We finally have Apple Airpods hitting the streets, though very few of them. My personal Apple store won’t be getting these until mid-February, but luckily there are other ways of getting products, like EBAY. Well if you’re thinking of getting a pair, you’re probably wondering if they’re actually worth it. Let’s find out.
The box is pretty standard Apple packaging. All white, with a picture of the product on the front. Opening it up you’ll get the charging case with the headphones inside, some instruction and warranty booklets, and a lightning charging cable.
Build & Design
Apple is still great at build quality and design and that’s still the case with the Airpods. Kind of. Even though it’s made of plastic, the charging case feels great in the hand. It’s lightweight and sturdy enough to easily be tossed in your pocket, which is good because you’re going to want to keep the case on you at all times if only for a place to store the ‘buds when you’re not using them. The bottom of the case has a single Lightning port for charging and on the back there’s a button to enter Bluetooth pairing mode on non-Apple devices. But what really makes the build quality stand out are the magnets. The lid is held closed by a magnet and flicking it open or closed just feels secure and easy. There’s also magnets on the inside of the case that keeps the earbuds in their rightful place so even if the lid does open, these won’t fall out. Then on the inside of the lid there’s a small LED light that tells you if the earbuds are pairing or not.
Then you get the Airpods themselves and to be honest, they’re not great. I have mixed feelings about the design because I saw plenty of people at CES wearing them and they don’t look as bad as I thought. At least on other people. I just can’t bring myself to actually wear them myself. If you were an early adopter of Google Glass then maybe this won’t phase you, but I hate the way I look wearing them. I don’t even mind wearing Spectacles in public, but these have a different vibe around them. I’m big on tech that seamlessly enters your life, and these try too hard to stand out. I really liked the sleek, minimal black design of the Jabra Elite Sport wireless when I reviewed them, but these go in the complete opposite direction.
The Airpods literally stick out of your ears. On the bright side they do fit pretty well on me while I’m sitting or walking around. Just not so much with any other physical activities. We did a whole fit test video on how they fit that dropped along with this one so make sure to go check that out if that’s what your main concern is. As for the Airpod design they don’t look too different from regular earpods, just without the wires obviously. You have the plastic hardshell casing that’s supposed to be a one-size-fits all which I highly doubt if the Earpods are anything to go by. More like a one-size-fits most. But on each earbud you have a tiny microphone for voice calls and a small sensor that gives you a few controls when you tap them. Which leads us to the next section.
We’re splitting this part up into two sections: iOS and Android. Connecting to an iOS device is as simple as tapping connect on the card that pops up on your device. When you connect to one device it also connects to every device on your iCloud account. During testing music never skipped once while connected to my iPad Air (except for when I was really testing range but that doesn’t count). You also get full access to all of the cool sensors and features on iOS. For instance, when listening to music you can take one earbud out to pause the music, and placing it back in your ear will resume music. You can also double tap the outside of the earbud in order to access Siri.
You’re going to have to get used to talking to Siri because that’s also the only way to control volume which kind of makes no sense. Epecially if you’re on the subway. In the settings on iOS you can change the double tap to pause or play music which also makes no sense because if I’m reaching up to double tap I might as well just remove the earbud to automatically pause the music. When it comes to range I was able to get to leave them on my desk and walk around my entire house easily without any stuttering. That’s about 60 feet away with walls and a floor in the way, not bad at all. Overall, I’d say connection was pretty great with iOS.
Connecting to Android was more of a process and kind of a different story. The connection was still impressive, just not great. To connect you have to pop open the case, hold down the button on the back of the charging case to enter pairing mode, and also find the Airpods in your Bluetooth settings. Okay sure, that isn’t really a big deal. But once connected, the experience is also slightly different. The connection strength to my Google Pixel wasn’t nearly as good as on my old iPad. I counted about nine annoying stutters in only two hours of listening. Range also suffered when on Android. I was easily able to get to to the fringes of 50 feet before stuttering occurred if I turned the wrong way, which wasn’t the case on iOS.
This is to be expected considering the new W1 chip is optimized to work with iOS, but still something that’s worth mentioning if you want to use these with your Android device. You also won’t be able to automatically pause music by removing an earbud. Music just continues playing. Double tapping the side of the Airpod also won’t access the Google Assistant either. These don’t have too many features to begin with, but on Android they barely have any features. All you can do is double tap to pause or play whatever you’re listening to. Though I was still impressed with the range and the synchronized music playback, it’s easy to say that they won’t play as well on Android as they do on iOS.
Apple claims that the battery will last you about 5 hours on a single charge, but I never quite reached that. While connected to only Android I got about four hours while on iOS I managed squeeze 4.5 hours out of them. That said I can’t see too many people draining these too often because the only place I felt comfortable storing them when I wasn’t using them was back in the case, which charges them up anyway. The case lets you charge them back up completely about four more times and if you’re running late, 15 minutes in the case will get you 3 hours of playback.
As we already mentioned, the Airpods take a one-size-fits-all approach so chances are these won’t fit your ears perfectly. This means that outside noises easily find their way into your ears and these things leak like it’s nobody’s business. If you don’t want the person next to you to hear your music you’re going to have to turn down the volume substantially.
Right to the point, the low end isn’t great. It could be because of the lack of a seal, but the bassline in “California” by Childish Gambino feels like it’s a very low mid rather than a bass.
Just like the regular wired Earpods, the mids are given a huge boost in these so vocals come through crystal clear. This goes for voice calls as well by the way. These are probably the clearest phone calls I’ve ever taken on Bluetooth ‘buds. When it comes to music you can easily sing along to your favorite tunes, but background elements don’t really sit well with each other. Basically every instrument in “Generator ^ Second Floor” by Freelance Whales seems to lose its weight and depth.
Considering how loud these can get, I’m actually really impressed with the highs. Sure there isn’t a great sounding shimmer after a cymbal hit, but nothing ever gets harsh or painful.
Let’s be honest, you’re probably not buying Airpods for sound quality. If you are, you’re better off just getting the regular earpods because they sound very, very similar. The only difference I can find between them is that the Airpods get louder and obviously they’re wireless. The reasons to buy the Airpods have nothing to do with sound and everything to do with convenience. The charging case is amazingly built and easy to carry, removing one ‘bud to pause or play music works perfectly, and the connection rarely if ever drops.That said, they’re clearly made for iOS users and they still don’t offer much in terms of extra functionality. The Jabra Elite Sport Wireless or Bragi Dash for example also offer things like heart rate monitoring, workout tips, sweat or waterproofing, and a way better design in my opinion, but they’re also significantly more pricey. If you don’t care about any of those features and just want to listen to music, the Airpods aren’t terribly priced at $159.