Eric Stewart: Running Off At The Mouth

A Day With Apple AirPods

by Eric Stewart on Mar.01, 2017, under Cell Phones & Providers, Technology

My wife wanted a set of Apple AirPods for her birthday.  So I got her a set.  And got a set for myself.  As Apple’s most recent phone (the iPhone 7 series) removed the head phone jack from the phone, their immediate response was to produce a set of EarPods (the ones with a cord) that plugged into the Lightning plug.  This is fine, except that now you can’t charge your phone and listen to music at the same time.  But, when they announced the iPhone 7, they also announced AirPods – wireless stereo headphones.

So my first impressions:

  • They’re small.  The case is small.  But not small enough to where you shouldn’t be able to keep track of both.  If the AirPods aren’t in your ears, they should be in the case.
  • After a “mostly on” afternoon at work (put them in the case at lunch), I put the AirPods in the case and checked – the phone reported the battery in the pods themselves at 13%.  So, being conservative, it seems like you should be able to get 4 hours straight from them.  Here’s the good news: put them in the case for an hour and (providing the case battery is charged enough) the AirPods should be fully charged within an hour … at least according to my experiences so far.  That may change over time. (Just checked Apple’s site: 5 hours play time, charge for 15 min in case and get 3 hours, and get 24 from the case.)
  • It might be easy to forget to charge the case.
  • You do get a new Lightning cable with them … but no power block.
  • There’s no easy volume control or track control.  You need Siri for this, which will interrupt the currently playing track (annoying if all I want to do is turn the volume up without touching the phone).  And I haven’t gotten activating her from the AirPods quite down yet.
  • Pause and play is easy enough for music: take one of the AirPods out of your ear.  However, if you have to itch your ear and you remove an AirPod, this will cause the music to stop for a moment.
  • Moving between Apple devices has been fairly easy, but I could swear there’s been a little inconsistency here and there.  Mainly, check your Bluetooth menu and if it says “Not Connected”, click/tap on that and the AirPods should move to that device (but become unconnected from the previous one).  However, in one case (Macbook Pro, first time) I found them listed in the volume menu as a speaker option, and that did the pairing.  Later, I didn’t find them there, but found them in the Bluetooth menu.
  • Now … the only time I’ve had one fall out was when I was taking off my shirt with them in.  Other than that, they feel pretty solidly in but not uncomfortably so.
  • They have been clear for music and videos on iPhone, iPad, and Macbook Pro.  I haven’t made a call (or received one) yet, so … I don’t know.  There were reports that iPhone 6 models had issues with calls, but they’ll probably have the firmware patched for that soon, and I’m on a 7 now.

So … what’s the big deal?

Well, they are Apple made.  Pricing?  Honestly for what they are, it’s reasonable (perhaps a tad higher than most would want to pay, but some decent Bluetooth headsets go for $100 easy).  There are technically two of them (one for each ear), which makes it a bit disconcerting – there’s always that nagging feeling that you could lose one and be up a creek (most BT headsets have a wire or some other connection between the two earphones).

I’ve had single ear headsets before, and they were … “okay”, but easy to forget to charge and a little awkward to keep around (and eventually, it just became easier to use the wired headset).  These?  Well, time will tell but they’ve been good enough for the past day or so, and they don’t take up too much space in the pocket (and also don’t get tangled in with other things like keys).

Worth it?  If you’ve got the requisite money to spend and nothing else on the list, they might just be.  But I think they are also a bit backordered, so you might be waiting a while for them.

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