I was excited to get a pair of Apple AirPods for Christmas from my wife and the little guys. I go through bluetooth headphones pretty rapidly since I’ve been running more (and in more inclement weather), and with the little guys often in my arms while I’m moving around, the corded headphones end up being a nuisance. Plus, I’ll be commuting to my new office via foot and subway, so a good set of headphones are going to be great.
As pure headphones, the AirPods are really nice. They fit my ears well. I’ve run with them and they didn’t move a bit. I guess there’s it’s true that it was the cord that made them fall out of your ears (especially when the cord gets caught on a door handle or cabinet). They have good sound—better sound than normal Apple EarPods to me. The microphone works pretty well, in most cases.
As Apple devices, they have a bunch of nice little features. The pairing could not be better. You pop open the little charge case, hold it near your phone, and click a button. That’s it. And, once it’s paired, they are then paired with your other devices via iCloud. Right now, I’m watching Die Hard (it’s a Christmas movie!) while the little guys nap. I never paired with my Apple TV; the AirPods automatically paired over iCloud.
Another nice feature is that the AirPods know when you’ve only got one in, and they route both channels of audio to the bud that’s in your ear. That’s really nice, if you want to keep one ear open to listen for crying babies, or want to have a podcast going in the background while you make dinner. When you’re ready to put the other bud in, the audio updates.
Like I mentioned before, the microphone (and Siri) work pretty well. There’s a couple of problems, though. First, with the weather being so cold here, my AirPods end up under my hat. Even with the bone conduction, I’ve found that Siri ends up somewhat unusable being muffled through a hat. The other thing, and this is more of an iOS issue, is that the security settings of iOS on the iPhone X default to hiding notifications unless the screen is unlocked. It’s a feature I like, until I’m using the phone with Siri when out and about. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting a text message, asking Siri about it (because it’s 10 degrees and you don’t want to take your phone out) and having Siri say you have to unlock your phone. You can solve this by letting iOS show your text messages on your lock screen, but then that defeats the security benefit. It’d be nice for Apple to give you the option of playing info via Siri, maybe just to bluetooth devices or just over headphones.
Another Siri-related issue, though one that’s really a hardware issue, is the lack of volume control. I’m a perpetual fiddler with the volume since I’ve got a lot of music that was ripped years ago and is quieter than the stuff that’s out now. Mostly, I’ve just given up fiddling with the volume unless I can physically reach my phone, since Siri’s volume control is passable at best. First, I’m not always somewhere I can ask Siri to change my volume. But, more, I’ve found asking Siri to increase the volume by 10 or 20% often leads to Siri setting the volume to 10 or 20%, which is not super helpful.
All in all, they’re really nice. The good far outweighs the bad. I use them all the time, and expect I’ll use them non-stop when commuting back and forth to work, and when I’m running in the morning. Paired with another set of headphones for times when you need a cord (like on a plane), they’re phenomenal (and I expect planes will, in the next 5-10 years, support bluetooth for the infotainment system).