Apple AirPods Review: Too Simple For Their Own Good

When they were first announced in September, it was obvious that AirPods were Apple’s attempt to distract everyone from the iPhone’s lack of a headphone jack. At $229 in Australia, AirPods are Apple’s version of truly wireless earphones, a gadget lots of companies have been trying to perfect with varying degrees of success. No one disagrees that wireless is the future, the big question is what company will finally manage to make a truly wireless earbud that is comfortable, affordable, and worth using over more traditional wireless headphones. After two months of delays, AirPods are finally shipping.

My favourite part of using Apple’s newly available AirPods is pairing them with my iPhone. Simply open up the magnetic case near your iPhone and watch as a spinning “connect” pop-up appears. After you’ve paired your AirPods with your phone once, flipping open the case near your phone will instantly pair them and show the battery life of both the case and the AirPods.

The ease of pairing — you never have to open the Bluetooth settings screen — make AirPods feel like the future. That the buds are “truly wireless” feels futuristic too, but in a slightly different way. As soon as you pop one into your ear, you hear a little sound effect, letting you know they’re working. And once both AirPods are in your ears, removing one will automatically pause the music you hear.

These types of design touches are classic Apple, and definitely set AirPods ahead of other truly wireless earphones we’ve seen from companies such as Sol Republic and Samsung. And the sound quality — as I’ve said before — is shockingly good. Highs and mids are crisp, though there isn’t a ton of bass.

The buds’ battery life is solid, too. Apple promises five hours of battery life, which is exactly what I got in testing. Of course, that’s way, way short of the 40 hours you get with the new Beats Solo 3 Wireless — but it’s very good considering how tiny the buds are. For comparison, Sol Republic’s Amps offer about 4 hours of battery life. The tiny case, which looks like a container of floss, doubles as a battery charger for the buds, and offers another 24 hours of battery life.

I also have to give AirPods good marks when it comes to using them to talk on the phone. I braved the cold in New York City over the weekend while talking on the phone the whole way, with just AirPods in my ears. The person I talked to said I sounded better than I normally do, and this was despite it being windy and snowing.

AirPods basically look like regular EarPods with the cables cut off.

AirPods basically look like regular EarPods with the cables cut off.

AirPods in my ears.

AirPods in my ears.

I don’t understand why Apple couldn’t just develop gestures for basic playback controls. The sides are tap sensitive to invoke Siri, why couldn’t the company build in some additional gestures to raise or lower volume, or at least to play or pause?

Floss or AirPods? The charging case is tiny, and looks just like a container of floss with a Lightning port on the bottom.

Floss or AirPods? The charging case is tiny, and looks just like a container of floss with a Lightning port on the bottom.

README

  • Extremely comfortable, probably the most comfortable wireless earphones I’ve ever worn.
  • They didn’t fall out of my ears, and I’d feel very safe using them on the treadmill, but I wouldn’t recommend using these for a full run outdoors.
  • The lack of playback controls or gestures is a huge pain in the arse.
  • Charging the AirPods is super quick, taking just 15 minutes in the case for another 3 hours of juice.
  • If regular EarPods don’t fit well in your ears, try these out in the store first because the design is basically the same.