AirPods – Review (Updated)

5 minute read

They’re finally here. After a two month delay, AirPods are now on-sale and I can say it was certainly worth the wait. Did Apple find some issues that needed to be ironed out before release or was it simply down the manufacturing?

The packaging they come in is no larger than my hand and the picture of the AirPods themselves are slightly raised which gives a nice touch and also lets you know it’s a high quality product. Lift the lid and you’ll be presented with the usual paperwork, which, let’s be honest, no-one reads (although it wouldn’t hurt this time around as it is a brand new product). You’ll then see the Charging Case and it’s much smaller than I thought it’d be. The width of the Charging Case is roughly the same height as the Apple Watch 42mm Case. The Charging Case has a metal hinge that snaps open and shut at the slightest touch, it’s clear Apple worked hard in this department. It has a good weight to it and fits perfectly into the small pocket in your jeans. The AirPods sit nicely in the Charging Case and are magnetically secured in place.

To connect your AirPods all you do is flip the lid (ensure your iPhone is in close proximity) and you’ll be presented with a dialog on your iPhone, Control Center style. Hit “Connect”. Yep, that’s all, suddenly, not only are you connected to your iPhone, you’re connected to your MacBook, iPad and Apple Watch. You never need to connect nor disconnect ever again. On the bottom of the Charging Case is a Lightning Connector. Apple include a charge lead in the box. If you have an iPhone dock however, you can just charge them using that as charging the AirPods take minutes. Officially you can charge them for 15 minutes and it’ll get you 3 hours of listening time but if you pop them on charge for a few minutes, you’ll gain 10%-20%, it’s ridiculous.

When you open the lid, you’ll see a status light and it’s important to learn what it means. If the AirPods are in the case, the light shows the status of the AirPods. If they aren’t in the case, the light shows the status of the Charging Case. A green light means fully charged, an amber light means there’s less than one full charge remaining and if the light is flashing white, it means AirPods are ready to use. Once you’ve setup, there’s nothing else you need to do. Next time you use them, simply take them out of the Charging Case, pop them in your ears and start listening. Once connected and once they’re placed in your ears they’ll make a noise to let you know they’re ready to use.

Just something I have to add, out of the box, each AirPod had different battery levels. I’ve also noticed that when they’ve been fully charged and I’ve used them for a long period of time, the same thing happens. I’m thinking this has to do with taking one AirPod out to pause music, it might be that doing that uses up a bit more battery. Anyway, I’m not raising this as an issue, far from it.

When fully charged, AirPods will last roughly 5 hours (depending on usage and volume) of listening time (2 hours talk time) and the Charging Case will provide an additional 24 hours of listening time.

Now to the actual AirPods themselves. They are quite simply remarkable. A lot of people have been complaining that these aren’t worth the money as they’re essentially EarPods with no wires. The stem is slightly thicker and longer but that’s to accommodate for the W1 chip, accelerometers, sensors, microphones, the battery and the antenna. They are jam-packed with technology. They do sound better than the EarPods, they have more bass and clarity. The AirPods don’t weigh a lot either. So, the most important question, will they fit in your ears? That’s a pretty important factor. It comes down to this; if EarPods fitted in your ears, AirPods will because (apart from the stem, as I mentioned) they are the same design. To add to that, there’s no wire constantly pulling on them. This makes a massive difference. Most of the time, I forget I’m wearing them, they are very comfortable.

Thanks to the sensors inside AirPods, if you’re listening to music and you take one AirPod out, the music will stop, place it back in your ear and it’ll resume again. It’s like magic, seriously. (If you want, as both AirPods have the same technology inside them, you can use one AirPod for music or as a Bluetooth headset.) The accelerometers (two in each) can detect when you’re speaking and will filter out external noise so it can understand what you’re saying, even in noisy environments. Siri has worked flawlessly for me so far. Another good thing about AirPods is that Apple will be able to improve them via software updates and I hope in the future Apple add to ability to skip songs because, at the moment, that’s the only bad thing about the AirPods, the lack of physical buttons. They could change the existing double-tap functionality to a single-tap and then add the ability to tap twice on the left AirPod to go back a track and tap twice on the right AirPod to go forward a track. Alternatively, you could do the same to increase and decrease the volume. It could be a choice in the settings.

Talking of settings, there are three settings for AirPods that can adjusted via your iPhone. (To access settings, click Bluetooth and then “i” next to your AirPods.) The first is the option to double-tap an AirPod to enable Siri or play/pause music, the second is the option to enable or disable Automatic Ear Detection which automatically transfers the audio route from connected devices to the AirPods when they are placed in your ears and finally, the third option, the ability to channel the microphones to the left AirPod, the right AirPod or to switch automatically between them both. The range these have is fantastic. I placed my iPhone and AirPods in the rooms furthest apart from each other and encountered no issues, none at all. I think Apple have sprinkled some magic dust in these.

Something I’ve forgotten to mention. I’ve had a pair of Jaybird’s before and when connected the battery percentage sits next to the Bluetooth icon in the Status Bar on iPhone which makes it very handy just to glance at to see how much battery you have left, for some reason, with AirPods, that doesn’t happen (again, hopefully this is something that Apple can add in an update). To view the remaining battery life with AirPods you need to open Notification Center and view the Battery widget, I agree that it’s not delved into the settings but it would be better if it was in the Status Bar as well. If you want to see the battery life for the Charging Case, ensure at least one AirPod is in the case. If both AirPods are out of the case, the battery life for the case won’t be displayed in the widget.

To make use of all the features AirPods have to offer, you need to be running iOS 10, macOS Sierra or watchOS 3. You can still connect (as can non-Apple devices) to AirPods via standard Bluetooth by hitting the white button on the back of the Charging Case and connecting the usual way but if you do this they’ll simply act as normal Bluetooth 4.0 devices.

AirPods might not’ve been ready for the iPhone 7 (they definitely should’ve been) but delaying them was the best thing Apple did. It was worth the wait. It’s Apple’s first attempt at cracking the Bluetooth market with the intelligent W1 chip and they’ve done exactly that.

UPDATE: HOW TO VIEW BATTERY LIFE ON AIRPODS AND CHARGING CASE

It seems some people are having trouble working out how to view the remaining battery of the AirPods as well as the battery remaining of the Charging Case too.

If you flip the lid and bring the case (with both AirPods in it) next to the phone, it’ll show you the battery life of the AirPods and Charging Case.

If you take out one AirPod of the case, it’ll then split into two, showing you the battery life for the left AirPod and battery life for the right AirPod separately. The battery life for the Charging Case will also be displayed.

If you take both AirPods out, the battery life of the Charging Case will no longer be displayed. If you want to see the battery life for the Charging Case at least one AirPod must be in it.

Finally, I’ll say it again as it ties in with what I’ve just said. The status light represents the AirPods if they are in the case. If the case is empty, the status light represents the Charging Case.