AirPods… Are They Worth It?

Apple’s latest accessory the AirPods… designed after what’s become their iconic EarPods; these Bluetooth earbuds strive to at best replace their wired counterpart for those looking for a completely wire free experience. So what exactly are you getting for $159.00? Well, a set of AirPods, a charging case, a Lightning to USB cord and a whole lot of technology inside.

Starting with the charging case, which I do have to admit does resemble a small package of dental floss but it’s perfectly sized and shaped to fit in a small pocket. The case has a magnetic closure that you can easily flip open with your thumb but is strong enough not to open on its own or even accidentally in most instances. These same magnets seem to pull and hold the AirPods into place so they don’t accidentally fall out when the case is open.

Also located inside the case and centered between the AirPods is the status light. Here one of three colors will show. Green for a fully charged battery if no AirPods are present or a fully charged pair or single AirPod if present. An orange light indicates low power under the same conditions. The third color, white, only appears during the pairing process so you should only see this one time or whenever pairing it to a new device.

Pairing the AirPods to my iPhone 7 Plus was the most hassle free experience I’ve had using bluetooth earphones. Simply open the case with the AirPods inside (an animation on the iPhone will appear), press and hold the button on the back of the case until the pairing is complete and that’s it. Once you’ve placed the AirPods in your ears you’ll hear a low level tone indicating they’re connected and ready.

My main concern with the AirPods was the sound quality because although, Bluetooth has gotten better over the years it still isn’t as good at transmitting high quality audio as wired earphones. After listening to music from my library composed of 320-Kbps ACC/MP3 audio files, my only real complaint is the lack of loudness. The sound seems pretty neutral but does lack some of the punch present in similarly priced wired earphones. In quiet environments they are more than adequate for me but under noisier conditions the sound can be drowned out by ambient sounds. This is particularly when I wish the AirPods were louder because they do have good detail and a bit of a sound stage but what good is that if you can’t hear it. What you will get though is consistently decent sound for casual listening. While they can’t compare to my Shure 530LTD earphones, they are good enough for short commutes, listening around the house, or simply when I just don’t want to be bothered with wires.

There’s a lot of technology in the AirPods such is Apple’s W1 chip that aides with battery life, Bluetooth pairing and operation. The design itself allows the AirPods to have better antennas along with room for tech like dual optical sensors, motion-detecting accelerometers, dual beam-forming microphones and speech-detecting accelerometer. All of this gives the AirPods the ability to automatically switch audio on or off when removed from your ears or switch from both ears to only one when one AirPod is put in the charging case. The same goes for making or answering calls; no matter which one your using there’s no manual switching involved; just play one in your ear and continue your conversation. Then there’s the ability for the firmware to be updated automatically. No need to manually connect the earbuds to a computer via a USB cable, download the latest firmware and then install it. Any time a firmware update is released the AirPods will update automatically when they are in the charging case and near the iPhone they’re paired with.

In general, using the AirPods has been great. No matter what I’m listening to on my iPhone if I then put the AirPods in my ears the audio automatically transferred to them without skipping a beat. Taking one earbud out of my ear paused the audio and resumed playing when I put it back in my ear or with just two taps on the single earbud still in my ear every time without fail. Although, these are only the second set of totally wireless earbuds of this type I’ve had the opportunity to use they are also the best ones I’ve used. Living in New York City there’s a constant worry of them being disconnected due to frequency interference. Unlike the Earins I tried which would disconnect from each other and the phone regularly and were difficult to reconnect again, the AirPods have yet to disconnect at all. The other benefit is that Apple has incorporated all the settings in iOS so there’s no need for a separate app to check the battery power, change the EQ and you can even rename them.

It’s unfortunate the AirPods got off to such a rough start only becoming available just before Christmas and to date are still not readily available in stores or online for immediate shipping. Hopefully, it’s not much longer before they are because these are very nice wireless earbuds. They work well, have a lot of potential to be even better and keep the iconic apple earbud look going but without the wires. Whether or not they fit your style is a personal choice and they definitely won’t fit everyone, but if they do you just might find yourself using them more than you thought you would.


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