First Impressions of Apple’s AirPods

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I was finally able to get my hands on a pair of Apple’s latest hard to find hit. If you are still looking for a set of AirPods without the three to four week wait, keep an eye on AT&T, website. When they get them in stock, they process the orders quickly and have free shipping in the US. I got mine two business days after ordering, so I was happy with the experience, and was glad to not have to pay a premium or wait a month to get them.

Rather than doing a full review of the AirPods, I am just going to share some ongoing impressions of them over the next few weeks. I usually take my time when doing a product review anyway, as I like to really live with something for a bit before I do a full write-up on it. It takes time to really get the full measure of product, whether it be a device or an accessory. This way, I can share the little bits and pieces and impressions as they come.

  • The fit is perfect on me, but that experience isn’t shared by all

I have never had any issues with Apple’s EarPods, so I figured the AirPods would fit much the same. However, when you put down $150 instead of getting a headset free in the box with your phone, the stakes and expectations are definitely higher. My expectations on this point were actually exceeded a bit. Today was the first workday that I had them, so I used one as my Bluetooth headset for the day. It was comfortable and light enough to pretty much forget it was there.

Unfortunately, if EarPods don’t work for you, the AirPods likely won’t, either. They fit poorly on my wife to the point that they would barely stay in her ears. Considering the exclusive positioning of the AirPods in Apple’s lineup, it would be smart on their part to find some way to mitigate these issues with some interchangeable shapes or different sizes in future versions. I know there are parallel products from Beats, but none of them are fully wireless like the AirPods.

  • The battery life is acceptable, but the recharging case and the interchangeable nature of the AirPods overcomes any weakness

I can’t say the battery life of the AirPods is great. The single right-side bud just BARELY made it though the work day for me today, so they aren’t as practical as a pure Bluetooth headset for phone calls. My Plantronics that I’ve used for the last two years lasts for several days on a charge, but it’s just a mono headset for phone calls so it isn’t an apples to apples comparison. All that said, I think the battery life is just fine for a first generation version of a fully wireless set of buds like these and it should only improve in future versions.

While the battery life of the earbuds is just good, the battery case really covers over any issues or potential dissatisfaction, at least on my part. Over the weekend I was using the AirPods more sporadically to listen to music, and I loved that every time I put the buds back in the case they quickly recharged to 100%. I know Apple wasn’t the first to use this recharging case design, but as usual, they have perfected it.

  • The design of the case is perfect

Plenty of hay has been made at the expense of the design of the AirPods, but I don’t have any objections to it. However, the praise of the design of the AirPods recharging case has been almost as universal, and for good reason. From the smooth rounded corners, to the balanced hinge and magnetic closure of the lid with an unmistakable “click” on closure, to the magnetic seating of the AirPods for charging, it is a quintesential Apple design.

  • The sound quality is good, and that’s good enough

I’m not going to say that the AirPods deliver audiophile-quality sound. However, when you balance the sound quality with the convenience of fully wireless earbuds, they come out looking and sounding pretty solid. In my opinion, they do sound better than Apple’s more basic EarPods, and are much better than any inexpensive Bluetooth stereo headset that I have tried. The bass isn’t as pronounced as many listeners might like today, but I personally found the balanced nature of the sound to be a positive.

  • The controls are simple. Maybe a little too simple

I like the double-tap on the side of the AirPod mechanic to trigger Siri or to Play/Pause your music or podcast. It works very well. Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough control available without getting out your phone or going to your Watch (if applicable). I can understand having to choose between using Siri or Play/Pause when using one AirPod. However, I would love to see Apple expand on this, and allow separate controls on each AirPod to make use a little easier.

  • Using Siri with the AirPods is great…..but

Siri does work very well with the AirPods. I found recognition to be more accurate than with my iPhone in crowded or noisy areas. Like the Watch, its mic seems to be tuned to recognize voice queries. However, unlike the Watch, you don’t have to put anything closer to your mouth to get this good recognition. I’m glad to see Apple putting in some effort on getting good voice recognition, and it gives me hope that the coming Siri speaker will be another step in the right direction.

Using Siri with the AirPods is smooth, but there is room for improvement in the future. At first, I was disappointed that “Hey Siri” didn’t work on them, but I can understand that keeping the mic enabled at all times would put a huge strain on the already limited battery capacity. However, as battery capacity and life improves in future versions of the AirPods, this could be a killer feature. It would allow for hands-free voice queries, and also would open up the tap control possibilities since Siri wouldn’t have to be triggered to be used.

  • I would fight people in line to get a set of AirPods in Black

I like the classic Apple “iDevice White,” and all. However, the case and the buds are going to show dirt and wear a lot more  with that bright white surface. I have already cleaned the inside of the case a couple of times. The white AirPods also are very conspicuous when you’re wearing them. I would much prefer an official black set from Apple, as they will be less likely to show dirt and wear, and will be far less conspicuous when in use. I have no doubt we will see these in a year or two.

That’s enough for round one. After a few days of use, I know I won’t be sending the AirPods back, as I have been very pleased with them overall. As such, I will keep posting about mt experience with them as time goes on. Also, if any of you have any specific questions about the AirPods, let me know and I will try to get you an answer. Feel free to post any thoughts in the Comments below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.


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