Apple’s AirPods Are Awesome.
Are they proof that Apple still has some great products left in it?
There’s been a lot of talk recently that Apple is past its prime. IPhone sales have begun to slowly decline.
Apple’s smartphone market share in the emerging markets like China is disappointing.
The iPhone 7 was generally considered disappointing.
The iPad lineup has become bloated with a variety of screen sizes, weight classes, and a “pro” division but has seen no deep innovation for some time.
People are asking themselves “when was the last time Apple released something groundbreaking instead of merely iterative?”
The Era of Jobs
The ability to enter a new product category and revolutionize it was the hallmark of Apple under Steve Jobs.
Each of these devices represented a landmark change in what we thought the product should be. The iPod made MP3 players mainstream because it reimagined what was necessary in a music player and provided that (and only that). The iPhone made smartphones mainstream for the same reasons. The iPad elevated tablets in the same way.
AirPods do exactly what Apple is famous for. It reimagined wireless headphones, asking “what should the experience of using these be like?”
Then it solves for that experience.
What have been the big points of friction for wireless headphones in the past?
- Shoddy and clunky Bluetooth performance
- Large, inconvenient earbuds
Apple has addressed each of these points with AirPods, and provided a solid listening (and talking, if you’re into that) experience.
The only downside is, of course, the price. But that’s an Apple quirk that dates back to the days of Jobs, and it’s one that’s enabled Apple’s absurd profitability and valuation.
The perfect Apple product is, by definition, a best-in-class experience that you will pay a lot for.
I’ve used the AirPods for about a week now. Pairing them is “insanely great”. You just open the case next to your Apple device and are automatically prompted the rest of the way.
Have a few Apple devices you want to use the headphones between? Not a problem — they’ll all pair automatically after the first one and you can switch between them without turning Bluetooth off or disconnecting.
I’ve never had them drop connection, and the range from the device is right around what you would expect from Bluetooth headphones in general.
Earbuds and Sound Quality
The earbuds are surprisingly good. I’ve never loved Apple’s included iPhone headphones. They’re uncomfortable and provide generally tinny music quality.
AirPods are the same style as these so I had low expectations. The other earbuds have always hurt my ears, but these don’t. And I haven’t had them naturally fall out yet, even while walking around San Francisco.
Sound quality appears to be a slight upgrade to the standard headphones to my ears. It’s not incredible but it’s certainly passable.
I would have liked better sound quality for the money.
The charging case is really cool. I know it’s not a unique idea anymore, but it’s definitely the best incarnation of the idea I have seen.
Gentle magnets lock the AirPods into place in the case, and another gentle magnet keeps the case closed. It charges via standard lightening cable, so you don’t need to carry another cable type (a big complaint for me about other wireless earbuds).
There are still a few complaints I have about the AirPods. It’s important not to understate that they are expensive for what yo’ure getting (including the sound quality).
The double tap to access Siri is cool, but I would have liked to see a way to change the volume or skip songs with the AirPods themselves that doesn’t involve talking to Siri.
I think the argument that they are “easy to lose” is stupid as a complaint against the product design, but it’s also true.
With all that said I would argue that AirPods are the first truly exciting product release that showcases some of Apple’s “product” prowess. They do what they need to, very well, without anything extraneous. And the ease of use and build quality of the case and AirPods provides a definite “delight” to using them.
If you’re in the market for good daily Bluetooth headphones then look no further.