Apple AirPods Review

Connectivity



One of the standout features for Apple’s AirPods is the all-new W1 chip. This new piece of silicon is supposed to provide for a streamlined pairing process, excellent Bluetooth range, increased audio quality, and extended battery life. The W1 chip first shows off its true prowess when connecting the AirPods to an iPhone, as the pairing process is about as simple as they come.

With the charging case in close proximity to your iPhone (and Bluetooth turned on), simply open up the top of the case. This will result in a pop-up being displayed on your iPhone’s screen, and upon initial setup of the AirPods, all you’ll need to do is tap the Connect button that’s prompted on your phone. After you hit that button, you’re all set. Opening the charging case at any point after that painless pairing process immediately connects them to your iPhone, and closing the case will disconnect them. It’s an ingenious way to go about the cumbersome setup process that most other Bluetooth headphones usually come equipped with, and it really does make a big difference using the AirPods on a day-to-day basis as opposed to any other pair of earbuds or headphones that lack that W1 functionality.

Going back to that pairing process, connecting AirPods to your iPhone doesn’t just mean that it’s connected to that and nothing else. Upon connecting AirPods to your iPhone for the first time, this also automatically connects them to any other iOS, watchOS, or macOS device that you own via your iCloud account - allowing for that same, pain-fee process of connecting and disconnecting the earbuds.

If you’d like, you can also choose to use AirPods with any other non-Apple device. I didn’t personally test this out, but if you’d like to use these with something along the lines of an Android smartphone or Windows laptop, the setup process is fairly easy as well. Simply navigate to the Bluetooth settings page for your device, open up the charging case, and hold down the small button that’s present on the back of it for a few seconds. This will cause the indicator light inside of the charging case to start blinking white, and once this light starts to blink, you should see AirPods pop up in your Bluetooth menu. It’s not nearly as magical as simply opening the case and having them instantly paired to your iPhone or iPad, but it’s nice that Apple didn’t limit the AirPods to their devices and their devices only.

Controls


When it comes to actually interacting with the AirPods, this is where their design shows a bit of weakness. Thanks to those inferred sensors that I mentioned earlier, double tapping on the AirPods will allow you to do either one of two things - prompt Siri for a voice command or play/pause the tunes that you’re currently listening to. This double-tap gesture works on both of the AirPods, and I found the accuracy to be quite good. Unfortunately, as well-executed as the tap control is, the lack of functionality that it offers is a bit disappointing.

Being able to double-tap an AirPod and bring up Siri to send a text message, place a call, or check the weather is nice, but having to rely on Apple’s virtual assistant in order to do something as simple as change the volume or skip a song is a bit infuriating at times. These controls are easily accessible if you’re listening to music on a Mac or if you’re wearing an Apple Watch, but it would have been nice to get some added control functionality built into the AirPods themselves.

With that said, Apple has done something pretty cool with play and pause functionality. While you can choose to pause and resume your songs by double-tapping either AirPod unit, you can also do this by simply removing one or both AirPods from your ear. Doing so will automatically stop any music that is playing, and inserting both of them back into your ears will start playback once again. I found this to be my favorite gesture while using AirPods, and a large part of this is due to just how well it actually works. Music is quick to pause and play when removing or inserting AirPods in and out of your ears, and it really is tremendously useful when you need to halt your tunes and move your attention to something else.

Audio Quality


Before we dive too far into how Apple’s AirPods sound, I want to preface this by saying that I’m not an audiophile by any means of the word. I love listening to music and enjoy a great-sounding pair of headphones, but my expertise certainly does not lie in this field.

With that being said, I found the AirPods to sound quite a bit better than I was anticipating.

I wasn’t expecting a whole lot out of these wireless earbuds considering their tremendously small size, but after listening to quite a lot of music on these things, I can safely say that they sound quite good. High’s are nice and crisp, bass levels are surprisingly punchy, and volume levels get ridiculously loud without sounding distorted.

Compared to Apple’s EarPods, the sound quality between them and the AirPods is noticeably better with Apple’s wireless solution. Audio as a whole sounds quite a bit cleaner to my ears on the AirPods, and while EarPods certainly don’t kick out poor-sounding audio, the tunes that the AirPods are able to reproduce is considerably more enjoyable in my opinion. You’re absolutely going to find better sound quality as a whole with big, quality wireless headphones like the Bose QC 35, for example, but for the vast majority of people out there, the sound you get from the AirPods is more than sufficient.

Using them for voice calls, the AirPods did perfectly well, with no issues and strong performance reported by both ends of the line.

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