I’m Finally Sold on AirPods

I’m Finally Sold on AirPods
Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

Look. It’s not as though I had waged a war against Apple’s AirPods or anything, I just wasn’t convinced they were for me, as I’d always opted for headphones that music sounds good through, as music quality was what I cared most about. The third generation AirPods, however, have convinced me there’s a need for them in my life, but in a slightly different form.

The third-gen AirPods were announced in September, and while they may be missing features found on similarly priced earbuds today, they still deliver a fantastic experience when paired with Apple’s other hardware. There. I said it.

Apple AirPods 2021 (third generation)

WHAT IS IT?

The latest earbuds from Apple

PRICE

$279

LIKE

Siri integration, sound quality, battery life

NO LIKE

No noise-cancelling, not secure in my ear

Why am I now sold on the third generation AirPods?

The new AirPods have shorter stems and the things Siri can do for me when I’m wearing them are (not to be too dramatic), life-changing. So much so that I haven’t touched my phone once while driving since I stuck the AirPods into my ears.

Siri quietly learned how to navigate Spotify, which is wonderful. Driving a 15-year-old car means there’s no native Bluetooth system and the setup I’ve had to Frankenstein together requires physically touching the phone at times.

Navigating everything via the ”Hey Siri” command is fab, so fab. I’m yet to find something (useful, not gimmicky) that the assistant can’t do.

I’ve also never made so many phone calls in my life as I have with the third generation AirPods. Sound is clear, the person on the other end can hear me fine, even when walking with a mask on through Sydney city.

Music doesn’t sound great, but it also doesn’t sound bad. And the environment I was in when I decided AirPods weren’t for me was one pre-pandemic. It was before I sat at home for multiple days at a time, it was when I was on planes a lot more and it was when I was so busy I needed to shut the outside world out to get things done.

However, now, when I’m home, music plays through speakers and headphones or earbuds are used on trains, the gym and in the office – or to make phone calls. 2021 me doesn’t care most about music quality anymore.

But as I said, the third generation AirPods sound much better than the previous two pairs, mostly thanks to Apple’s H1 chip.

AirPods third generation with case
Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

But there’s no noise-cancelling?

Ugh, I know. I thought the lack of noise-cancelling would bother me more than it actually does. I can still hear the music over everything else and I don’t actually mind still being aware of what’s going on around me (feels a little safer walking at night to my car).

The controls are also something I don’t love. You really gotta get up in there to change songs or answer calls and nine times out of ten, I accidentally fling the bud out of my ear because there’s nothing keeping it in there.

The earbuds look and feel almost identical to the AirPods Pro — minus the swappable silicone tips. The case is nice and charges quick enough, and while I’m not a huge fan of the white, there’s next to no point complaining about that. Apple gonna do what Apple wants to do.

But the ease in connection (you literally open the case and they connect to your iPhone) by way of ‘one-touch setup’ and the absolute smarts they ooze, the cons list is not enough to keep me in the anti-AirPods realm.

They boast up to six hours of listening time and up to four hours of talk time. This is an extra hour of battery life over the previous generations.

And with five minutes on charge, they last around one hour.

The charge case (now featuring Mag Safe and wireless charging) gives an additional four hours of charge time. That equals 30 hours full listening time. I pretty much got this exact figure (this is also more than the AirPods Pro, btw).

Oh, the addition of Find My (meaning you can see how close they are with proximity view, get separation alerts if they’re out of Bluetooth range and have them play a sound so you can locate them) is also great.

Fourth generation AirPods wish list

Even though I said I didn’t overly mind the lack of noise-cancelling in the third generation AirPods, I still want to see it in the fourth-gen pair. I know the AirPods Pro have noise-cancelling, and they exist for the bucket of consumers that want a more Pro experience, but can we make a cheaper model? Perhaps they can do what Huawei has done with their FreeBuds Pro and introduce intelligent dynamic active noise cancellation – noise cancellation where it automatically adjusts to the outside sound environment.

But, the third generation AirPods are covered in what Apple calls “special acoustic mesh” and an inset microphone in each earbud minimises wind noise when you’re on a call.

Idk. I get it, though, there needs to be noticeable differences with the fourth generation AirPods and the AirPods Pro.

Next on my wish list is some way for them to stay in my goddamn ears. On at least a dozen occasions over the last week, one earbud has fallen out. The first time it happened, I was sitting at my desk on a phone call and the left bud just fell out. It happened to the right bud when I was driving with the window open (which scared the crap outa me) and again today, I was chewing gum and the left bud just dropped onto the office floor.

I wish I had a reason, but the left ear isn’t the one with a tragus piercing, so it can’t just be that.

Of course running also isn’t something I can do with the third generation AirPods (but they are sweat- and water-resistant).

While the AirPods Pro are the buds with tips that actually stay in my ear better, can I also add tips to the fourth-gen wish list? Or am I getting too greedy and need to accept I should just stick with the Pros if that’s the experience I’m craving? Yeah, you’re probably right.

AirPods third generation: the verdict

Just as the Google Assistant is showing its value with the Google Pixel 6 Pro, the third generation AirPods really showcase Siri and give a good indication of what the future with the Apple assistant integrated into Cupertino products will look like.

While you can connect the AirPods to an Android device, the true power of them is only experienced with the iPhone (or MacBook or iPad) and I’m 100 per cent sold on the idea of the AirPods, but I’m maybe still a generation or two away from swapping out my Bose Quiet Comfort headphones for Apple’s buds.

The third generation AirPods will set you back RRP $279. New subscribers get six months free of Apple Music with their AirPods, too.

AirPods third generation chilling
Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia