If you’re not up on tech news, or the latest Apple products, you may not have heard of Apple’s AirPods, their newest sound offering. They’re bluetooth earbuds, resembling the omnipresent EarPods — but without cords attached. They claim incredible ease of setup, ease of use, and convenience. However, are they worth their (as of this writing) $169 price point and 6 week waiting period?
The takeaway here is that if you already don’t mind the fit of the EarPods (default earbuds that come with iPhones) and you use multiple Apple devices for a long period of time daily, I’d advise buying these (even at the current price point). If not, YMMV.
My Story So Far
I wanted a pair of AirPods as soon as I heard about them. I work on an iPhone, a MacBook 12" (freelance work), and a MacBook Pro 13" (full time job). I have both of my computers and my phone on my desk for a good bit of the day, and I often use my personal computer to play music and such while I work.
I’ve tried every solution to deal with this that I can think of.
- I had multiple sets of headphones or earbuds, attached to the different devices.
- I’ve tried just using speakers.
- I’ve tried using the same set of headphones or earbuds for all of my devices, and just switching it between them.
Most recently I had settled on the latter. I use a single set of Apple EarPods and I switch the cord between devices like an early-telephone-era operator. I find myself needing my EarPods when out and about, but have to unspool or untangle them, and also put them away properly, winding the cord up and fitting it into its absurd case. One pair of EarPods have even shocked me inside the ears when moving across a carpeted floor at home!
So when I heard about a bluetooth version, made by Apple, cordless, and effortless to sync with, and effortless to swap input devices for, I thought… Definitely. This is definitely for me.
The marketing for the AirPods was so-so. Especially considering their release price, which is quite high for what you’re getting. Nothing was super convincing, if I wasn’t already sold on them. Reviews were mixed, discussing their look, which seemed weird to most reviewers, and their sound quality. But here’s the thing. Any technology looks weird when new. They look like EarPods, they just don’t have cords. They’re a lot less strange looking than most bluetooth earpieces, that’s for sure.
Sound quality is a different subject, but I knew I wasn’t looking for an audiophile’s experience. I am fine with headphones and earbuds that deliver clear sound, where I can hear people on video calls or the tv show that’s on in the background or the music that’s keeping me sane on a long day. They’re definitely not the highest sound quality audio devices — but they do the job for me.
As far as actually receiving my AirPods, they actually showed up a few days early, probably due to lucky shipping, but nevertheless, that was nice.
I’ll say up front that, for users who only use their devices for a few hours a day or less, that the $169 price point might simply be too high. You could probably find a decent set of earbuds, or just use whatever came with your phone, etc.
If you already can’t stand Apple EarPods, these probably aren’t for you.
But if you use those already, and you use your devices non stop all day — these are a lifesaver.
Connecting them was as simple as they say it is. I opened the AirPods case next to my Bluetooth-on iPhone. They synced. I checked the Bluetooth menu on my MacBook, and yep. They were on there now, too. This is the defining selling point of Apple right now, and if there was one takeaway I’d like someone at Apple to read and remember from this review, it’s this: I choose Apple products because they just work. I’m a tech enthusiast and a coder, and I have used Linux, Windows, macOS, and all manner of phones and gadgets and their respective operating systems, but I love Apple products for daily use for that reason (even though they have plenty of other flaws — lower specs available, higher pricing per point, etc), and this product stays true to that.
Switching devices is also pretty easy. I have my iCloud account on my personal MacBook Adorable (Thanks to Myke Hurley and CGP Grey for that name) so they just automatically worked there. I just toggle the Bluetooth menu and pick the AirPods, and the Adorable links with them, takes “control” of them from my iPhone, and they become my default audio device. When I want them on my iPhone again, same thing, just pick them from available devices and it’s done. My work MacBook isn’t linked to my iCloud account, but it was trivial to set it up as a Bluetooth audio device anyway, with the same exact procedure for switching to them, now.
In the weeks that I’ve been using them now, They’ve been with me constantly.
The only device that’s on or around my person more than my AirPods is my phone.
I use them for calls on my phone, for video calls on either of two computers, for music during the workday, to run Netflix during low intensity work or in the evening if I have time to myself. I listen to podcasts while driving with only one in, so that I can hear things around me. Same with cooking, I’ll put in one so that I can still keep track of the heathen children scurrying about.
The charging case is great. It’s not a new concept — I had one for my Plantronics Voyager earpiece too. Anytime you’re not using one, or both of the AirPods, they can be charging in the case. Anytime you’re at a desk, or in the car, you can be charging the case. I do it almost instinctively now, it’s no added burden to remember. They can be used singly, as discussed above, so if you’re worried about battery life, you can alternate them during times that this makes sense for you, to preserve battery life.
The auto-pausing of music apps when you remove an AirPod from your ear is pretty nice too. I still think we could use just a little more control though. I’m already thinking about and looking forward to a few improvements on a new version in the future, like some better way to control volume. That would be fantastic.
My final thoughts here are the same as I led with. If you like the EarPods, or similar hard shelled earbuds, and you have multiple devices, these are fantastic. They just work! If those type of earbuds don’t agree with your ears, or you are an extreme audiophile, or just looking for some cheap earbuds and don’t need something wireless, then maybe they aren’t for you.
I know I love mine so far!