I consume plenty of media around tech and one thing I kept hearing again and again from the tech community was that the AirPods may well be pricey but they were one of or even the best new devices Apple had released in a long time.
They seem very expensive for a pair of headphones as well which look like EarPods with the wires cut off. Then there is the look of them which as always is loved by some hated by others. The EarPods don’t fit me well without a skin fitted to them either so they probably wouldn’t fit me well and that’s if I could even get hold of them.
Of course I chose to ignore all of these possible downsides as I had to find out what the fuss was about.
One of the features raved about the AirPods is there very simple set up and that they then pair across all your other iCloud devices once they are set up.
My experience was not as smooth as I hoped. Pairing with my iPhone was brilliant. Flip open the lid on the case, a picture pops up of the AirPods on my iPhone, tap Connect and that’s it! Be gone vile Bluetooth horrors. No more number codes! No more spinning wheels and Pairing prompts!
Sadly that was where the magic ended for me. In theory I should now have been able to connect to any of my devices signed into the same iCloud account ( why do I feel so tempted to type iClod?…hmm ) but no. That would have been too easy.
My problem was that the AirPods were just not appearing as a device to pair with on anything other than my iPhone. It was as if they weren’t there.
So after much forum reading, checking iCloud accounts, turning things off and on again eventually I did get the AirPods to pop up. I still don’t know what step eventually made them appear as a choice. Connecting to my Apple watch was the worst of the lot but I’ve always found connecting bluetooth headphone to the watch a poor experience.
One thing I suppose is that when they did appear there was no need to pair or input Bluetooth codes but frankly I was getting so fed up I almost wanted those dark days back again!
Day to day use
In daily use the AirPods are hands down the best headphone experience I’ve had. There are a number of reasons why which I will come back to.
Let’s get the negative point for me out of the way first. They don’t fully fit my ears much as I suspected they wouldn’t. If I am just pottering around the house they aren’t too bad but if I tilt my head to one side they could easily fall out. I certainly wasn’t willing to go outside with them as they come. The EarPods were never a great fit so I was prepared this might be the case.
A while back I found a company called EarSkinz that make soft moulded plastic covers for the EarPods which work brilliantly for me. Sadly they at the time of writing the new AirPod covers are not available on Amazon. I reached out to EarSkinz and they said they hoped to start selling them on Amazon sometime in July.
A little bit modification of my original EarSkinz covers is working for now.
They now sit in my ears very comfortably and don’t move at all. I’ve done some 30+ minute runs and been through typical gym workouts with weight machines and free weights with no issues. The secure fit has improved the sound quality and the design of the EarSkinz is meant to channel the sound down your ear canal better and I do think it helps. The only downside is I have to remove them to store them in the case but that would be true of any make. The fit is so precise they will only fit in the charging holes “naked”.
The sound quality of these is really quite excellent. The bass is improved over the EarPods and the sound stage feels fuller somehow. I read others say that they swap to over ear headphones whilst watching a movie and whilst I may do that in the future I find the convenience factor means I tend to end up using them for everything.
It’s not just that they are Bluetooth which is great in headphones if you haven’t already got a pair. Removing the wires altogether makes them even less of a hassle as they NEVER get caught on anything. I’ve even pulled jumpers on over my head and they have stayed in.
The way the AirPods fit perfectly in the charging case which is so small you can easily take it everywhere in your pocket and because it charges them they are always ready to go. I cannot stress how much this alone is a selling point as anyone who has ever owned Bluetooth headphones will tell you the whole issue of knowing if they are charged and will they be ready when I need them is a real pain. Now when I go to the gym they are ready to go every time. The pop up on the screen when you open the case tells you instantly the charge of the headphones and the case so you always know when the case needs a top up charge. It’s a lighting connector too so no doubt if you own some Apple devices you already have a charger in your home.
Then there is auto-pause. We’ve all been there. You’re listening to your favourite music or podcast and someone is trying to talk to you regardless. Nothing can top the ease of the AirPods for just taking one out of your ear, playback stops and you listen and then pop it back in and playback resumes. It is such a great feature next time you wear headphones without it you get confused why it hasn’t stopped for you!
One of the big criticism of the AirPods was having to control playback with Siri even to skip to the next track. Thankfully in iOS 11 thats gone and now you can change them so each AirPod has it own command on double tap. I am on the public beta of iOS on my iPad and even though my iPhone is still on iOS 10 the feature still holds and works. My personal set up is left AirPod is Siri and right one is skip forwards. That’s all I’ve chosen for now but it may change over time.
Personal choice but I don’t think they look too bad. I can’t stand how I look in a mirror anyway so this addition takes nothing away from me. I’ve seen others out and about wearing them and they look OK I think.
I’ve not had any funny looks from anyone nor been quizzed about them.
They are expensive. At £159 they are not a impulse buy for most. They are not just a pair of EarPods with the wires cut off. They are more than that for all the reasons listed above and when you consider how many clever features they bring and the improvement in day to day headphone use I feel they are well worth the investment.
If you are considering them, go for it.