AirPods vs. Powerbeats3: Which Apple W1 headphones are better for working out and exercisi...

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2017
Apple now has four pairs of headphones on the market with its proprietary W1 wireless chip, allowing for simpler Bluetooth pairing and better connectivity. But only two of those headphones are really well suited for workouts: Apple's AirPods and the Powerbeats3. AppleInsider helps you decide which pair is right for you.


If you want one pair of headphones for both the gym and daily use, choose AirPods

For most users, Apple's AirPods are going to be the best choice.

For starters, they're cheaper. At $159, the AirPods are a full $40 less expensive than the Powerbeats3.

And with a more compact design and more advanced technology, the pricing on AirPods feels like a steal when stacked against the overpriced $200 Powerbeats3.




The portability and versatility of AirPods also make them better suited for daily use across a variety of tasks. The AirPods may not be the absolute best headphones you can buy for working out, but they are one of the best all-around pairs of headphones we've ever used.

If you want one pair of headphones you can take to work, use on the train, use at the gym, and easily carry in your pocket, AirPods are your best multi-purpose pair.




Finally, AirPods also have the advantage of being completely wireless. While Powerbeats3 are a comfortable fit, the cord connecting the headphones can stick to clothes or skin, causing earpieces to get yanked out of position. You won't have that problem with Apple's AirPods.

Of course, that doesn't mean AirPods are the right fit for everyone. While we think AirPods are the best option for most athletes, there are a few reasons why some may choose Powerbeats3 instead.

If you're an outdoor runner, a distance runner, or a serious gym rat, choose Powerbeats3

While still boasting the same W1 wireless technology, a larger form factor and wired connection between earpieces gives Apple's Powerbeats3 an impressive 12 hours of battery life.




Because their design focuses instead on portability, AirPods cannot compete on a single charge.

That's not to say the battery life on AirPods is poor.

You'll get up to 5 hours of battery life with AirPods -- which can be extended to more than 24 hours with the charging case accessory. And quick-charge capabilities give AirPods 3 hours of uptime on just a 15-minute charge.

But perhaps you use your headphones on the way to the gym, or you're the type of athlete who does two-a-days, or you're a marathon runner. Mix in regular daily headphone use, and the up-to-5-hours of battery life on AirPods may not be enough.




For many in those situations, recharging headphones is not an option. And with AirPods, many may not even want to bring the carrying case with them, especially on an outdoor run. For those users, Powerbeats3 is the winner.

Apple's Powerbeats3 also have an around-the-ear clip design that makes them more secure than AirPods. If you're engaging in rigorous activity, the confidence that Powerbeats3 will stay attached to your ear in virtually any situation may make them a better option for you.

To be clear, despite our own concerns about AirPods falling out, we have never had one of the earpieces unexpectedly drop out of our ears, even while working out. But it's still a distinct possibility with the ultralight, minimalist design of AirPods --? something that, conversely, is basically impossible to happen with the design of the Powerbeats3.




Finally, we should note that while Apple touts water and sweat resistance with the Powerbeats3, it makes no such claims about AirPods. However, independent torture tests have found AirPods to be virtually indestructible, even when submersed in water.

Still, taken at face value, Apple's marketing would suggest that Powerbeats3 are better designed to handle sweat, rain, and anything else you might throw at them.

While we think most users will be fine with AirPods for gym, work and play, dedicated gym goers, weight lifters and distance runners will probably prefer the Powerbeats3. If you take your workouts very seriously, you can probably justify a serious workout-focused headphone.

No matter which you choose, you can't go wrong

Here's the good news: Apple's current lineup is the best range of wireless headphones any company has ever produced. The proprietary W1 chip is a revelation.

Even if you want to work out with one of Apple's other W1-equipped headphones -- ?the Beats Solo 3 or BeatsX --? you'll gain numerous benefits over conventional Bluetooth headphones, including easier pairing, longer battery life and more reliable connectivity.




Still, for workouts, AirPods and Powerbeats3 are your best W1 options. The resting neck strap design of BeatsX is not likely secure enough for rigorous activity, while the over-ear style of the Beats Solo 3 is not exactly sweat friendly.

It's good to have options, and with four quality W1-powered wireless headphones on the market, consumers have a range of options that suit very different needs. When there are no bad choices, everybody wins.

Get active, go wireless, and don't look back.

Where to buy

With Apple reporting a six-week wait for AirPods, the wireless earphones can be pre-ordered from AppleInsider partners B&H and Adorama with free shipping and no sales tax on orders shipped outside NY and NJ*. Powerbeats3 Wireless In-Ear Headphones, on the other hand, are currently in stock at a variety of retailers with discounts of up to $50 off with free shipping. For a complete list of headphones, deals and availability, please visit our iPhone Accessories Price Guide.

AirPods
AirPods for $159.00 @Adorama * (No tax outside NY & NJ)
AirPods for $159.00 @B&H * (No tax outside NY & NJ)
* Adorama and B&H will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside NY and NJ.

Powerbeats3 Wireless
Powerbeats3 Wireless in Black for Price hidden @B&H * ($50 off + no tax outside NY & NJ)
Powerbeats3 Wireless in Black for Price hidden @Amazon ($50 off)
Powerbeats3 Wireless in Black for $199.95 @Adorama * (No tax outside NY & NJ)
Powerbeats3 Wireless in White for Price hidden @B&H * ($30 off + no tax outside NY & NJ)
Powerbeats3 Wireless in White for $199.95 @Adorama * (No tax outside NY & NJ)
Powerbeats3 Wireless in Flash Blue for Price hidden @B&H * ($40 off + no tax outside NY & NJ)
Powerbeats3 Wireless in Flash Blue for Price hidden @Amazon ($22 off)
Powerbeats3 Wireless in Flash Blue for $199.95 @Adorama * (No tax outside NY & NJ)
Powerbeats3 Wireless in Shock Yellow for Price hidden @B&H * ($40 off + no tax outside NY & NJ)
Powerbeats3 Wireless in Shock Yellow for $199.95 @Adorama * (No tax outside NY & NJ)
Powerbeats3 Wireless in Siren Red for $198.46 @B&H * (No tax outside NY & NJ)
Powerbeats3 Wireless in Siren Red for $199.95 @Adorama * (No tax outside NY & NJ)
* Adorama and B&H will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside NY and NJ.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    The PB3 are not all bass the way the narrative automatically goes with the Beats stuff. They are actually quite balanced and full of clarity, which is a difference from older Beats stuff. These don't color the sound nearly as much as old EarPods do, with their nasally signature. Also compared them to the Solo 3 cans, and it feel the Solo 3's color the sound more as well.
    caliwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 27
    Apple may tout the Powerbeats 3's sweat resistance, but the large number of one star reviews complaining of them dying when they get sweaty suggests they might not be all that great for workouts. What I haven't figured out from the reviews is whether they last well if they don't get sweaty or wet.
  • Reply 3 of 27
    Why are BeatsX not suited for workouts?
    edited February 2017
  • Reply 4 of 27
    I purchased a pair of Beats at Best Buy last year to wear while I was training for a triathlon. Exactly one month from the day I purchased them the volume control button quit working. I took them back to Best Buy, and I was told that I would have to take them to the local Apple Store. I thought that was strange, but I went along with it. I went to the Apple Store and, as expected, I was told that I would have to take them to Best Buy since I didn't purchase them at an Apple Store. After some back and forth, the Apple tech agreed to send them in for service after I paid the service fee. The headphones were gone for three weeks. When they returned, the volume control button lasted two runs before it quit working again.  The headphones now reside in a dresser drawer. I would highly advise someone looking for a quality pair of headphones suitable for use during workouts to stay far away from Beats. 
    GeorgeBMacwlymlarrya
  • Reply 5 of 27
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    Since we're doing unverifiable anecdotes, I thought I'd add one of my own:

    Had my PowerBeats3 since just before Christmas, and I average about 3 gym sessions a week, and an occasional run. The headphones have behaved themselves perfectly, once I figured out that I need to put my phone in Airplane mode to stop the headphones connecting to it (stored in a locker in the changing room on the lower floor – the range of these things is insane, and not always helpful.)

    I would advise folk to give them a try to see if they suit. 


    GeorgeBMacStrangeDayswatto_cobraanalogjacklolliver
  • Reply 6 of 27
    I have used more than a dozen different bluetooth headphones since 2008.  I have found I intensely dislike any with a flaccid connecting cord that rests on my sweaty neck or tangles in my shirt.  I have used the Motorola series (1x S9, 6x S10, 3x S11) and liked them, but they had reliability issues.  My most recent favorites have been the Plantronic BackBeat Fits. They have a semi rigid cable that does not rest on my neck.  Liked them well enough that I was content not to try the new Apple AirPods.  By a series of mistakes on my part, I tried ordering a pair for my wife, but ended up with two pairs.  Figured I'd try them before returning.  As it happens, I love them.  Some notes:

    • Having no connecting cable at all between the 'Pods is fantastic.  Period. 
    • They are actually LOUDER than my wired headsets or ANY other bluetooth headset I've tried (again, more than a dozen different models).  This is especially nice for me as I listen to audio books mostly while working out.  Some of the book are quieter than others and previously I would not use on loud treadmill stations.  Not an issue with AirPods.
    • Sound is better than expected. Every other bluetooth sport headphones I've recommended was with the caveat - sound is OK for biking or running.  Sound is actually quite good.  Better than Apple wired headphones, which I do NOT like.  
    • Battery life is a non-issue.  5hrs?  Not really, I use AirPods numerous times a day, when not used, they're in their case charging.  Battery feels infinite (not having used more than 5hrs in one session).  I may be able to get a week out of them without recharging case.  So far, 3 days and case was at 52% is longest period without charging.
    • Lack of controls is OK, not great.  Wish they had a swipe up/down for volume or triple tap to switch to next song.  Pulling one out pauses music (and resumes when re-inserted). This is great - very natural.  When someone starts to talk to me, I pull one out -music pauses.  They know they have my full attention.  Also note, watch and phone work for controls.
    • Siri - somewhat slow and awkward.  Took me two weeks to get the double tap down just right, now I get it 90% of the time first time.  Music is paused.  Siri responds, I request, Siri mostly gets it right, music continues second later.  Kind of kludgy.  On the other hand, pretty concise control.  "Siri, set volume 80%."  "Siri, repeat last 45 seconds."
    • Being able to use one ear only is nice at times - phone calls or video listening or song sharing with friend.
    • They fit my ears well.  Absolutely no problem staying in - running, lifting, elliptical, yoga.  Though I understand this is not the case for everyone.
    • Connectivity - dead simple, dead steady.  Simplified setup had been talked to death.  Ability to stay connected is better than anything I've used before. 

    So, to sum up.  I love my AirPods. I love no wire between them.  I did not expect to - as I do not care for Apples wired headset.  But there it is.  I have not tried either Beats new solutions - I have no interest in headphones with soft wire between them.

    Also note, my non-tech wife loves hers as well.  These are her first wireless headphones.  She especially loves that fact that she can go to gym with just her watch and headphones (having copied her playlist to her watch).

    Last note, some of my co-workers (read ass-hats), suggest AirPods make me look like the tauntaun from Empire Strikes back.  Having had a long affinity for the Hoth tauntaun, this does not bother me. 
    edited February 2017 StrangeDaysmike1montrosemacswatto_cobrasteveaulolliverwillcropointrandominternetperson
  • Reply 7 of 27
    wlymwlym Posts: 102member
    Did I miss something or does this comparison/review not even mention the fact that you cannot adjust the volume or skip tracks while using the AirPods without your phone or Apple Watch? This is a pain in the butt if you're busy running, biking, lifting weights, etc! If, like me, you run with only your AW and bluetooth headphones (leaving the iPhone at home was the reason I bought the AW2) then SIRI doesn't work, even for volume and track changes, for lack of an internet connection.

    This means that to change tracks or adjust the volume while running/working out I'd need to 1) unlock my AW (and wait 5 seconds while it does its little water expulsion thing), 2) change the screen from Workout to Music or Now Playing, 3) adjust the volume or skip a track, 4) jump back to the Workout app, 5) swipe right to the screen with the controls including Lock Screen, 6) hit Lock Screen. With the PowerBeats that annoying wire has the volume and track controls. By the way, I lock my AW while running in weather that requires sleeves or gloves as I found that when damp the material (especially Marino wool) can trigger false screen touches and end the workout!

    Seems like this should be mentioned in the article. 
  • Reply 8 of 27
    I have both
    I got the PowerBeats 3 first, but the position of the microphone and controls makes them useless for having a conversation through

    The AirPods are by far superior if you are making phone calls.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 27
    ciacia Posts: 155member
    I have not tried the Airpods. but I do own the Powerbeats3. I snowboard a lot, and in the month I've had them, they've never come out of my ears. On the mountain they do get wet often and so far come away working just fine. The cord can be a little annoying at times, but the ease of volume control negates that issue. The one thing is the button to stop/start playback is much smaller then the one of the corded stock apple headphones, so while I can adjust volume with gloves on, to start or stop playback I do need to remove a glove to push it bare handed. They do feel a little large in my ears compared to just earbuds, but that's a sacrifice you make for the over-ear loop that keeps them securely planted on my head. Sound quality is pretty good, but like most beats products it is a little bass heavy. Took me awhile to adjust the bendy loops to get them fitted perfectly, but once fitted the hold is tight. AirPods look nice, but for my particular lifestyle, battery life and the ease of use of the controls are more important then size. I don't like that you need to use siri to adjust volume on the AirPods.
    lolliver
  • Reply 10 of 27
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,929member
    I have PBs, PB3s and AirPods. I love the AirPods, but they tend to work loose and eventually fall out (mostly my left) when chewing or talking. AirPods are also a pain for making changes. I don't seriously consider using AirPods when jogging. The PB cable is a pain but it's far easier to make audio adjustments and skip tracks with PBs, making PBs my choice when jogging.
  • Reply 11 of 27
    I purchased a pair of Beats at Best Buy last year to wear while I was training for a triathlon. Exactly one month from the day I purchased them the volume control button quit working. I took them back to Best Buy, and I was told that I would have to take them to the local Apple Store. I thought that was strange, but I went along with it. I went to the Apple Store and, as expected, I was told that I would have to take them to Best Buy since I didn't purchase them at an Apple Store. After some back and forth, the Apple tech agreed to send them in for service after I paid the service fee. The headphones were gone for three weeks. When they returned, the volume control button lasted two runs before it quit working again.  The headphones now reside in a dresser drawer. I would highly advise someone looking for a quality pair of headphones suitable for use during workouts to stay far away from Beats. 
    Moral of the story: don't buy from BestBuy.  I avoid them like the plague after they refused to honor a warranty on a BluRay player.  I had bought it for Christmas but it was not functional when we opened it and tried to set it up.  So I got a replacement.  Less than 1 year later the replacement died again but even though it was still under warranty they refused to give me a replacement because I had already made one exchange (regardelss whether the initial return was DOA unit).
    Still Apple refusing to help is shitty. 
    larrya
  • Reply 12 of 27
    Got high hopes for the AirPods.  just ordered some but the delivery date is 6 weeks.  I'm surprised that these are still backordered.  Could these really still be in huge demand or is this just production issues.
    Currently use the JayBirds X2.  I like them for their robustness and great battery life.  The fit is not always great and the sound can be bad as a result.  But they have been the only bluetooth headset that has not died after a few months.
    Still, I like the idea of the airpods.  No interconnecting wires, a case that can recharge quickly and hopefully a better fit.   

  • Reply 13 of 27
    wlym said:
    Did I miss something or does this comparison/review not even mention the fact that you cannot adjust the volume or skip tracks while using the AirPods without your phone or Apple Watch? This is a pain in the butt if you're busy running, biking, lifting weights, etc! If, like me, you run with only your AW and bluetooth headphones (leaving the iPhone at home was the reason I bought the AW2) then SIRI doesn't work, even for volume and track changes, for lack of an internet connection.

    This means that to change tracks or adjust the volume while running/working out I'd need to 1) unlock my AW (and wait 5 seconds while it does its little water expulsion thing), 2) change the screen from Workout to Music or Now Playing, 3) adjust the volume or skip a track, 4) jump back to the Workout app, 5) swipe right to the screen with the controls including Lock Screen, 6) hit Lock Screen. With the PowerBeats that annoying wire has the volume and track controls. By the way, I lock my AW while running in weather that requires sleeves or gloves as I found that when damp the material (especially Marino wool) can trigger false screen touches and end the workout!

    Seems like this should be mentioned in the article. 
    Valid point, thanks for adding. Lack of inline volume controls will certainly be a dealbreaker for some.

    Truth be told, I really don't adjust the volume or skip tracks while running, biking or lifting weighs. I put in my headphones, select a playlist or album, adjust the volume to my liking, and then I'm off. That's why it didn't even really occur to me while writing this. And the same goes for a call quality comparison — I don't want to answer a phone call while I'm at the gym, and actually prefer to run with just my Apple Watch, without my phone on me. I don't put my watch in waterproof mode, and I have my watch set to show last app on screen wake within 1 hour of last use.

    Since I frequently exercise without my phone (which means no Siri support), one key change I would recommend for AirPods + Apple Watch users is to dive into the Bluetooth menu on your iPhone and change the double-tap function to play/pause, instead of invoking Siri. That would be infinitely more useful for minimalist exercisers.

    That said, I am hopeful that there is a firmware update for AirPods that allows some form of physical volume control with the touch-sensitive earpieces. Perhaps one earpiece dedicated to Siri/play/pause, and another for volume?
    wlymwlymwatto_cobrarandominternetperson
  • Reply 14 of 27
    Rayz2016 said:
    Since we're doing unverifiable anecdotes, I thought I'd add one of my own:

    Had my PowerBeats3 since just before Christmas, and I average about 3 gym sessions a week, and an occasional run. The headphones have behaved themselves perfectly, once I figured out that I need to put my phone in Airplane mode to stop the headphones connecting to it (stored in a locker in the changing room on the lower floor – the range of these things is insane, and not always helpful.)

    I would advise folk to give them a try to see if they suit. 


    I'm sure I'm just being dense, but could you please clarify what you're talking about with needing to use Airplane mode? Are you saying that the headphones connect to the phone while they're both in the locker? Why do you ever want to prevent them from connecting -- don't you need the connection to stream the music? And do you need Airplane mode while working out -- wouldn't you not be able to check Facebook while working out (the horror!)? Thanks!
  • Reply 15 of 27
    idreyidrey Posts: 647member
    pjwilkin said:
    I have both
    I got the PowerBeats 3 first, but the position of the microphone and controls makes them useless for having a conversation through

    The AirPods are by far superior if you are making phone calls.
    I got both as well but I use the pb3 all day every day and rarely use the AirPods. I like them both, but I use the pb3 more because of the battery life. I haven't had any issues with connection, the range is actually insane. I find it interesting that you have issues with the Mic in the pb3. I take phone calls all the time and haven't had any problems. The only thing I have notice is that when I take a call, at the beginning of the call the sound quality drops and it takes a few seconds to get back to normal. Only happens with phone calls. Listening to music I have no issues at all. 
    lolliver
  • Reply 16 of 27
    idreyidrey Posts: 647member
    Rayz2016 said:
    Since we're doing unverifiable anecdotes, I thought I'd add one of my own:

    Had my PowerBeats3 since just before Christmas, and I average about 3 gym sessions a week, and an occasional run. The headphones have behaved themselves perfectly, once I figured out that I need to put my phone in Airplane mode to stop the headphones connecting to it (stored in a locker in the changing room on the lower floor – the range of these things is insane, and not always helpful.)

    I would advise folk to give them a try to see if they suit. 


    I'm sure I'm just being dense, but could you please clarify what you're talking about with needing to use Airplane mode? Are you saying that the headphones connect to the phone while they're both in the locker? Why do you ever want to prevent them from connecting -- don't you need the connection to stream the music? And do you need Airplane mode while working out -- wouldn't you not be able to check Facebook while working out (the horror!)? Thanks!
    He probably uses his Apple Watch to work out. So headphones disconnect from the watch and reconnect to the iPhone. I think
  • Reply 17 of 27
    I use a set of $20 urban ears: infinite battery life, great sound, comfortable soft rubber ear pieces in varying sized, water resistant, instant pairing to 99.99999% of devices and come with a tether to your phone so you don't loose them. By far the best choice for exercising, replacement cost is also low if a bar bell should happen to crush them.

     
  • Reply 18 of 27
    I use a set of $20 urban ears: infinite battery life, ... and come with a tether to your phone so you don't loose them.   
    By tether I assume you mean "cord"? The single thing I love most about my AirPods is NO MORE CORDS.

    Cords are a pain when working out and I could never, ever, just pull a pair of wired earphones out of my pocket and use them. No, first I had to spend a minute, minimum, untangling the silly things. Once, somehow, they got into a knot and it took five minutes to pry them apart again.

    With AirPods I pull it out, put it in, and start playing, and that let's me enjoy my music and books in situations where before I'd know I'd have to untangle the cords before I could use them, so I simply didn't bother.
    StrangeDays
  • Reply 19 of 27
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,804member
    doggone said:
    I purchased a pair of Beats at Best Buy last year to wear while I was training for a triathlon. Exactly one month from the day I purchased them the volume control button quit working. I took them back to Best Buy, and I was told that I would have to take them to the local Apple Store. I thought that was strange, but I went along with it. I went to the Apple Store and, as expected, I was told that I would have to take them to Best Buy since I didn't purchase them at an Apple Store. After some back and forth, the Apple tech agreed to send them in for service after I paid the service fee. The headphones were gone for three weeks. When they returned, the volume control button lasted two runs before it quit working again.  The headphones now reside in a dresser drawer. I would highly advise someone looking for a quality pair of headphones suitable for use during workouts to stay far away from Beats. 
    Moral of the story: don't buy from BestBuy.  I avoid them like the plague after they refused to honor a warranty on a BluRay player.  I had bought it for Christmas but it was not functional when we opened it and tried to set it up.  So I got a replacement.  Less than 1 year later the replacement died again but even though it was still under warranty they refused to give me a replacement because I had already made one exchange (regardelss whether the initial return was DOA unit).
    Still Apple refusing to help is shitty. 
    Why would you think it's the retailer's job to arrange for warranty repair or replacement of your almost year-old device?! Most stores have a return policy for about 30 days, but the warranty is the manufactuer's responsibility, not the retailer's. 
    StrangeDays
  • Reply 20 of 27
    I'm one week into my BeatsX experience. Love the fit and the sound quality but have two notes of concern. First the On/Off button is teeny-tiny, hard to manipulate, and you never know if it's On or Off (when you're wearing the the 'phones you cant see the microscopic indicator light). Designers should have put an easy-to-feel sliding button that clicks into On or Off positions. Second, connectivity. I may be doing something wrong but here's my beef. When I walk to my car listening to music or a book on the BeatsX 'phones, I get in the car, start the engine and the sound immediately flips from the 'phones to the car's Bluetooth system. I have to fish out my iPhone, hold the On/Off button down on the 'phones, wait for the BeatsX "connect" screen to appear on the iPhone, chose it, thus overriding the car Bluetooth, and then get back to listening. Same thing happens when I walk into the house - my Sharkk Boombox grabs the signal and I'm no longer hearing thru the BeatsX 'phones. Can't figure out why the car and Sharkk Boombox keep stealing the signal from the BeatsX.
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