First look: Apple's Powerbeats 3 Bluetooth headphones with W1 chip and 12-hour battery life

Posted:
in General Discussion edited November 2016
After being announced at Apple's iPhone 7 event in September, the company's lightweight Powerbeats3 on-ear headphones, featuring the proprietary W1 chip for superior wireless connectivity, are now beginning to trickle out into the hands of consumers. AppleInsider offers a first look.




The $199.95 Powerbeats3 Wireless earbuds can now be found on some Apple store shelves, albeit in extremely limited quantity and selling out rather quickly, based on AppleInsider's checks. The Bluetooth headphones come in a total of five colors: white, yellow, blue, black, and red.

The basic form and function of the new Powerbeats is similar to its predecessor, though the coloring has been tweaked to remove an inside strip that appeared on the earpiece of the Powerbeats2 model.




Inside, however, the Powerbeats3 has seen big changes --?most notably the addition of the W1 chip, which helps Apple improve the battery life of the new sports headphones to a rated uptime of 12 hours.

Apple has also included a feature dubbed "Fast Fuel," which gives 1 hour of playback time with just 5 minutes of charging plugged in. Charging is done through micro USB, not Lightning.




The W1 chip also makes pairing the Powerbeats3 to an iPhone dead simple. For us, initial setup was as basic as pressing the power button for one second, and then a pairing prompt immediately appeared on our iPhone SE.

Another advantage of the W1 chip and its pairing process is it will automatically connect --?and switch to --?other compatible Apple devices logged into the same iCloud account. That means you can seamlessly switch from using the Powerbeats3 with your iPhone to your Apple Watch for a phone-free workout on the go, without the need to un-pair and re-pair Bluetooth.




Apple also says the Powerbeats3 feature an "improved ergonomic design," which allows for improved sound with dual-driver acoustics. The headphones also ship with multiple eartips that users can swap out for their preferred fit and comfort. Integrated controls let users trigger Siri, take phone calls, and control music.

Designed for athletes, the Powerbeats3 are also sweat and water resistant. And the around-the-ear clips ensure they won't fall off during a strenuous workout.




Apple began taking orders for the Powerbeats3 Wireless earbuds a few weeks ago, just before the end of October. But inventory has only trickled out since, with retail availability limited, and authorized Apple resellers like B&H still only showing the headphones as available to preorder.

The Powerbeats3 are just the second headphones on the market featuring Apple's proprietary W1 chip, following the release of the Beats Solo3 Wireless back in September. Informal testing found that the W1 chip allowed for use at distances of up to 400 feet, notably farther than the distance for which typical Class 1 Bluetooth devices are rated.




Despite improved availability of the Powerbeats3, the most-awaited W1 headphones -- Apple's completely wireless AirPods --?have yet to ship to consumers, after missing their October launch. AppleInsider's own sources revealed earlier this month that the AirPods remain on track to ship this year.

Rounding out Apple's lineup of W1 headphones are the Beats X neck-draped earbuds. Like AirPods, they have yet to ship, with Apple's website simply saying the Beats X are "coming this fall."

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    How odd that these use micro-USB, why would they not feature lightning ?(or USB-C for that matter) It is good however to see more of these high quality wireless products hitting the market. I'm personally a fan of over ear headphones with noise cancelation so I guess I will have to wait a little until the Beats Studio also features the W1 chip.
    edited November 2016 schlackrepressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 24
    Seems very strange not to have Lightning. Not very 'committed' but clearly they don't want to put off Android users and have made a marketing choice.
    watto_cobrawilliamlondon
  • Reply 3 of 24
    But how do they sound?
    repressthiswlym
  • Reply 4 of 24
    You call this a review? How do they sound?
    lmagoorepressthisfreerange
  • Reply 5 of 24
    We bought two pairs of the new Powerbeats3 's. We have a couple pairs of the 2's and absolutely love them! The new 3's, however sound like garbage! So disappointed! We took them back and swapped them for another pair of 2's. The 3's sound like a $30 pair of wireless earbuds. You know that tin can sound? That's the best way to describe the Powerbeats3. So disappointing. 
    repressthismultimedia[Deleted User]
  • Reply 6 of 24
    I own a pair of Bragi Dash's. I've come to really enjoy them and you'd have to pry them from my dead hands, but I'm an early adopter and I don't mind tweaking things a little for a glimpse of the true future. Even though I feel like the Dash's are a real glimpse into the future and I have to wonder if the things people complain about the them( range and reception issues) won't apply to beats or airpods?

    Things that are hard to mitigate with any BT earbud. In the case of beats they are actually still wired together so you're probably going to have some fewer problems. That said, put the phone to deep in your pocket or your backpack and you may have some reception issues. Move your head a certain way. You'll drop the signal.

    Again I would assume the wiring between the buds as with the beats would make a difference, but I'm asking because as much as I like my dash earbuds; wireless is NOT perfect for everyone. Unless Apple changed the rules of physics truly wireless buds aren't easy to do and I feel like allot of people aren't going to like wireless even if you make paring easier. Turn your head the wrong way. You'll lose
    music for a second. St them to charge and go bakc
    an hour later only to discover they weren't seated exactly right and now dead.  Etc. Apple is pushing this tech, but how happy is the end consumer? Will they end up returning their wireless buds en mass. 

    In the dash's case it's complicated by the fact that it has to connect both as a pair of earbuds and a fitness tracker. I get Apple made pairing simpler  with "secret sauce" (ugh I hate that apology. There's nothing secret about thousand island) which is great and all, but let's talk about some of the features you're losing on airpods. 

    Microphone you can reposition closer to your mouth if needed?. Not happening with wireless earbuds. Touch controls? Not on the airpods.  The beats in this article have buttons but they are still wired as far as I'm concerned. Bragi has some amazing touch controls built right into the buds. Bring up Siri, make calls, start and stop your workout, next/ previous track, volume etc. 

    charges seem to be sufficient but then you'll HAVE to cary a charger around as well. They charge quickly but they also only last about 4 hours. 

    I don't mind all of the trade offs. That said. I do notice the trade offs pretty often. I even keep a spare pair of wired buds around in case my wireless buds don't charge properly or some other issue. 

    i just feel like Apple is pushing tech that's convenient to them and not exactly the end user. Gain fewer wires, lose functionality, while picking up a bunch of new problems. Also. The lack of touch controls, Siri activation etc directly from the airpods  make me think Apple wasn't all that innovative with their product. And then the one line they could have charged full price for truly "wireless" buds are still wired? And you have to mash buttons that sit behind your head? Seems a little light on carrying the tech all the way through. Obviously it's the future, but if you're going to introduce the user base to the future I think it ought to be a complete picture. 
    edited November 2016
  • Reply 7 of 24
    I have the white ones, the sound is super bassy which is ok for working out with electronic music but not good for vocals or rock music. It just has way too much bass in it. The beats x I think will be the right headphones for more natural non electronic music. 
  • Reply 8 of 24
    sflagel said:
    You call this a review? How do they sound?
    Who called it a review?
    repressthisjSnively
  • Reply 9 of 24
    What about lag? I have yet to see any reports about new Bluetooth headphones with the W1 chip and if there are any improvements in lag. I would like to use wireless headphones to use with my guitar software, but it will be impossible if there is any delay between plucking a string and hearing the note.
    repressthis
  • Reply 10 of 24
    A photo of someone actually wearing them would be helpful. I can't quite imagine how they look, and where the wires go etc.
    nolamacguyrepressthis
  • Reply 11 of 24
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,159member
    sflagel said:
    You call this a review? How do they sound?
    No, they call it a First Look. I'm curious as to the sound as well. But I'll wait for an actual review.

    The feature set doesn't appeal to me, at $200. I don't expect superior sound from 'phones that are designed as workout 'phones, but I'm open to surprises.

    I have a pair of LG Tone earphones (700?) that have about a 100' range before I lose contact with my phone. There's no spec listed for the BT class, but that range was impressive. As such, I've never lost contact with my phone in anywhere within arm's reach, or by turning my head, etc.

    Cheap BT 'phones can be a problem though, no matter how high the price tag. I'm still looking forward to trying the AirPods. So far, these hold the most promise for me. I'd also like to see a circumaural set of 'phones with the W1 chip, with superior audio qualities, preferably some other wireless protocol than BT, but I could be swayed to give up some sonic accuracy for seamless connectivity between many devices.



    edited November 2016 nhughes
  • Reply 12 of 24
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,689member
    I'd love a video of the setup.
    repressthis
  • Reply 13 of 24
    this is an advert not a review :-(

    i tried these as id previously had (and lost) a pair of the mk 2.  i returned them very quickly.

    For me, even though i tried all the ear inserts they always sounded very thin unless i kept my finger pressing the earpiece in to my ear.  the mk2 to me sounded better.  they were comfortable though.

    although they paired very easily i found that they did not auto connect / switch easily between my iPhone and iPad.  i had to manually use the bt settings to force them to switch.  i have some bose and i find the bose work a lot better if you have multiple devices.

    the carry case is not as nice as the old carry case either...
    repressthis
  • Reply 14 of 24
    sgordon said:
    this is an advert not a review :-(

    Nowhere in the article does it say this is a review. It's a first look. I received the unit, took pictures of it, and provided basic details of how it works. We'll be testing it over the coming days and weeks, and then we'll provide a proper review.
    edited November 2016 watto_cobraalbegarc
  • Reply 15 of 24

    Soli said:
    I'd love a video of the setup.
     anderkh said:
    But how do they sound?
    A photo of someone actually wearing them would be helpful. I can't quite imagine how they look, and where the wires go etc.
    The setup is really as dead simple as you can imagine. Turn them on and your iPhone recognizes. Click the connect button and you're done. I'll try to get a clip of it in our review — thanks for the suggestion.

    We will obviously have comments on sound quality and fit (including pictures of it on the ear) in our review. Initial impressions of sound and comfort, particularly at a $200 price, are mixed. The question is, does the convenience and power of the W1 chip outweigh some of the drawbacks (price, size, comfort, sound)? This was a news-driven "first look" of a product that literally just hit the shelves at some Apple stores (hence why it says "first look" in the headline). Fair reviews with opinion and proper testing take time, and given my other responsibilities here at AI, I cannot devote a few straight days solely to trying out a pair of headphones. Stay tuned.

    For what it's worth, my go-to workout headphones for years have been the Plantronics Backbeat Fit, which I have been very happy with. Those will be my primary point of comparison.
    Solimacguialbegarc
  • Reply 16 of 24

    charles1 said:
    What about lag? I have yet to see any reports about new Bluetooth headphones with the W1 chip and if there are any improvements in lag. I would like to use wireless headphones to use with my guitar software, but it will be impossible if there is any delay between plucking a string and hearing the note.
    I would not recommend using these with guitar software. I have read anecdotal comments about lag being reduced but still being noticeable. The Bluetooth spec is not suited for instant feedback when playing a live instrument such as a guitar. 
  • Reply 17 of 24
    Can't feel they missed a trick by not letting it charge from a lightning port, like the Pencil does. 5 mins plugged into bottom of iphone = 1hr listening. No need to bring/find the charging cable, ever.
  • Reply 18 of 24
    adm1 said:
    Can't feel they missed a trick by not letting it charge from a lightning port, like the Pencil does. 5 mins plugged into bottom of iphone = 1hr listening. No need to bring/find the charging cable, ever.
    I have spoken to accessory makers who say Apple does not allow iPhone-connected devices to be powered by the Lightning port because battery use is already at a premium. This could explain why the AirPods do not charge via an iPhone, unlike the Apple Pencil with an iPad Pro (considering the iPad has more battery to spare). I think we would need to see a major, significant increase in iPhone battery life for Apple to allow the handset itself to recharge headphones.

    As for why the Powerbeats3 and Beats Solo3 don't recharge via a Lightning to USB cable (while other products like the Beats Pill do), only Apple can answer that one. My guess, however, is that they sell a considerable amount of Beats headphones to non-iOS device users, and their internal research suggests a switch to Lightning would deter sales to that market.
  • Reply 19 of 24
    I just got a pair on Thursday.
    I like the sound because they are focused on treble, with not much bass, so I can listen to podcasts clearly, and they won't hurt my ears (I am older, they have some wear).
    They paired with my iPhone and then ALL and I mean ALL my macs (even non-BT4.x, or BT2.x, with macOS Sierra) have the pairing info and are ready.
    You have to manually activate them if you want to switch from device to device, which I thought (hoped) would do auto-switch based on new audio coming thru, but eh.
    The manual "connect" is quick and works.  The battery lasted from 12PM - 1AM with heavy usage leaving 37% at the end of the night.
    One great thing that I tried was, I wore them powered on all day, I got in my car, Handsfree BT 2.1, with a BT4.0 Music plugged into the iPod USB, it's a 2010 Terrain, I hit the play button on the PB3s and the music starts playing I turn on the BT4.0 Music Adapter, and the music switches over nicely.  If I get a phone call they all worked perfectly on the car, TWICE, music kicks back in to the BT4.0 Music Adapter.  I get out of the car audio goes off, hit the play button on the PB3 music picks right up.  Didn't turn them off one time, they were just on and every thing worked!

    I wore them all day and I had to massage both ears twice, about every 4 hours.  I wore the default plugs and I could listen to other sounds in the house, TV, other people etc.  Had to turn the car audio up 2 notches to be normal, so now 14 is my max instead of 12, (ear pain).

    These are worth it for me, I will have to try some bass tho...but they're beats tho so?
    albegarc
  • Reply 20 of 24
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,399member
    nhughes said:
    adm1 said:
    Can't feel they missed a trick by not letting it charge from a lightning port, like the Pencil does. 5 mins plugged into bottom of iphone = 1hr listening. No need to bring/find the charging cable, ever.
    I have spoken to accessory makers who say Apple does not allow iPhone-connected devices to be powered by the Lightning port because battery use is already at a premium. This could explain why the AirPods do not charge via an iPhone, unlike the Apple Pencil with an iPad Pro (considering the iPad has more battery to spare). I think we would need to see a major, significant increase in iPhone battery life for Apple to allow the handset itself to recharge headphones.

    As for why the Powerbeats3 and Beats Solo3 don't recharge via a Lightning to USB cable (while other products like the Beats Pill do), only Apple can answer that one. My guess, however, is that they sell a considerable amount of Beats headphones to non-iOS device users, and their internal research suggests a switch to Lightning would deter sales to that market.
    The Beats X will also charge by Lightning. Though, like the AirPods, there is no definite ship date either.

    odd that the two out of 4 W1 chipped headphones initially available, the two most expensive ones shipping first, use micro-USB for charging.
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