AirPods

AirPods

A couple of months ago my AirPods arrived. I'd deliberated on getting them for a while; the decision was finally made when I was unable to find wireless earphones for the gym with the performance I wanted at a meaningfully lower price. I wanted the AirPods anyway, their design and feature set was already appealing, and only having to pay about £25 more than the alternatives I was considering meant I no longer had to talk myself into ponying up the cost.

There's still a significant backorder on these things. Apple said they'd arrive in about six weeks; it was actually about four and a half. It's hard to say whether this is due to sheer demand or production difficulties but even new iPhone releases clear backorder faster than the AirPods have. Having used them I can believe that it's down to popularity. I know people were worried about them falling out during use, but without a wire applying torsion to pop them out of your ears they are remarkably secure. I also don't think they look as silly as some people have suggested, but here — feel free to judge for yourself.

The AirPods have replaced my Sennheiser cans as daily drivers for audio consumption. I listen to music and podcasts at work, and they fit in my pocket. The sheer convenience of the AirPods squeezed the larger headphones out, the headphones do have better audio quality. The difference in audio quality however is much closer than I anticipated. AirPods are still earphones — they are better than their older siblings the wired EarPods but they still have all the issues with noise bleed that any comparable in-ear design has. I've thrown some tough music at them and the bass is adequate and even some challenging choral crescendos are perfect and distortion free.

The real joy that the AirPods provide however is in the way they intelligently sense their situation. If I'm listening to something and a colleague gets my attention, pulling one of them our pauses whatever I'm listening to (works on videos, too). I can talk to them, and then upon popping the AirPod back in my media immediately resumes. Using just one when you hit play routes both audio channels to the one output, effectively giving you mono output. Adding the second AirPod seamlessly switches to stereo.

Similarly, the battery widget on the iPhone displays battery levels contextually. You get the battery level of the case, and one or two AirPods dependent on their use at the time. The AirPods are essentially each a small integrated computer, and while there's the occasional flaw or misbehaviour they've been few and far between for me. Similarly instances where audio has stuttered have been very uncommon; though it has happened a couple of times and I am using them on a daily basis. Many people will miss having in-line audio controls; I have an apple watch and can easily adjust volume or browse my media collection from there. Or answer phone calls.

The other thing I really love about them is using them for calls. This is the most common use of Siri via double-tapping an AirPod for me. "Call John…" Siri struggles a little if there's a lot of background noise — most often if I'm walking and a bus rumbles past. Calls themselves are great, though. I just walk and talk. I'm sure I've gotten a lot of funny looks, too. The microphone quality is not quite as good as the iPhone's built-in microphone but it's clear. Sometimes it picks up voices a little too well, but for a lot of background sound the noise cancellation is excellent. I've used them for almost every phone call I've made since getting them and was especially satisfied when my bank had me on hold, my hands were free, and I didn't have to worry about where I'd left my phone on speaker so that I could listen for the break in the hold music.

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