mmef2When it was announced that the iPhone 7 wasn't going to have a headphone jack, I honestly didn't think it was that big of a deal. Incorrect. It has turned out to be a significant pain in the butt using some of my "old" accessories. The sleep headphones I use nightly now require a dongle to be plugged in, and I use a second $40 dongle to charge while listening. It's an absurd setup, for sure, but the cool part of this new wholly wireless future Apple is trying to get us on is there have been some really neat (and really expensive) headphones released. I've got a pair of Beats Solo 3's which look and sound just like my old Beats, but have a battery in them that last so long I find myself charging them every week or two more because I feel like I should rather than because I need to. The magic of the Solo 3's is Apple's new W1 chip, which also is the star of the show in the Apple AirPods which just arrived via FedEx at my house about an hour ago.

It seems like the meme masters of the internet have been making fun of the AirPods since they were first announced in September along side the iPhone 7. The laundry list of things that were worth mocking included how silly they look, how you'll lose them, how expensive the are, and other typical complaints new Apple things typically find themselves the target of. Sure, I'll concede they look silly, but so do most Bluetooth headphones and earbuds. The $160 price point definitely puts them in the upper echelon of wireless earbud pricing, but I'd argue having the W1 chip makes that price premium worthwhile, provided you use multiple Apple devices and switch between them.

Prior to getting my W1-enabled Beats, I really didn't like using Bluetooth headphones that much. I regularly use an iPhone, iPad, and MacBook. Switching which device my headphones are paired to was an arcane process of trying to remember which button to hold down to get them in pairing mode, navigating to settings and hoping they pop up to pair, etc. It was one of those things that were just enough hassle that I'd typically just use any wireless headphones I had with my iPhone, then just plug in to use my MacBook or iPad with other headphones. The whole iCloud-enabled W1 pairing process is so fast and simple it's just like selecting a AirPlay output source. It takes less than a couple seconds, and always works.

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If you don't use a lot of Apple stuff, the W1 loses a lot of its luster as the primary benefits then are wireless range and battery life. AirPods have incredibly impressive range, as I'm able to walk anywhere inside of my modestly sized single-story ranch house without losing connectivity to my iPhone. (It is unbelievably cold and snowy outside right now, but I'll do some real range testing outside this week.) Comparatively, I've got a pair of Jaybird bluetooth earbuds that I used to use for work out that had a wireless range that was so bad that I needed to have my phone on an armband facing my head to not experience signal drop outs.

Apple is advertising five hours of battery life on the AirPods, and given my experience with the Beats Solo 3's, I don't have any reason to doubt those figures. Given how small the AirPods are, five hours feels like magic. The case they come in, which looks like a rounded container of dental floss and is about the same size, also has a battery which charges up the AirPods when you're on the go- allowing for 24 hours of listening (again, according to Apple).

As far as the concern that AirPods are going to get lost, after fiddling with them this morning, I'm really not sure how realistic that is. First off, I've been walking around my house shaking my head, bouncing up my stairs, and using the gym equipment I've got in my basement that I use to work out every day - vastly exaggerating all head movements - and can't get them to come loose. Even if you bump them a bit, the way they're shaped seems to cause them to just slide back down into position in your ear. If you do manage to dislodge them, playback immediately stops. I'm not saying it's an impossible scenario, but I feel like you've got to be a supremely unobservant person to not realize that both your music stopped and the thing you have in your ear is no longer there.

Really, the only likely way I see of losing one of the AirPods is by not putting them back in the case when you're done, but considering that's how you charge them, putting them back in the case should become habit for anyone who owns them. I'm sure people will come up with crazy scenarios that resulted in AirPods getting lost, but them just randomly falling out of your ear without you noticing simply isn't something that's going to realistically happen.

mmef2_av4Sound quality and comfort seem to be on par with the old wired EarPods, which I personally always found to be incredibly comfortable for ear buds. Ear sizing is going to be different for everyone, but if you like the freebies that come with your iPhone, you're going to like these. I doubt the sound quality of the AirPods are going to sway any hardcore audiophiles over to the world of wireless listening, but much like the wired EarPods, the sound quality and volume are both fantastic for my day to day use of listening to Spotify, a few podcasts, and maybe taking a couple phone calls.

I find myself needing to get pretty pedantic to find things I don't like about the AirPods in my initial impressions. For instance, it'd be really cool if the AirPod case had some kind of mechanism similar to extractors in an over under shotgun that slightly lifts them up out of the case when the lid is opened. It'd also be nice if they had any kind of external battery life indicator on either the AirPods themselves or the case. (My Beats Solo 3's, for instance, have a series of LED's that show charge level. Your iPhone tells you how much battery is left, but it'd be nice to be able to see when you grab your AirPods case.) Other than that though, I'd really need to be reaching for things to complain about.

Basically, I liked the wired EarPods a lot, and these are wireless versions of those. If Apple's battery claims turn out to be true, they've got a winner on their hands here. An expensive winner, but being on the bleeding edge of Apple hardware is never for the budget-minded. I'll post another followup on Friday to see if any of these first impressions changed, so stay tuned.

  • bossjaja

    Really glad to see all of the positive reviews so far, these things look awesome.

    I'm out right now trying Apple stores to see if I can grab some before my 1/12/17 ship date. Good luck to all you guys doing the same ๐Ÿ˜

  • Mrbestapps

    Airpods 2 better have a gps tracker build into to each headphone ๐Ÿ˜‚

    But yeah they're nice

  • Wizard_Mike

    I would love a pair, but the price is a bit too rich for my blood.

  • Dankrio

    I've ordered them. Will keep it at home, though.

  • dancj

    I got a pair of cheap Anke Bluetooth earphones when the cable on my EarPods started getting flakey, and TBH, between the lower sound quality and the regular cutting out, I've gone back to using my flakey EarPods most of the time.

    These AirPods sound absolutely perfect for me, but I can't justify ยฃ160 for any earphones when the most I've ever paid before is ยฃ18.

    • dancj

      Oops - Anker, not Ankle

  • bilboad

    It sounds from this and other reviews like the AirPods work very well as they're designed to work: good range and sound quality, if EarPods don't fall out of your ears then neither will these, pairing with multiple devices works well.

    The real question then becomes whether you like the way they're designed to work. For me the lack of physical controls is a killer flaw. I'd say if you currently use EarPods, and you only ever use the headphone controls to activate Siri or pause, then you'll be fine with the controls on the AirPods. If on the other hand you're like me and regularly use the headphone controls for adjusting volume, skipping to the next or previous track, and rewinding the music, then the AirPods are a big downgrade in functionality. And no, I don't consider using Siri for audio controls to be an acceptable substitute.

    • http://adamsimmersive.com Adams Immersive

      Agreed, controls are the killer for my usage too. I want the benefits of W3, and I like "tiny," but I think I'd have to go with those big W3 Beats instead.

    • dancj

      I didn't realise they lacked those controls. That's nasty.

    • litedesign

      Agree here too. I use the Earpod remote buttons to adjust volume, as well as fast-forward through Podcast commercials. I'm so excited for a great-sounding pair of wireless earbuds with solid connection, but no easy access to audio controls is a deal-breaker for me.

      • http://www.twitter.com/BB8orR2D2 David

        That's where Siri comes into play. It's a wireless headset, just say what you want to happen.

        Volume Up.
        Next Track.
        Play Adele.

  • http://adamsimmersive.com Adams Immersive

    My highly-reviewed Jabra Bluetooth 'phones have proven pretty terrible. And they were expensive. Next time, I'm going with Apple or Beats. I have had enough.

  • jabbasoft

    I really didn't get on with the EarPods as for me at least they sounded cheap plus didn't fit well. Hence purchasing ยฃ20-60 in-ear headphones that include adjustable/3-size in-ear pieces. Feel zero desire to buy a fixed size earpiece at premium price. But everyone has their own preference, thanks for the review.

  • rezn

    I ordered the moment I saw news on them. Checked stores, nada. And I'm falling into Jan 12th for delivery. No surprise there. I am tired of using my Jawbone till it dies while charging the phone and rinse repeat with the regular headphones. So I'm thinking this will just be a huge relief in general. And I'm have no worry of loosing these things personally.

  • jpgold

    I was walking past an apple in NYC and they just happened to get 10 in so grabbed one. Haven't used all that much but, my initial reaction is "very impressed"

    Of the bat, call quality was fantastic. I have the Bose wireless earbuds and always get complaints that it's hard to hear me. Walking through a noisy Grand Central station I had zero issues with my first call.

    I also talk to text a lot and again, no issues there and picked up my voice perfectly.

    Surprisingly comfortable, forget that they are in, and took longer to open the box then it did to pair them.

    Here's to hoping I don't lose one.....

  • HelperMonkey

    This is my dad's Christmas gift. (Arriving whenever...)
    I'm fantasizing about being able to use them as makeshift hearing aids. I'll just call him to talk (even in the same room.) He loves his gadgets, but hearing aids? Hell no. We all just have to yell.

  • http://wizodd.tumblr.com Wizard of Odyssey

    You know how some people say the wired EarPods don't fit their ears, and they hate them? Not me. I love them, and don't like anything else, ESPECIALLY the squishy rubber kind that block out all outside noise. I am excited to be able to buy AirPods when I can get them from a normal store for the asking price, like a good little consumer. This waiting in line for limited supplies is the worst!

  • IainsTheName

    Great review, nice to see someone refreshingly positive for a change ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฝ.

  • Timmy2x

    I really hate the look of them, they look they are broken or half a headphone plus it would take almost nothing for them to get lost. $99 would have been the sweet spot pricewise and what exactly is keeping these in my ears?

  • JT_CHITOWN

    Eli, I might have missed it in your article, but supposedly you can ask Siri what is charge remaining on your AirPods. Try it and see. I just saw you mentioned one of your criticisms was that you wish there was an external battery indicator.

  • Rain1dog

    I forgot which website did a break down on price for the 200.00 beats headset...

    It cost beats around 18.00 for all the pieces to build the headsets... 18.00.... they added a few pieces of metal for the only purpose of adding weight and to balance all the cheap plastic to give them a premium feel...

    Refuse to pay that... one hell of a mark up.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      Eh, the thing that's always pretty silly about these component cost breakdowns is there's a lot more that goes into a piece of electronics than the raw cost of plastic, copper, and other things. People love being smug every year about Apple's insane markup on the iPhone when the component cost is typically less than $100, totally disregarding the army of people who spend years working on implementing all the things that go into an iPhone. It's not like if you took $18 and went to Radio Shack you could build your own pair of Beats, so the whole thing is sort of irrelevant.

      • Rain1dog

        Yeah... it's called loaded. Even at 20.00 then add another 60.00 for all other expenses which brings the total to 80.00. 120.00 per sale for profit...

        Anyone can whatvthey want with their money of course.... I just don't think it's right to charge that kind of money.

      • bhayes444

        I doubt $60 covers the cost of manufacturing, R&D, transportation, staff wages, shelf space in the store, and warranty support options for a product like this.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        It's not even worth arguing, this kind of pricing insanity isn't based in any plane of reality I know of.

    • freediverx

      The value of a product cannot be calculated by adding up the cost of raw materials used to make it.

  • Timmy2x

    Currently cost more than double via eBay and Craigslist, ''tis the season

  • scottsoapbox

    I still want a Bose noise canceling version of these. The Bose earbuds are comfortable, sound great, and actively cancel noise. Add BT & W1 (or W2 at this point) and I'll gladly shell out $400 for them.

  • http://www.twitter.com/BB8orR2D2 David

    Mine arrived yesterday and they're just as you described. Extremely easy to pair and I have no fears of them falling out. The only downside is that they are somewhat difficult to remove from the case, so your shotgun suggestion is spot-on. Everything else is perfect!