Sometimes it takes a little (or in this case, massive) nudge to get new technology off the ground and as we all know Apple is a brand more than willing to steer the tides. However, even the loyalists were openly sceptical when the iPhone 7 was released without an earbud jack, offering instead a pair of wireless Airpods.
The Airpods resemble small, curvaceous, floating white rods, or to put it another way — they look like regular Apple earbuds minus any cords, and users were wary. To this day, questions remain like: was Apple paving the way for the future or eliminating a choice we weren’t ready to give up just yet? Are the Airpods forward thinking or awkward looking? Where did my pair disappear to anyway? Overwhelmingly healthy sales would indicate Apple’s move wasn’t the deal breaker some early reviewers were making it out to be. Nevertheless, a few of those questions linger.
As a lover of all things gear and tech I’d been experimenting with (and duly) covering wireless technology long before the Airpods came along, but naturally I was eager to test them out. I’ve been putting them to work for a few weeks and I’m here to report that the Airpods are way more practical and usable than I’d anticipated, not to mention absolutely liberating. Here’s a breakdown.
1. They’re far more practical than I expected.
Like others, I proceeded with caution when it came to the Airpods. I too had heard Woz himself make disparaging remarks about the audio quality, and had read a slew of early reports about how easy the wireless earbuds were to misplace. But neither scenario applied when it came to my experience. Perhaps those early reports were exaggerated, or maybe I’m just good at not losing my stuff. Regardless, I found that the Airpods consistently performed well and I didn’t misplace them once.
But what really made the Airpods shine in the usability department was the complete absence of wires. I’ve worn wireless earbuds that were still connected by a cable–this was not that and the difference was substantial. The Airpods are simply operating on another level and I found them far more liberating compared to most counterparts. The threat of getting cables stuck on door handles, or accidentally having the buds ripped out when I picked something up, or essentially any wire-related hazard was wiped out of existence. Never before had I realised how intrusive even modest clutter could be until that clutter was entirely gone. The luxury of not having to untangle cables before use or roll them up afterwards was revelatory.
Plus, the Airpods are supremely lightweight, which hurled me toward another realization that even slim cables carry some heft. Because of such a featherweight aura, the Airpods are comfortable and highly unobtrusive, not to mention ergonomically brilliant. I could barely feel them and yet they remained intact no matter what I was doing.
2. They’re seriously smart.
As we all know, Apple pores over every detail before releasing its products. Therefore, in spite of a relatively simple outward appearance, the Airpods are as “smart” as can be. They live in a small compact case that doubles as a charger and spare battery. Also, syncing the Airpods with your iPhone is a hassle-free experience that doesn’t require navigating through multiple menus or “pairing” functions–I simply pressed a button on the Airpods case and the iPhone detected the pair and then synced with them. Easy, breezy.
Some more small, but nifty details that beam intelligence are things like when you open the lid of the case and remove the Airpods, the remaining battery power displays on the iPhone. Also, when you take the Airpods out of your ears the music automatically pauses, starting again when you put the Airpods back in. That’s some truly brilliant innovation coming in a very small, lightweight package.
3. The batteries are good but at the same time they’re really good.
You won’t find me resolutely heralding the quality of the Airpods battery, but I’m definitely not complaining. In my opinion the battery life is both good and really good depending on how you approach it. For instance, the Airpods deliver between 5 and 6 hours of battery life when in use, which is good (full disclosure: some customers say their battery drains quickly but that wasn’t my experience). But it only takes 15 minutes inside the case to get another 3 hours of battery life or a mere 20 minutes inside the case to get back to maximum battery life, which is really good. And the case itself is able to hold up to 24 hours worth of charge, which again is really good.
4. They look different.
The Airpods aesthetic takes some adjusting to, not so much from the wearer but more from those crossing paths with the wearer. People simply don’t know how to take in the unique design. Speaking personally, when I had the Airpods in place I would walk around outside and observe that most people didn’t notice them. However, the people who did notice them were frequently doing double takes. In other words the Airpods will commonly elicit a look of confusion because of that singular, magic floating ear gadget aesthetic.
On the other hand, Elvis once shook his hips on television and half the world was up in arms over it, meaning some things just take a little getting used to. For now, there are a lot of consumers uncertain as to whether they like or loathe the look of the Airpods, but I think once more people are sporting them, the less strange they will seem.
From the perspective of comfort and practically, the Airpods surpassed my every expectation. They were light, steady, optimal, comfortable and downright liberating. Syncing them with my smartphone was painless and the battery life was reliable. In other words, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed using the Airpods and overall it’s a great product. The only lingering hiccup were the confused stares I kept getting from strangers. Yes, the Airpods look a little funny, and time will tell if they look too funny to endure. Regardless, I will keep using my airpods, as they are the most practical, comfortable and intelligent earbuds I’ve ever worn.