Long term review: Apple's AirPods are still the best wireless headphones around

Posted:
in iPhone edited July 10
Over a year and a half later, Apple's AirPods are still considered by many to be the best wireless earphones ever made. AppleInsider takes a second look at the popular earbuds and discusses a few tantalizing rumors about what Apple has in store for its AirPods product line.





Sonically, AirPods are definitely not the highest performing earphones available, nor are they the most affordable at $160. But for us, and many other avid fans, AirPods are more than worth the price of entry.




First on our list of likes is the included charging case. Simply pop your AirPods into the plastic dental floss container-shaped puck to juice them up on the go or at home. The internal battery seems to last forever, providing more than 24 hours of listening time per charge. We haven't had our case die out once since owning them, a fact largely owing to smart design.

Whenever you pull out your AirPods, an LED indicator in the accompanying case glows green, indicating a full charge, or orange when the battery is running low. You can check exact battery life on your iPhone by simply opening the case lid near the device. When it gets low, just plug it in to a nearby Lightning cable and it's good for another week or two.

The case itself exudes quality, with a smooth magnetic hinge system. AirPods are similarly magnetized and held in to their respective slots if the case should open accidentally. The size of the case is perfect. A lot of jeans have a small pocket that fits AirPods perfectly, so we literally carry them everywhere.




Next up, the W1 chip and proximity sensors.

The first time you open up a new set of AirPods, your iPhone instantly recognizes them. All you have to do to pair is tap "Connect," that's it, no dealing with Bluetooth pairing, settings and other cumbersome procedures.

Once set up, your AirPods are synced to iCloud and added to each Apple device that is associated with your Apple ID. That means AirPods are recognized by, and automatically connect to, your iMac, iPad, MacBook or any other Apple device. We sometimes find it takes a bit longer to connect to a Mac, but the system works fairly well overall.

Each AirPod has two infrared proximity sensors built into their chassis that detect when the earbud comes into contact with a user's ear. Inserting an AirPod automatically turns it on and pairs it to the nearest operating host device, while removing one pauses the tunes. Reinsert and the music resumes. One of our favorite features is the ability to use just one AirPod at a time. Put one earbud back in the case and the remaining AirPod will resume playback.




The W1 chip also extends Bluetooth range and helps manage battery life, which is why AirPods boast a fairly robust operating time at a claimed 5 hours of media playback.

We have yet to have AirPods die on us while listening to music. In fact, our AirPods reached their limit only once, and that was when we were on an extended phone call. Powering the onboard beamforming microphones and relaying audio information back and forth between our iPhone took its toll, but we found a single earbud can last over two hours on a charge.

When using two AirPods to talk, the W1 chip also plays an integral role in deciphering which earbud is receiving the highest quality audio, then filtering out background noise.

Another highlight are built-in accelerometers that are used to trigger Siri and manually engage music controls. These tap-based interactions are customizable within the settings app. Siri is useful for adjusting audio volume, since AirPods lack physical volume controls.




Now onto the third facet that adds value to the AirPods: design and comfort.

The AirPods are one of the most comfortable earphones we have ever used. They are so lightweight and comfortable that you can even forget that they're in your ears. Compared to Apple's EarPods, AirPods boast a better seal, perfectly conforming to each ear. While they are not designed for working out, AirPods stay in place under various conditions, even during jogging and exercise sessions.

In it for the long haul

There is one key factor some people miss when deciding not to buy AirPods, and that is they are designed and built for the long haul.

Buyers tend to choose cheaper alternatives, but end up replacing them over and over again due to issues, breakage or obsolescence. Over the years, this practice of constant replacement could end up costing users AirPods' $160 price of admission, along with a lot of trouble.




Based on the AirPods' incredible reviews, and our own from 2016, people who actually buy them are extremely satisfied. They sound amazing, the bluetooth connection and range is better than any wireless earphones we have used and build quality and design are top notch. Overall, this is one of the best products Apple has made in years.

Looking ahead

We already know Apple is working on a new wireless charging case for AirPods, to be used with its upcoming AirPower charging mat. Both are rumored to launch in September, likely alongside a slate of new iPhones.

Apple is also rumored to be developing second-generation AirPods with active noise-cancellation, water-resistance and other add-on features. Perhaps most interesting among the recent batch of rumors is the potential inclusion of health tracking hardware like a heart-rate monitor. Apple patents have hinted at such capabilities for years, but those inventions have yet to show up in a shipping product.
«13

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 57
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 3,064member
    Very good review!

    But, I'm surprised that he didn't mention how they complement the Apple Watch (especially Series 3 with LTE).  You can go for a run with your watch and enjoy 40million songs.   But, you need the AirPods to do it.  It's a great combination that enables runners to leave their phone at home but still enjoy music  and podcasts and be able to call for help if needed ...

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 57
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,747member
    I positively love my AirPods. I find the range to be much farther than I ever expected. Sound quality is better than good. Only reason I would upgrade would be for the active noise cancelling, as long as it was switchable. Then I wouldn't need another set of noise-cancelling headphones for use on airplanes.
    Anilu_777watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 57
    vadimyuryevvadimyuryev Posts: 151member, editor
    Very good review!

    But, I'm surprised that he didn't mention how they complement the Apple Watch (especially Series 3 with LTE).  You can go for a run with your watch and enjoy 40million songs.   But, you need the AirPods to do it.  It's a great combination that enables runners to leave their phone at home but still enjoy music  and podcasts and be able to call for help if needed ...

    d'OH! Completely forgot to mention that. *facepalm*

    Thanks though!
    GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 57
    That is bold statement to make that something is the best without providing valid comparisons. Not a very professional way to make the claim. I would say it depends on aspect and I would say that Apple made things very comfortable, but that does not mean it is absolute. I would be also careful as Apple is not in the field of headphones and there are other who specialize in that area while being top shelf above sound quality provided by Apple earphones. Seriously. It is not the best. Maybe the most versatile, but there is nothing as "the best" in this area. As far as sound all Apple earphones laeft a lot to be desired when it comes to comparing with Sennheisers for example.
    tommikeleargonautgutengel
  • Reply 5 of 57
    BxBornBxBorn Posts: 16member
    okay, so they are: - expensive but not really expensive when you consider having to replace cheaper ones multiple times - built in sensors are attractive because they're intuitive to how people live their lives while using them - the design brings a "cool" factor - battery life is great and they'll last for even the most hardcore users ....that's all great but what about sound quality? the review covers everything but the sound quality. I've not met a single person who owns this that have said "AirPods are one of the best headphones I've ever owned, the sound is sick" - most have said that it's relatively no better than the standard earbuds that Apple gives you when you buy an iPhone or that it's just okay. I don't understand why anyone would write a review of headphones/earpods that doesn't include anything around sound quality. The whole review could be summed up with "There's no better set of headphones on the market that can deliver mediocre sound while looking so stylish"
    tommikelemuthuk_vanalingamgutengelLab4Us
  • Reply 6 of 57
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,128member
    The AirPods are by far the best thing that Apple have done recently. 
    zroger73watto_cobrachristopher126
  • Reply 7 of 57
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,128member
    BxBorn said:
    okay, so they are: - expensive but not really expensive when you consider having to replace cheaper ones multiple times - built in sensors are attractive because they're intuitive to how people live their lives while using them - the design brings a "cool" factor - battery life is great and they'll last for even the most hardcore users ....that's all great but what about sound quality? the review covers everything but the sound quality. I've not met a single person who owns this that have said "AirPods are one of the best headphones I've ever owned, the sound is sick" - most have said that it's relatively no better than the standard earbuds that Apple gives you when you buy an iPhone or that it's just okay. I don't understand why anyone would write a review of headphones/earpods that doesn't include anything around sound quality. The whole review could be summed up with "There's no better set of headphones on the market that can deliver mediocre sound while looking so stylish"
    The sound is ok, I am sure they will work on it. For me the microphone is the best thing. With its noise cancelling and other techie dullalys. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 57
    Imagine if Apple built an entire phone into an AirPod. Just talk and listen to use it. Siri powered and can do almost anything an iPhone can but without a screen.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 57
    vadimyuryevvadimyuryev Posts: 151member, editor
    I just want Hey Siri support so I can use something else for the double-tap command. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 57
    mavemufcmavemufc Posts: 326member
    Brilliant review and I have to agree, I absolutely love my AirPods, one of the best pieces of tech I’ve ever owned, don’t see much people complaining about them either which is good to see.
    vadimyuryevGeorgeBMacwatto_cobrachristopher126
  • Reply 11 of 57
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 295member
    Pass. 
    I'm not interested for several reasons.
    First based on my experience with EarPods, I expect they will be hugely uncomfortable. 
    Second, based on EarPods I expect they won't stay in my ears.
    Now I can already hear people saying "you have to try them". No. I tried EarPods and they were uncomfortable. I tried EarPods with the wires cut off, and they still fell out. Maybe my ears aren't "typical" shape but EarPods were such a utter failure for me that I'm not going to drop a couple hundred on something the same size and shape that I'm absolutely convinced will not work. 
    The third reason is hygiene. Just a week or so ago I ran across an article on cleaning your AirPods. It showed close up pictures of all the nasty wax and crud that builds up inside them. No thanks. I'll keep using $10 wired earbuds that I can throw away every few months. They're good enough for when I'm working in the yard, working out, or whatever and when they get to be unsanitary, they're gone. When I want good audio quality I use my muff style noise cancelling earphones. 
  • Reply 12 of 57
    DAalseth said:
    Pass. 
    I'm not interested for several reasons.
    First based on my experience with EarPods, I expect they will be hugely uncomfortable. 
    Second, based on EarPods I expect they won't stay in my ears.
    Now I can already hear people saying "you have to try them". No. I tried EarPods and they were uncomfortable. I tried EarPods with the wires cut off, and they still fell out. Maybe my ears aren't "typical" shape but EarPods were such a utter failure for me that I'm not going to drop a couple hundred on something the same size and shape that I'm absolutely convinced will not work. 
    The third reason is hygiene. Just a week or so ago I ran across an article on cleaning your AirPods. It showed close up pictures of all the nasty wax and crud that builds up inside them. No thanks. I'll keep using $10 wired earbuds that I can throw away every few months. They're good enough for when I'm working in the yard, working out, or whatever and when they get to be unsanitary, they're gone. When I want good audio quality I use my muff style noise cancelling earphones. 
    Your loss 😉
    zroger73StrangeDaysGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 57
    I don't see how Apple AirPods are the best if there's no comparison data here against newer devices. For example the new Jabra Elite Active 65t. I recently did this research for my own, and found these new Jabra way better, so I bought them and I'm loving them. I also love all Apple things, but they not always offer best-in-class. I dislike the AirPods design.
  • Reply 14 of 57
    teonycteonyc Posts: 16member
    I really wanted to love them. But I can't. They don't stay in my ears (at all), which means I have to add on some rather clunky silicone covers. The sound is good, maybe even great for in-ear buds, but can't compare to almost any decent over-ear, especially in noisy environments. The W1 system doesn't work half the time forcing me to continually put them back in the case and flip open/close the lid. And perhaps the most annoying is that they don't loose charge at the same rate, meaning you can end up half way through a workout with only one working. Do I regret the purchase? No. But they're not nearly as lovable as I had hoped.
  • Reply 15 of 57
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,285member
    DAalseth said:
    Pass. 
    I'm not interested for several reasons.
    First based on my experience with EarPods, I expect they will be hugely uncomfortable. 
    Second, based on EarPods I expect they won't stay in my ears.
    Now I can already hear people saying "you have to try them". No. I tried EarPods and they were uncomfortable. I tried EarPods with the wires cut off, and they still fell out. Maybe my ears aren't "typical" shape but EarPods were such a utter failure for me that I'm not going to drop a couple hundred on something the same size and shape that I'm absolutely convinced will not work. 
    The third reason is hygiene. Just a week or so ago I ran across an article on cleaning your AirPods. It showed close up pictures of all the nasty wax and crud that builds up inside them. No thanks. I'll keep using $10 wired earbuds that I can throw away every few months. They're good enough for when I'm working in the yard, working out, or whatever and when they get to be unsanitary, they're gone. When I want good audio quality I use my muff style noise cancelling earphones. 
    The same ear crud that exists in the user's ear?  
    Clean your ears too while you're at it. :/ 
    pscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 57
    DAalseth said:
    Pass. 
    I'm not interested for several reasons.
    First based on my experience with EarPods, I expect they will be hugely uncomfortable. 
    Second, based on EarPods I expect they won't stay in my ears.
    Now I can already hear people saying "you have to try them". No. I tried EarPods and they were uncomfortable. I tried EarPods with the wires cut off, and they still fell out. Maybe my ears aren't "typical" shape but EarPods were such a utter failure for me that I'm not going to drop a couple hundred on something the same size and shape that I'm absolutely convinced will not work. 
    The third reason is hygiene. Just a week or so ago I ran across an article on cleaning your AirPods. It showed close up pictures of all the nasty wax and crud that builds up inside them. No thanks. I'll keep using $10 wired earbuds that I can throw away every few months. They're good enough for when I'm working in the yard, working out, or whatever and when they get to be unsanitary, they're gone. When I want good audio quality I use my muff style noise cancelling earphones. 
    @DAalseth  Totally respect your opinion and choice, but what exactly is your point in this discussion?
    🤔
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 57
    bigmac2bigmac2 Posts: 637member
    That is bold statement to make that something is the best without providing valid comparisons. Not a very professional way to make the claim. I would say it depends on aspect and I would say that Apple made things very comfortable, but that does not mean it is absolute. I would be also careful as Apple is not in the field of headphones and there are other who specialize in that area while being top shelf above sound quality provided by Apple earphones. Seriously. It is not the best. Maybe the most versatile, but there is nothing as "the best" in this area. As far as sound all Apple earphones laeft a lot to be desired when it comes to comparing with Sennheisers for example.
    I own a pairs of AirPods and love it, let me explain... 

    I do agree, the AirPods like most Apple product isn't the best at anything specific, they are pricey, average sound quality, average battery autonomies.  But they achieve what Apple doing best; integrate existing technologies and put it into hands of consumers. I found the AirPods being much more than regular headphone, almost alike a Google Glass for the ears, they clearly being design for all day wearing since they doesn't muffle any surrounding sounds and you can have a normal talking while wearing them.  Even more the new Live listen feature in IOS 12 gives you bionic earrings. 
    argonautwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 57
    Jörg WißemannJörg Wißemann Posts: 5unconfirmed, member
    Are you drunk? Sound quality is mediocre, so how can they be the best wireless headphones?
  • Reply 19 of 57
    DAalseth said:
    Pass. 
    I'm not interested for several reasons.
    First based on my experience with EarPods, I expect they will be hugely uncomfortable. 
    Second, based on EarPods I expect they won't stay in my ears.
    Now I can already hear people saying "you have to try them". No. I tried EarPods and they were uncomfortable. I tried EarPods with the wires cut off, and they still fell out. Maybe my ears aren't "typical" shape but EarPods were such a utter failure for me that I'm not going to drop a couple hundred on something the same size and shape that I'm absolutely convinced will not work. 
    The third reason is hygiene. Just a week or so ago I ran across an article on cleaning your AirPods. It showed close up pictures of all the nasty wax and crud that builds up inside them. No thanks. I'll keep using $10 wired earbuds that I can throw away every few months. They're good enough for when I'm working in the yard, working out, or whatever and when they get to be unsanitary, they're gone. When I want good audio quality I use my muff style noise cancelling earphones. 
    I have had my AirPod since day one. I’ll just say you are missing out buddy. Your loss, we don’t miss you lol. 
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 57
    I don't see how Apple AirPods are the best if there's no comparison data here against newer devices. For example the new Jabra Elite Active 65t. I recently did this research for my own, and found these new Jabra way better, so I bought them and I'm loving them. I also love all Apple things, but they not always offer best-in-class. I dislike the AirPods design.
    Five bucks says this guy is a VP at Jabra 🤣🤣
    imergingeniouslkruppwatto_cobragutengel
Sign In or Register to comment.