I Haven't Lost my Apple AirPods Yet… (Review)

  • January 25, 2017
  • Scott
  • 1 Comments

Adobe Spark-15There are better and more comprehensive reviews of AirPods elsewhere, I am sure.  This one is for the amateur Apple users like myself.  A few thoughts:

  • The AirPods come in a dental-floss look-alike case.  While it is a source of amusement at first, the size and shape are reasonably practical.
  • The charging behavior with the case is nice- the case can be charged with or without the AirPods, and represents a back up charge to those AirPods should you need it. 
  • Pro-tip: for long conversations, putting only one AirPod in, and then alternating when it runs out of power with the other AirPod, and charging the one you’re not using in the case.  This will let you talk almost indefinitely if needed.
  • It took me a few tries to figure out how to get the AirPods in and out of the case without dropping them – they’re slippery little rascals. 
  • The AirPods fit fine in my ears – and without the cord tugging on them, or getting caught on things, I’ve not had any issues with them falling out.  I pace when I talk and they keep up fine, without any affect on call quality or lag for reasonable distances.  Occasionally I forget I don’t have my iPhone in my pocket and wander into the next room. So far so good. 
  • Pairing AirPods with either your phone or Mac is incredibly easy.  Effectively one-touch. However, they’ll tend to pair with “the last device you used” – so if you pair with your Mac AND your iPhone, you’re liable to occasionally have a bit of confusion about which device they’re connecting to first.  Turning off Bluetooth on your Mac is a good way to make sure that they don’t automagically pair with your Mac first.
  • Activating Siri is easy (double tap). But I miss having skip forward and backward on the AirPods as they were on previous ear-buds.  I also miss the volume controls. Lack of these things causes you to take your iPhone out of your pocket to to try it, which at some level defeats the whole purpose of good earbuds.
  • The sound quality is fantastic for ear buds.  Stereo calls sound higher quality. FaceTime Audio through the AirPods sounds particularly amazing. For music playback, you can do better, but the quality exceeds the old wired earbuds, to my ears.
  • No more tangled cords in your [pocket, bag, suitcase].  No more struggling to untangle cords to get to your ear buds.  That is a bigger win than you’d expect. The makers of cord tacos all over the world have to be disappointed by this development.
  • One problem with the Mac pairing: I think perhaps Apple hasn’t sorted out the combination of pairing with your Mac and using the mic.  When I try to use the AirPods with either skype or facetime from my mac I get a horrible feedback loop static as I believe both the Mac and the AirPods are actively listening to microphones.  Listening to sound or music through the AirPods works without any difficulty whatsoever. 

Everyone commented on losing them. I’ve been traveling in the US and Europe since I received mine, and I haven’t had a close call yet.  I dropped them a few times at first as I got used to how slippery they are. But it hasn’t been a problem.  And just in time for this review going out, Joanna Stern reports that iOS 10.3 includes a Find My Phone update for finding your AirPods that might be near by

Joanna Stern: “Apple has added an alarm to help find earbuds in proximity. Tap “Play Sound” in the iOS app and the AirPod will start chirping. In the app, you can specify which AirPod you’d like to sound. Only problem? If the AirPod’s battery runs out, it’ll remain silent.”

It sounds like John Gruber has had a similar experience, with an extra three months of usage in. I agree with his advice to just take your case everywhere and put your AirPods in the case when they’re not in your ear.

In summary, AirPods feel better than a 1.0 product. Maybe because Apple has been producing ear buds for many years.  And yet, I can’t help but feel there is more to come in this arena in the next 2 years. The AirPods are noticeable but don’t have the social stigma of, say, Google Glass.  That opens up interesting possibilities for voice interfaces, especially if battery life can be improved. 

It is an odd Apple device in one respect – for such a small, subtle device, it is hard for it to become a fashion accessory.  Like nearly all Bluetooth headsets, they look a bit dorky in your ear.  But they work. Now the question is where can Apple take them next. I can’t see the future but I bet the Industrial Design team is on it.

 

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  • As someone pointed out to me – you can control volume and next/back on songs via your Apple Watch – it just never occurred to me to look while using my AirPods!