I’ve been using my Apple AirPods for around two weeks now, so I have gotten a pretty good feel for how they work at this point, and have figured out more of their strengths and weaknesses. All things considered, the experience has still been very good overall.
- The AirPods are by far the best interface for Siri and Dictation
Based on all of the devices that I have tested Siri and Dictation on over the last six years, I can assure you that this race isn’t even close. The AirPods are more accurate than the Apple Watch, which in turn is easily superior to the iPhone or iPad in terms of pure recognition accuracy. You can tell that these buds were designed with voice input in mind. As awkward as the mic extensions look, they certainly do their job well.
One of the big advantages that the AirPods have over the watch is that they can also do longform dictation using the microphone on the iOS keyboard. As good as the Watch is for basic queries and simple answers to text messages and emails, if you’re really looking for a better way to use Siri and dictation on the go, the AirPods are the answer to that question. I actually dictated the majority of the draft of this article, and they did a really good job. So much so, that I plan to start using them to draft and get ideas taken down while I am on the go more often.
Another strength of using Siri with the AirPods is that, when you trigger it with a double-tap on the side of one of the buds, the response is always fast. The iPhone picks up with no delay and sounds the familiar Siri tone almost immediately. If Apple can make some key improvements to Siri’s reliability and ability to answer questions, the AirPods could be just the thing to take Apple’s voice assistant to the next level.
- Managing battery life takes getting used to
I think the battery life of the AirPods is fine when you consider the features and performance they deliver, and the fact that they are first generation hardware. However, if like me, you are used to a traditional Bluetooth headset, getting the AirPods to last an entire day takes getting used to. If you keep both in your ears, even sitting idle, they will not last close to a full 8 hour workday. You will either need to rotate them every few hours, or top both off occasionally to make it to the end. Again, if you are coming from a traditional headset, this just takes a little getting used to. Once you get a routine down, it’s not a big deal.
- I ran into a known issue over the holiday weekend. The AirPods can be susceptible to uneven battery drain
No device is perfect, right? This first gen hardware is no exception. I had some outpatient surgery last Friday, and was laid up a good bit over the holiday weekend. I spent several hours of my downtime using the AirPods to relax and listen to music. One thing I started to notice was that the left AirPod was draining much faster than the right.
While using both, it hit zero while the right bud was still over 40%. Thankfully, this is a very easy bug to fix. All I had to do was fully discharge both AirPods, and then put them back in the case to recharge fully. They have stayed right together while I have used them since then.
- As I feared, the AirPods case is a bit of a scuff magnet
Unfortunately, the bright white of the AirPods case brings back memories in more ways than one. Not only does it look like a lot of the white Apple gear of the early-to-mid 2000s, it scuffs like some of it too.
Again, when the AirPods come out in black, I’m trading up.
- Apple still has some kinks to work out when it comes to using Siri across multiple devices while wearing your AirPods
One of the biggest complaints expressed about the AirPods is the fact that you have to use Siri for local control of your music. While I find that using Siri with the AirPods works great, you do have to interrupt your listening to use it, which is a little irritating.
That gave me an idea. I decided to use my Apple Watch to start controlling the music via Siri while it was playing on my AirPods. I can use “Hey Siri” there without interrupting what’s happening on my AirPods. Play and Pause work. Skip to the Next Track and Play the Previous Track also respond well. However, for some curious reason, volume control via Siri does not work.
There are still ways you can use the Apple Watch to control your music’s volume, though. I found that if I opened the Music app on the Watch, I was able to raise and lower the volume on my AirPods using the digital crown without any issues. That indicates to me that the issue with Siri changing the volume using the Watch is likely just a bug that Apple hasn’t squashed yet.
Even though this is a very small thing, it’s something I would like to see Apple address by the time we get our hands on iOS 11. They need to really reinforce the idea of how well everything in the Apple ecosystem works together, and that owning and using more of their devices makes the experience even better. Working out all the remaining little kinks like this volume issue, and being able to show off how everything meshes perfectly can be a great promotional tool for Apple.
- I find myself listening to music more throughout the day because of the convenience of my AirPods
I still have the IFROGZ Bluetooth Headphones that I reviewed earlier this year and usually have them with me in my laptop bag everyday. They sound good, have great battery life, and do a nice job of isolating outside noise. However, they are also fairly large and not something I am going to have with me at all times. I pull them out when I am at my desk at work, or sitting at Starbucks, but they aren’t quite as convenient to use when I am on the go.
The same cannot be said of my AirPods. They are small enough to take everywhere, and thanks to the charging case, are fully juiced up and ready to go at a moments notice. Because they are always with me and so convenient and easy to use, I find myself pulling them out often and using them at times when I wouldn’t have listened to music or podcasts in the past.
This is one of the best features of the AirPods, in my opinion. The convenience and ease of use reduces “friction,” which makes owners likely to use them more often. That has been the case with me, as whenever I find myself doing a task that doesn’t require listening or talking to someone, I take them out, pop them in, and start listening to something. The AirPods hearken back to the old Steve Jobs phrase, “It just works.”
That’s it for take two. I’ll come back and follow up with some more observations on the AirPods sometime after WWDC is behind us. Until then, if anyone has any questions or comments on Apple’s AirPods, let me know in the Comments below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.