Which Apple W1-equipped headphones are right for you?

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 9
In the past few months Apple has launched several new Bluetooth headphones -- mostly under the Beats brand -- with its proprietary W1 chip, enabling better connections and easier pairing with Apple devices. Which model you should buy, if any, will depend not just on your budget, but how you intend to use them.


Apple AirPods

The AirPods ($159) are Apple's only fully wireless option, and probably your best bet if convenience is all that matters. Aside from the W1's enhanced pairing -- which automatically links headphones to all the devices associated with an Apple ID -- AirPods turn on automatically when you pull them out of their charging case and insert them in your ear.

With internal infrared sensors, the smart hardware can even pause music if you take a bud out.

The buds offer just 5 hours of listening time on their own, but with periodic case charges, that can be extended to over 24 hours. Slapping them in the provided case for just 15 minutes should restore 3 hours of listening time.

There are definitely arguments to be made against the AirPods, especially if you're into fitness. Even if it doesn't happen too often, the lack of wires or hooks means they could fall out during intense activity -- and you'll pay $69 for the privilege of replacing a lost bud.

Also, while the AirPods do sound better than Apple's wired EarPods, don't expect to be blown away, and onboard controls are virtually non-existent. Apple expects you to rely on Siri -- accessible via a double tap on either bud -- or a paired device to handle most functions, which is not as convenient as anything with an inline remote. This makes the AirPods especially unsuited to pairing with non-Apple devices, so multi-platform users beware.

See our extended review for more details.

Beats Solo3

The Solo3 ($299.95) are Apple's top-of-the-line option, and good for just about every use case assuming you can justify the high cost. They have a whopping 40 hours of battery life, and when power runs low, a 5 minute Fast Fuel charge gets you 3 hours of audio.




Being lightweight, on-ear headphones, they should stay on in most circumstances while shutting out the outside world. Of course they're not subtle and certainly the least compact of Apple's latest offerings, but you can fold them up or drape them around your neck if you need to get them out of the way.

One standout feature Apple neglects to mention is their insane Bluetooth range. Barring any serious obstacles, you can potentially keep a connection going up to 400 feet away from the audio source -- enough to wander around a large house, say, or leave your phone in one part of a gym while you deadlift on the opposite side.

Like all current Beats headphones, the Solo3 also comes with an inline remote, which makes them easier to control than AirPods.

Beats Powerbeats3

Apple doesn't make any bones about it: the Powerbeats3s ($199.95) are sports and workout headphones, first and foremost. Hooks and an adjustable strap are meant to keep them in place at all times, even if you're doing sprints or hanging crunches. They're also built to be sweat- and water-resistant, if not totally waterproof.




Because of these features -- and 12-hour battery life -- you might want to consider them over AirPods, regardless of whether you're physically active. They're still compact, and yet tougher and harder to lose.

They even deliver high-quality audio, albeit bass-heavy like Beats products in general. Another catch is that it's extremely important to choose the right size among the included eartips -- a loose fit can result in poor sound.

Read our full review for more.

BeatsX

Technically, the BeatsX ($149.95) is not shipping until February, but on paper, they should hit a sweet spot. They're earbuds like the AirPods, but slightly cheaper, have an inline remote, and should satisfy people worried about losing a bud.




The ends even magnetically attach to each other, making it easier to avoid tangling or hang around your neck. They might not be as workout-friendly as the Powerbeats3, but they'll probably become the next-best option, at least from Apple.

Apple is promising up to 8 hours of battery life and a 5-minute Fast Fuel resulting in 2 hours of playback. We'll have wait until next month to see what their audio quality is like.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 64
    Umm, the one with the little "R" on it?  ;)
    baconstang
  • Reply 2 of 64
    AirPods! 

    Powerbeats3 are a pain in the ears to use.
  • Reply 3 of 64
    Well, I'm into fitness and i have no argument against the Airpods -- if they fit your ears they're not going anywhere. 
    caliwatto_cobrajahblade
  • Reply 4 of 64
    None of them have the ANC so... none. If only Bose QC35 had Apple W1...
    williamlondonbaconstangdamn_its_hot
  • Reply 5 of 64
    i have no argument against the Airpods. 
    No controls is a deal breaker for me. I can't imagine how silly it must feel to say "Siri, Volume down", followed by "Siri, next track" in the subway or in the supermarket. I have absolutely no idea why Apple is so persistent on voice control. I will probably buy the X when (if) they come out and have decent sound quality.
    lorin schultzbaconstangGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 6 of 64
    tobol said:
    None of them have the ANC so... none. If only Bose QC35 had Apple W1...
    What's ANC?
  • Reply 7 of 64

    eyekey said:
    i have no argument against the Airpods. 
    No controls is a deal breaker for me. I can't imagine how silly it must feel to say "Siri, Volume down", followed by "Siri, next track" in the subway or in the supermarket. I have absolutely no idea why Apple is so persistent on voice control. I will probably buy the X when (if) they come out and have decent sound quality.
    I absolutely agree, but I don't know what the alternative would be. If the goal is to make a pair of completely independent speakers that go in your ears, where can physical controls be located?

    If one doesn't change the volume or skip tracks very often, they might be fine. *I* wouldn't be happy, but some people may be.
    jahblade
  • Reply 8 of 64
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,098member
    tobol said:
    None of them have the ANC so... none. If only Bose QC35 had Apple W1...
    What's ANC?
    Active Noise Control.

    Not worth the bother if you ask me.
    pscooter63watto_cobralorin schultz
  • Reply 9 of 64
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,098member

    eyekey said:
    i have no argument against the Airpods. 
    No controls is a deal breaker for me. I can't imagine how silly it must feel to say "Siri, Volume down", followed by "Siri, next track" in the subway or in the supermarket. I have absolutely no idea why Apple is so persistent on voice control. I will probably buy the X when (if) they come out and have decent sound quality.
    I absolutely agree, but I don't know what the alternative would be. If the goal is to make a pair of completely independent speakers that go in your ears, where can physical controls be located?
    With the design as is, probably not many places, since it's crammed full of battery.  But other independent headphones have fit controls on the body before; you only really need two buttons, play/pause/skip and volume, with double and long presses on each adding multiple operations.
  • Reply 10 of 64
    calicali Posts: 2,912member
    eyekey said:
    i have no argument against the Airpods. 
    No controls is a deal breaker for me. I can't imagine how silly it must feel to say "Siri, Volume down", followed by "Siri, next track" in the subway or in the supermarket. I have absolutely no idea why Apple is so persistent on voice control. I will probably buy the X when (if) they come out and have decent sound quality.
    Can't you just say "volume up", "next track"?

    even better "lower", "up", "next", etc. 
    watto_cobrajahblade
  • Reply 11 of 64
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,170member
    crowley said:
    Active Noise Control.
    Not worth the bother if you ask me.
    Good ANC is absolutely wonderful when flying. Some other, edge situations where it's great to have, too. Without ANC, I can't call the Solo3 model top-of-the-line, except in the realm of Beats models that have the W1. IMHO the Studio wireless are overall the Beats TOTL.
  • Reply 12 of 64
    I bought a pair of Powerbeats 3 but I haven't opened them and I'm reluctant to keep them after most reviews say the Bose Soundsport wireless sound way better. But I'm drawn to the W1 so not sure which way to go. 
  • Reply 13 of 64
    Well, I'm into fitness and i have no argument against the Airpods -- if they fit your ears they're not going anywhere. 
    Just ran 4.5 miles on the trail. Did not fall out once. Super light. Way more comfortable than the wired Apple earbuds. Synced right to my iPhone instantly. Battery life is superb...Syncing the new Rolling Stones album (probably is terrible) to my AppleWatch to listen on tonight's run. So far they're excellent.

    So superior to having the air-buds cords tangling and tapping my chest as I run. 

    I'm also listening to AudioBooks on them too as I run the longer runs.
    edited January 9 lostkiwipscooter63ryan2012watto_cobraStrangeDays
  • Reply 14 of 64

    eyekey said:
    i have no argument against the Airpods. 
    No controls is a deal breaker for me. I can't imagine how silly it must feel to say "Siri, Volume down", followed by "Siri, next track" in the subway or in the supermarket. I have absolutely no idea why Apple is so persistent on voice control. I will probably buy the X when (if) they come out and have decent sound quality.
    That's what your Apple Watch is for....Next track, last track, volume on the bezel...it's pretty cool.  Double tap the AirPod and they pause and play. Take out of ear and they pause. Put it back in the ear and it starts again. Soon I think Apple will add more "taps" for more controls. Maybe evening noise canceling. Wouldn't that be something?

    I don't think you can beat the genius of the carrying case and ease of syncing. Just brilliant. Typical Apple. I would highly recommend them over the others. Apple is only going to make them better, probably thru software updates, like the AppleWatch.

    edited January 9 lostkiwibrucemcpscooter63watto_cobraRayz2016StrangeDaysdamn_its_hot
  • Reply 15 of 64
    jibberj said:
    I bought a pair of Powerbeats 3 but I haven't opened them and I'm reluctant to keep them after most reviews say the Bose Soundsport wireless sound way better. But I'm drawn to the W1 so not sure which way to go. 
    Powerbeats 2 are fantastic sound so I'm sure 3 would be equal to just better battery. My favorite feature besides the sound... the distance!

    i can leave my iPhone upstairs in the back bedroom, go downstairs to the kitchen to feed the cats or take the trash out and still can hear music, answer calls, text people, etc all from on the controller on the headset. It's really great. 

    I also love love how once I turn on my truck they magically release to the truckss Bluetooth with no assistance and when I exit the truck the music is still playing but now in my ear. 

    The 3 will be even better since it has the W1 Chi. Just make sure you use the largest flexi they have as it creates a suction keeping ALL the sound in your ear. 
    lostkiwipscooter63jibberj
  • Reply 16 of 64
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,159member
    eyekey said:
    i have no argument against the Airpods. 
    No controls is a deal breaker for me. I can't imagine how silly it must feel to say "Siri, Volume down", followed by "Siri, next track" in the subway or in the supermarket. I have absolutely no idea why Apple is so persistent on voice control. I will probably buy the X when (if) they come out and have decent sound quality.
    Not an issue for me. I'm fine with making adjustments on my phone and eventually a watch.
    watto_cobrabadmonk
  • Reply 17 of 64
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,159member
    crowley said:
    tobol said:
    None of them have the ANC so... none. If only Bose QC35 had Apple W1...
    What's ANC?
    Active Noise Control.

    Not worth the bother if you ask me.
    I have a good pair of ANC over ear headphones that I pretty much use exclusively on airplanes. Most other times it's Ear Pods soon to be Air Pods.
    lostkiwiwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 64
    brucemcbrucemc Posts: 948member
    I have the AirPods and love them. Stay in my ears through workouts and effortless to put in or take out. Really like that there is no cord between the buds (previous Sony pair were a pain).  I haven't tried the others so not saying AirPods are better, just that I really love the Pods. 
    pscooter63watto_cobraRayz2016
  • Reply 19 of 64
    eyekey said:
    i have no argument against the Airpods. 
    No controls is a deal breaker for me. I can't imagine how silly it must feel to say "Siri, Volume down", followed by "Siri, next track" in the subway or in the supermarket. I have absolutely no idea why Apple is so persistent on voice control. I will probably buy the X when (if) they come out and have decent sound quality.
    News Flash: You can adjust the volume multiple ways by using your hands on the iPhone!
    williamlondonwatto_cobrabadmonkStrangeDaysdamn_its_hot
  • Reply 20 of 64
    AirPods just works flawlessly no complaints yet works like a charm no drop calls or music no problem with skipping song or volume up and down coz I got Apple Watch for that 👌🏼 the best wireless experience in my opinion 
    watto_cobra
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