After a delay of two months, the AirPods ($238) are finally available for purchase on the online Apple store. The bad news: you’ll only get your grubby hands on one in six weeks. Fortunately Apple was kind enough to send a review unit over for us to test out. And that’s what we’ve been doing for the past two days. Here are our thoughts on these white candy canes.
If you’re any bit of an audiophile, you might want to stay away. Compared to its wired counterpart – the EarPods – the AirPods have a slightly more expansive soundstage. The bass is also more pronounced. These differences are noticeable if you’re listening to music in a quiet environment.
However, just like the EarPods, the AirPods do not possess any noise-isolation or -cancellation abilities, so the slightly better quality comes to naught when you’re commuting or in a public place. But in an era of compressed audio and streaming music, the AirPods do a credible job of pumping out tunes.
Fit and Stability
The phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ is incredibly apt for the AirPods. They honestly look like they will drop out of your ear and into the nearest drain cover should you even dare to sneeze. But when we put that on and did some violent head banging to metal music, numerous jumping jacks and a few minutes of shadowboxing, the AirPods stubbornly stayed inside our ear canals.
And while some earphones can cause discomfort in our ears after hours of use, the AirPods didn’t bother us one bit.
Siri and the In-Built Microphone
We were blown away by how good the microphone on these tiny buds are. Even when we were in a noisy public area, we could clearly hear the person on the other end of the phone call. Likewise, the receiver could hear us clearly. Our whispers were also picked up by the receiver, which can be good or bad, depending on who you’re whispering about.
Activating Siri is just a double tap away on either side, and is your primary mode of accomplishing things on the AirPods. Calling people, getting directions and yes, even skipping songs or decreasing volume, in the event that you’re too lazy to dig your iPhone out from your bag. The problem is when you’re listening to music on Spotify or Pandora instead of Apple Music. Siri is unable (or refuses) to communicate with non-Apple produced apps so you’ll have to manually change songs on these apps.
Battery Life and Charging
Apple advertises the AirPods to last up to five hours on a single charge, and we did manage to achieve that. However, just like how some users of the new Macbook Pro reported short battery life issues, we suspect that some batches of the AirPods will also have the same problem. Charging is simple. The case accepts the same Lightning cable that your iPhone uses and takes about an hour or so to reach 100 per cent from an electrical socket.
The AirPods barely dropped connection, unlike a lot of other Bluetooth earbuds on the market that we’ve tested, and the range is a lot further than we thought. Do take note that no tech company has yet managed to solve the problem of cement walls interfering with connection. Connecting to your Apple products also took no longer than five seconds, and the AirPods seamlessly switch from one Apple product to the next, as long as you’ve done the initial pairing.
The AirPods also work with non-Apple devices but a lot of the most useful features, such as calling on Siri, are unavailable.
The $238 Question
Should you get it? If you’re getting them primarily for music, we suggest sticking to your EarPods or spending that money to buy a pair that is focused on music. But if you are fully entrenched in the Apple ecosystem, constantly on the move, make important business phone calls and consider yourself an early tech adopter (and don’t mind the teething issues), then we say go for it.
Get the AirPods here.