The day has finally come. After all the hype and much-publicised delays, Apple is finally shipping the AirPods to customers worldwide.
When Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone 7, CEO Tim Cook told everyone that wireless is the future, and that his company would be releasing wireless headsets to justify the radical move.
One of these products would come in the form of the AirPods, Apple’s first truly wireless audio solution that was meant to be used with their new iPhones.
Slated to be released around a month after the iPhones were sold, unexplained delays followed, and soon, Apple found themselves potentially missing out on the important Christmas shopping period.
But alas, they finally did it, and the AirPods were made available to order from last week. Early bird shoppers would by now have had their pairs delivered to them, but those late to the party would unfortunately have to wait until the new year.
Thankfully, we managed to get our hands on a set, so let’s cut to the chase of whether or not you should get Apple’s latest product.
Here’s our experience with using the AirPods over the past week.
Let’s Talk About The Apple AirPods’ Hardware And Software
Here’s what you’ll get in the box:
Take the wrapper off and you will be greeted with a sleeve containing all the manuals. There is, unfortunately, no Apple sticker.
Past that is the charging case with the AirPods, and going deeper in is a Lightning USB cable for you to charge your new earphones through the case.
You can pretty much use them immediately as they come pre-charged, and here’s where the best party trick presents itself.
First, switch on the Bluetooth on your iPhone, then unveil your brand new AirPods by simply tilting back the top cover of the case.
Behold – the power of Apple’s new W1 wireless processor. Almost instantly, you will see a pop-up that lets you connect the AirPods to your iPhone.
Tap on Connect, and voilà – your AirPods are now synced to your Apple ID. What this also means is that now, you will be able to transition (almost) seamlessly between all your Apple devices as long as they are connected to the same Apple account when using the AirPods.
This works for the iPhone, Apple Watch, Macbook Pro, iMac, iPad etc, but that’s only when the devices are updated to macOS 10 Sierra and iOS10.
Thanks to their sensors (the black dots on the front and back), the AirPods are also able to detect when they have been inserted into your ears and will play sounds to let you know when they have successfully connected to a device.
Oh, and if the iPhone is the only Apple device you have, the AirPods works like any other Bluetooth earphones that you can pair with other non-Apple devices. But do take note that you’ll only be able to stream audio with them.
That Case And Battery Life
This isn’t some cheap fabric case with an ugly charging cable dangling out of one end. This high tech ‘dental floss’ enclosure is what keeps your AirPods going all day; and with minor usage, potentially even all week.
Apple is promising a total of 24 hours worth of battery life since the charging case holds multiple additional charges, and delivers 3 hours of use with just 15 minutes of charging.
Bold claim, but is it really true?
I don’t have any data to back this up, and neither did I conduct a full battery drain by playing music for hours on end, but what I can tell you is this – if you’re just using this for your daily commute, you can easily go for days by just relying on the case to charge your AirPods daily.
But if, like me, you use them all day and switch between your phone and computer, the AirPods and charging case combination can carry you through the day with ease.
This is what the battery levels are like for me at the end of a typical work day, and I can still use the AirPods to sleep while I charge the case – all ready for the morning after.
Sounds Better Than The EarPod, Though Not By Much
Okay, so it has fantastic battery life…but how does it sound? Well, depending on where you’re using it, it’s either a ‘meh’ or a ‘wow’.
The ‘meh’ bit comes in my daily commute.
Even with all the money that you’ve paid for the AirPods, there’s no noise cancellation feature in them. So when using it in open spaces, and while you’re out and about, they sound more or less like the EarPods.
However, if you’re indoors, the AirPods would most likely inspire a ‘wow’ from you.
Okay, maybe ‘wow’ is a bit of an exaggeration, but you can only tell the difference in audio quality from the old EarPods when indoors. The audio is richer and the bass is fuller, but audiophiles are definitely not the target audience here.
However, if you love the EarPods like myself, the improvements are a welcomed change.
The Elephant In The Room
Let’s get the big issue that everyone has with the AirPods out of the way – yes, the AirPods are basically EarPods minus the cables, and with a bigger stem.
So if you’re of the opinion that the old EarPods were something you’d rather leave in the box, I’d suggest you hit the next page and catch up on some of our other articles.
There’s no way around it – the form factor is one that you either will love or hate.
Personally, I love them, and feel that the AirPods are some of the best sounding earbuds around.
With that said, a common complaint among iPhone users is that the AirPods are a total hit or miss when it comes to staying in your ears – they either just stay in, or not at all (especially with ladies).
So if the AirPods do not fit your ears, you might want to find an alternative, instead of getting pricey replacements from the service centers, or even buying an entirely new pair whenever you lose a side, or both.
Lastly, if you want to get a pair but feel like you might look stupid wearing them – don’t worry, they’re so unnoticeable that even you yourself will hardly notice when they’re in your ears!
From personal experience for the past week, aside from a glance or two on public transportation, and some interest from friends while wearing it, wearing the AirPods are like wearing any other pair of earphones.
If You’re Not Convinced, Here Are Some Alternatives
The W1 chip is what I feel defines the AirPods.
In a typical open office environment, I can go for 10 to 20 meters, with a wall or two in between before losing connection to my device. That, along with the fact that “it just works”.
With other Bluetooth headphones, I will sometimes have to unpair and pair it to my device. With the AirPods, there was none of that. After pairing them the first time, they will automatically connect to the device, Mac or Windows, Android or iOS.
Understandably, there will be some quarters among the Apple faithful who are worrywarts, and are afraid of losing the AirPods. If regular bluetooth earphones in the market are not your cup of tea, and you want something that’s more of an ‘Apple solution’, know that there are actually earphones and headphones equipped with the W1 chip for that seamless pairing experience.
And it is found in none other than the Apple-owned Beats products, and there are three of them.
All three are available on Apple’s online store now.
Two of them offer the more traditional wired Bluetooth experience, while the last one is your good old wireless headphones.
And with Beats being Beats, this will be another ‘love it or hate it’ affair, but if you’re seeking a W1-enabled wireless audio product, these are your only alternatives to the AirPods.
Delays Again (Due To High Demand?)
If you’re one of those who have ordered the AirPods on Day 1 of pre-orders – congratulations! You would have received yours by now, or the end of the week, or even the week after.
Unfortunately, if you order now, don’t expect to see them by the end of the year – let alone at the end of January.
Shipping estimates on Apple’s online store put the AirPods on a 6-week estimate. Too bad we don’t have an official Apple store in Singapore yet, where we can just waltz in and pick a pair up.
Well, at least we know that Apple is selling a ton of them, so hopefully, a version 2.0 with added improvements are not some way off once the new iPhone comes along in September 2017.
So…should you or shouldn’t you?
I have already laid out the good, bad, and even some alternatives, so ultimately, the decision to checkout on that cart is up to you.
At the end of the day, if you subscribe to Apple’s vision of the future, the Airpods are worth a serious consideration.