3 Weeks With Apple AirPods

Dave Zatz —  February 14, 2017 — 18 Comments

I admit it. I was one of those skeptics who initially mocked the wireless Apple AirPods ($159). But quickly changed my tune upon release.

And, having picked up my own pair of AirPods a few weeks back, I stand by my reassessment. They’re inferior in most ways to the wired Bose QuietComfort earbuds tips and Plantronics Voyager Edge that they replace. Yet the Apple experience, in totality, is far greater than the sum of its parts. It’s hard to articulate exactly why, but I’m taking more phone calls and listening to more audio with Apple.


Pros: 

  • Despite the three pieces, overall compact and clutter-free. A welcome improvement over my sloppily coiled and frequently tangled Bose.
  • Comfortable enough and I highly doubt they’d ever fall out my ears during normal activities, as frequently asked.
  • Solid battery life and quick charging.
  • Pause/play upon removal/insertion.
  • Audio quality is fine, keeping in mind I’m no audiophile.
  • Double tap for Siri.

Cons:

  • Maximum benefits for those with Apple hardware.
  • White is a great marketing tool, but I’d prefer a more subtle matte black or grey.
  • No rubberized, silicon tips to block out ambient noise and keep volume lower.
  • No physical buttons and limited touch control, emphasizing Siri’s shortcomings.
  • Mic doesn’t perform great in a windy environment.

18 responses to 3 Weeks With Apple AirPods

  1. Dave, did you ever consider any other bluetooth headphones? I have had LG Tones for about 2 years. Other than the ‘dorkiness’ of neckbuds, I have been very happy with them (18 hours of battery life for playback, long battery life for standby) And because they have the band, lots and lots of controls. They are making an earpod like one too, but I think completely hands free controls is weird…
    http://www.androidauthority.com/lg-tone-free-tone-studio-hands-on-740894/

  2. I have casually explored them over the last year or so, but didn’t make a purchase. A co-worker has two sets of the different LG models. He hasn’t been pleased with audio performance or connectivity. I also looked at another coworker’s generic imports and reviewed the Wirecutters recommendations. Adam previously reviewed the Backbeat Fit, but not sure what he’s using these days.

    Beyond being a gadget freak, what pushed me over the edge is the clutter reduction – a nice travel/charging case and I can wear just one AirPod when taking calls or listening to non-music. I’m hopeful the touch control and Siri interactions improve over time. Not hopeful I’ll ever get them in a color other than white. Wonder if some sort of AirPod tip covers like these might help with ambient noise isolation.

  3. Yea, but can you swim with them?

  4. I do a lot of cardio at my gym. Just on an AMT (Elliptical), but the more I sweat, the more I have to keep pushing the corded apple ear buds in because they gradually keep slipping out. I am happy enough with the bass response (when seated on all the way), but I’d be curious how these compare with regards to sound and fit (during sweaty workouts!)

  5. Kingpcgeek, for my swimming, I’ll also need Netflix displayed on the bottom of the pool with a display that tracks and moves with me.

    Frank, several of my Twitter pals seem to be doing just fine exercising with these. But I can’t speak to their level of intensity or sweat output. The AirPods do seem somewhat slippery and your concern would be a valid one. Regarding sound, many folks I know say it’s roughly equivalent to the wired ones. I don’t trust my judgement well enough to say and previously only used Apple’s pack-ins when taking the occasional call.

  6. I bought the Powerbeats 3 and am happy with the sound and fit. It has the same chip as these, but is sweat resistant. I sweat a ton. I know it’s not the same product, just wanted to offer another opinion at the same price point for working out.

    If you have an idevice the battery life and the pairing is terrific.

  7. I’m not an audiophile but I really like my LG HBS-770. They block out sound well, connect quickly, have touch controls, and long battery life. My only downside is that I feel like they’re a bit fragile to travel with and I don’t have a special case for these. When I travel I tend to just keep them around my neck the whole time to prevent them getting squished in a bag somewhere.

  8. Thanks Dave, I assumed the same. I 2000% agree with the color, too. Sheesh.

    There’s got to be a reason for the glossy plastic. Seems counter-intuitive to me, even a matte finish would stay put better. Tough decision – Amazon 4.5 star no-name bluetooth buds for $35, or these…. I imagine there’s a price to pay for convenience, but still not sold.

    For now, I’ll keep occasionally knocking my $800 iPhone 7+ off the machine and watch it hit every possible surface on the way down, while turning red and watching the rest of the gym stare at me. My heart rate’s good, though!

  9. Curt, thanks for the Powerbeats feedback. Do they also have touch control or just the more traditional wired ones? Wish I knew what the current AirPods hardware is actually capable of.

    Rich, wish I understood the LG model lineup better. There’s like 100 variations and when I last looked in the fall, I gave up (exacerbated by some mixed reviews). I do frequently see them out and about, also on Groupon.

    Frank, try the $35 ones – Amazon will take them back if you’re not satisfied. As I mentioned somewhere above, I have a coworker with a set like that and she’s totally content. I had a $50 Apple gift card which made my purchase more palatable.

  10. They have a traditional wired volume up down and pause. The mic works well, but they aren’t iin the same class as the air pod with the extra controls.

  11. Completely useless to me until there is some efficient scrubbing method that works. Siri integration is clumbsy at best for volume control. I use my earbuds daily for podcasts.

  12. Can you mute the mic and unmute it quickly?

    My company has started a mass layoff, I mean, “co-location” strategy, where we are all expected to commute from our home offices to whatever Site is most convenient to the executives (that is, close to where THEY live). This means driving past the site that is 5 minutes away from me to work in a site that is 80 mins away with traffic, so that I can sit alone on the phone all day, in a big noisy “agile” space and talk on my unsubsidized personal phone.

    Biggest challenge to me is how bad muting works on my iphone. My company forces it to lock after 5 mins with its nasty managed device software — even though they contribute zero to the hardware, voice and data. So this is what it takes to mute or unmute: Touch ID, then click colored bar, then click mute or unmute. Meanwhile, the person asking me a question has moved onto to the next person. I need to be able to mute it easily without going through those tribulations, as I used to in my home office, in less than 1-2 seconds.

    Given how badly it works on the iphone in general and with Apple’s earpods, I have concluded Apple never thought of this use case or decided it was a rare thing and instead decided that asking an AI a question it rarely can answer is more important than a basic and common phone function, on something that is ostensibly a “phone”. Muting the entire line so I can’t hear it is worse than useless. Just need to mute the mic so that they can’t hear the wind in my hair and the song of the big echoy agile space.

    How easy is this on the Airpod? Double tap for Siri? Triple tap for mute? Tap and hold? Double tap for Siri and ask her?

  13. In response to Dale, and Jon, yeah it’s somewhat simplistic at this point. For power usage, there are probably better options – which emphasizes my disconnect and surprise I guess. There are better options for specific functions, but I just seem to prefer AirPods over those superior solutions. Jon, within a call the double tap feature will end the call (and double tap will also pick up a call). It seems likely the earpods aren’t really touch-enabled but are picking up the taps via accelerometer, which probably limits this model’s capabilities. Jon, you may have another blockage if your company’s MDM prohibits Siri from the lock screen. I do have a laundry list of software improvements and enhancements I’d like to see…

  14. Dave – try the Bose QC30’s. They’re by far the best headphones I’ve used yet… and yes, I also own a set of AirPods. AirPods are great when I’m out and want something small and easily portable in my pocket. But anything else – the Bose QC30’s win. Sound quality, control buttons, battery life and most of all, noise cancelling are excellent.

    Highly recommended… for all my opinion’s worth. :)

  15. Dave, obviously always appreciate your input and blog. Reading comments tonight makes me wonder, though, why no threaded comment system? Seems like you’ve talked about it before, but couldn’t remember.

  16. WordPress has some basic support for threaded comments, which I’ve toggled now and then. But most posts don’t have enough comments to warrant it and I actually prefer this old school presentation. A plugin/service like Disqus comes with much more sophisticated presentation and management tools, but it also means I rely on yet another third party… that will burden the site with additional Javascript, tracking, etc. The company behind WordPress bought a Disqus competitor years ago and I thought I’d have more comprehensive native tools to evaluate, but it never materialized. I do hope to get around to an updated theme, for potential performance improvements mainly, and an SSL cert in 2017 (although I hoped the same for 2016).

  17. I love mine too. I wish the Apple sauce that makes them a joy to use extended to the Apple TV though. Reconnecting to Apple TV requires wading back into the settings menus. I use mine with two different Apple TVs and with my phone. I use it with the Apple TV while watching the news, for example, because I can get up and do things (laundry, mail, check on dinner, bathroom, drink, etc. ) without interruption.

    I also wish they were matte black, and I think perhaps having a rubberized grip. They are easy to drop, which doesn’t seem to hurt them, but they do tend to bounce under things. I also wish there was not such a lag when activating Siri. It’s close to a second, which I know doesn’t sound like much, but it’s too long when what you want to do is lower the volume. (Volume control also doesn’t function with Apple TV because you can’t activate Siri from the AirPods on Apple TV.) I hope version 2.0 figures out a way to add Play/Pause (other than pulling them out of your ear) and volume alongside Siri.

    I initially had battery life issues with the charge case if it wasn’t used for a few days. The battery would deplete at a ridiculous rate for something that was not supposed to be ON. But a recent firmware update may have helped that issue.

  18. I had a similar experience when I first got my airpods. I loved the charge case, easily my favorite feature, as I’ve tried other wireless buds in the past and charging them is the biggest pain point. However, I really grew to hate how they fit in the ears and also don’t like how they look. I found myself not wearing them in public because of how funny they look. I ended up returning them and getting the new Beats x buds and I have to say the difference in sound quality and fit makes all the difference. I also like that I can hang them around my neck when not using them. I was so paranoid I’d lose the pods that it made them a pain to deal with. The addition of wired controls is also something I missed with the airpods. The tap features are lacking and hate having to use siri for everything. So now I just have to figure out a good charging solution but overall I’m glad I switched.

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