing a mountain.
- Thinking about how I usually have corded Apple EarPods fall out of my ears, it usually involves some hijinks with the cord. These new AirPods don’t have a cord so–in large part–problem solved. You know that feeling when your EarPods yank on your ear because the cord got caught on a door handle, right? No more.
- The fact that the AirPods fit nicely in my ears doesn’t mean they’ll fit in yours. I have several friends with ears that are too big or too small (or too odd-grin) for EarPods. I expect they’ll face the same problems with AirPods.
- Changing clothes with the AirPods in your ears is a lot easier than any other headphone or Bluetooth headset I've ever used. I can actually change my shirt without having to stop my song or podcast.
About the Battery Life
- It is too early for me to report on battery life. I'm just getting started with these things. However, because so often I use them one at a time with the other one charging in the case, I don’t expect losing battery power to be an issue.
- The fact that the case charges by lightning cable is convenient for me. I have lightning chargers everywhere in my life including next to my bed, in my car, and even a battery that I carry in my bag.
About the Sound Quality and Range
- Overall I would rate the sound quality as "pretty good". If you're super picky about audio, you'll probably not want AirPods. If you think the EarPods are good enough, you'll find these wireless versions good enough as well. I tried really hard to compare wired EarPods to wireless AirPods and they sound about the same to me. I guess that's the point.
- I'm sure it has something to do with the Apple W1 chip but the range on these is better than any Bluetooth headphones I've ever used. Because I spend so much time on the phone and listening to Bluetooth audio, I have a really good idea of how far I can get away from my phone before things start falling apart. The AirPods sound better and I was able to get much further with the AirPod's then I was any other Bluetooth device I’ve used in the past.
About Making Phone Calls
- I love the fact that you can just use one of the AirPods in mono-mode. I made several phone calls with the right one in and then stuck it in the case and pulled out the left one out and started using that for hours. They've got the same hardware for both the left and the right. If you're making a lot of telephone calls, this allows you to be charging one while using the other. Clever.
- The call sound quality is acceptable. I did a test with one friend between my AirPod's and my BlueParrot Bluetooth headset and she reported that both sounded the same.
About The Controls (and Lack Thereof)
- Every other Bluetooth headphone I've used has attached controls similar to those on the existing EarPods controlls. Pausing with a click is great. You don't get that with AirPods. Instead, to pause, I just pull an AirPod out of my ear and the audio stops. Volume up and down is more frustrating. You can use a Siri command or you can use volume controls on your iPhone or Apple Watch but all of those things take more steps than a simple click. Indeed, there is no way to adjust volume with the AirPods as easily as you can with the EarPods that come free with your iPhone. While that sucks, AirPods bring Siri to the game, which is pretty awesome.
About Siri and the AirPods
- Getting Siri with a couple of taps to your ear is really useful. Granted, I am in the Siri camp already so I'm comfortable giving commands to my personal digital assistant and getting some results. The double tap is more convenient and easier than the long press on the center control button on my existing Bluetooth headphones. Moreover, Siri is just more accurate and responsive with the AirPod's then she is with any other Bluetooth headset I've used. Audio playback/volumes/next track issues aside, having Siri in my ear is pretty great.
- There's a setting that allows you to toggle the double tap between Siri activation and play/pause. If you use Siri at all, you'll want to leave it on the default Siri activation.
- I hope at some point they find a way to give you more control with taps. Why not a single tap or triple tap?
- Interestingly, the AirPods improve dictation accuracy. I ran test with both Dragon Anywhere and Siri dictation and found it more accurate when using the AirPod microphone then using the built-in microphone. I think a lot of work went into the AirPod beam forming microphones.
I fully expect these AirPod's to take over the vast majority of my Bluetooth headphones duty. The convenience, the easy access to Siri, the ability to carry them in my pocket and always be charging make the AirPods a clear winner for me. While I am certain I will miss the better audio controls you get on a corded headphone, the other features AirPod provide more than make up for this for me.
If you need noise canceling or something over the ear for more strenuous workouts, the AirPods won’t cut it. However, for most people I think the AirPods are going to be a great solution. Best of all, this is only the first generation of Apple’s AirPods. These things are only going to get smarter and more useful over time.