mmef2_av5I got my Apple AirPods bluetooth earbuds first thing Monday morning, and after using them for a while I posted a first impressions piece and mentioned I'd follow up later in the week with a more thorough review as I continue to use them. Five days of use later, and I love 'em to the point that the AirPods case has found a new home in the front pocket of my pants with my keys and wallet, which is about the highest praise I could ever give a piece of portable electronics.

Originally announced along side the iPhone 7 back in September, the AirPods have been subject to incredibly harsh criticism from seemingly all corners of the internet prior to their release. "You're going to lose them" was crowed over and over, like Ralphie being told he was going to shoot his eye out. In reality, while I suppose it is possible to misplace the case holding your AirPods, just randomly losing one doesn't seem like a very likely scenario unless you just have really bad habits of not putting things back where they belong.

Unlike the plastic case that Apple's wired EarPods have come in (Which was curiously absent with the iPhone 7 pack-in EarPods!) that really only served as a slightly nicer way to store your headphones, the AirPods case is a vital part of the whole AirPods setup. Opening the case triggers the whole AirPods pairing process, and it's also how you charge them, so it seems like I just naturally end up sticking it back in my pocket when I was using them. Then, because you want your AirPods charged up for the next time you use them, you put them back in the case when you're done. It doesn't even really seem like it's something you think about, as it's just where they belong.

Aside from just randomly misplacing one, the other fear seemed to be them falling out of your ears. I've made it a point to wear my AirPods whenever I've done physical things this week, deliberately exaggerating movements, and just randomly shaking my head around until I've come close to making myself sick and I can't get these things to come out on their own. Gym routines, snow removal, running, head-banging to hair metal, you name it, and they stay put. Even deliberately flicking the antenna arms that hang down outside your ears doesn't really dislodge them. If you somehow do manage to knock one out, your music stops instantly, so it's hard to really imagine many scenarios where you've got them in your ears and you just randomly lose one unless you're just supremely unobservant.

The sound quality of AirPods is great, but they share the same caveat as Apple's wired EarPods: Because they just sort of nestle themselves in your ears, there isn't a whole lot of sound isolation that occurs. Depending on how you're going to be using your AirPods, this could be a good thing or a bad thing. When I'm out running, I like wearing headphones that don't block out all the noise around me so I can hear things like dogs barking, car horns honking, and other things I might need to be aware of. For that use, AirPods are fabulous. If you're listening to music or podcasts in an environment where you want the noise reduction that a big beefy pair of highly insulated headphones offer, AirPods might not be the best solution as your only defense against background noise is to crank the volume. That said, they perform admirably at high volumes without any distortion. If you're curious how the AirPods sound, they're indistinguishably similar to the wired EarPods you're likely already using.

One feature that Apple didn't advertise that much that I've found myself loving with the AirPods is you can totally just use one of them if you want and keep the other in the case. Maybe it's a holdover from listening to ancient single-earbud mono AM radios as a kid (which probably really dates me), but my preferred way of listening to podcasts has always been to just have one earbud in with the other dangling around somewhere. Additionally, a single AirPod can totally work just like a traditional Bluetooth headset to make phone calls. It's a cool feature I've been using quite a bit, which never was really possible on the other Bluetooth earbud sets I've used which all are connected to each other with a cord. Of course, if you want to have both AirPods in to place calls that works too. (Although stereo calling has always felt weird to me.)

I was able to get the advertised five hours of battery life out of my AirPods via a all-day listening marathon, which I've seen some criticism in that it isn't enough juice to get you through an entire work day. That's true, but they also have the same rapid-charging tricks of other wireless headphones that give you three hours of charge after spending fifteen minutes in the case. A super practical use case if you plan on listening all day is to just drop them back in the case when you take your break or go grab lunch or whatever else and you'll have enough charge to make it through the day. Apple claims the AirPods case holds enough juice for an extra 24 hours of listening, and I've been unsuccessful in using up the charge in the case this week. (That's roughly five hours of listening a day.)

mmef2_av4$160 seems a little on the expensive side, but pricing is always going to be a highly personal thing for these kinds of personal electronics. The way I look at things, I don't skimp on stuff that I use all the time. I don't mind buying a nice mattress because I spend a third of my life on it. I also buy expensive lens coatings for my glasses since I spend the other 2/3 of my life looking through them. Headphones also exist inside that universe of rationalizing paying more than you usually would because of how often you end up using them. I tend to look at this stuff as a "cost per use," instead of initial purchase price. It's hard to really compare the AirPods to anything else too, as nothing else really comes close to the size and functionality of these, particularly when you add the magical iCloud-enabled pairing that the W1 chip inside of them provides.

Switching AirPods in between Apple devices is just as simple as my W1-enabled Beats Solo 3's. The first time you open the case, your iOS device will ask if you want to pair with them, at which point they're just available as an audio output device that you can switch to on any modern iOS device or Mac. It's really slick how it all works, and makes the awkward song and dance you needed to do when you wanted to use a pair of Bluetooth headphones on multiple devices feel really antiquated comparatively. That being said, you can still use AirPods as a Bluetooth audio device on older Apple (and non-Apple) hardware. You just hold down the button on the back of the case to force them into pairing mode and you can connect to them with anything that can connect to Bluetooth audio devices. You'll need to do a similar re-pairing when you want to use them again on your iOS devices, but, that's really not that big of a dealt because the W1 pairing prompts are so simple. Aside from simple pairing, the W1 chip also enables some of the most impressive range I've ever experienced using wireless headphones, easily allowing me to wander around my entire house without losing connection to my iPhone that's plugged in and charging.

Really, the only thing that I think is going to be an actual issue for folks with AirPods is that without a wire, there's no place for the in-line volume and play/pause button to go. The only controls you have for the AirPods when they're in your ear is taking one of them out pauses your music, putting it in resumes, and double tapping the side of one invokes Siri. (You can also change it so this double tap works as a play/pause button.) If you want to change the volume of what you're listening to, there's three ways to do it in order of least to most obnoxious: You can just use the side volume buttons on your device, you can use the volume sliders on the screen of your device, or you can use Siri which is slow, stupid, and also requires internet connectivity. Turning your music down by double tapping an AirPod, waiting for Siri to be invoked, then saying "Turn the volume down" and waiting for it to respond is without a doubt the dumbest way I've ever heard of to turn your music down (or up).

Crazier yet, it seems like when you ask Siri to do this it only turns your music up (or down) one blip on the on-screen volume display, so more realistically you'd probably be asking Siri multiple times to change your volume. It's incredibly silly, particularly if you keep your iPhone in an arm band or similar while running and depend on headphone controls. (Edit: TouchArcade commenter FuZion pointed out that you can specifically ask Siri to "set the volume to 50%," or any other percentage, which is a real handy tip.) That being said, this hasn't been a problem at all in how I've used them this week, as when I've needed to talk to someone with my headphones in I just take an AirPod out so my iPhone pauses. It's just another really weird thing that makes you wonder if Apple realizes that "Just have Siri do it" isn't as great of a solution as they think it is. Also, if you're somewhere without internet access like on a subway or a plane, or, you know, a lot of places people use headphones, this functionality doesn't work at all.

While I haven't subjected my AirPods to any serious stress beyond just normal everyday use, a product release wouldn't be complete without YouTube torture testers doing all sorts of insane things. In particular, short of just purposefully smashing them, AirPods have proven to be incredibly resilient in drop tests. They even made it through the laundry as one YouTuber ran them through both the washer and the dryer and they still continued to work fine. They even worked after being totally submerged under water:

Aside from moving the in-line controls a lot of people are likely in the habit of using to annoyingly slow Siri commands, it's really hard to find things I don't like about Apple's new AirPods. I rarely would carry the wired EarPods with me in my pocket as that was just asking for a mess of tangled cords and I've really avoided the social stigma that comes of being one of those people who always has a Bluetooth headset in their ears. Having a pair of tiny, super-convenient headphones that double as a Bluetooth headset that easily fit in my pocket has really changed my usage patterns of how often I've been consuming audio content and communicating using my phone. This was all possible with wires, of course, but there's just something so quick and simple in just removing your AirPods from their case, popping them in your ears, and going about whatever you're doing.

  • dancj

    I wonder why they didn't just sticky he volume controls on the antenna arms.

    The price in the U.K. is £160 - which really smarts for a $160 product.

    • cyllwynn

      But that is true of every other piece of camera gear etc. On a plus side, your tvs are so much cheaper than in the US. 🙂

  • Quaze

    A 13-paragraph review of a pair of headphones, and the full extent of the review of the sound quality was "the sound quality of AirPods are great,...".

  • InTheAir

    "Turning your music down by double tapping an AirPod, waiting for Siri to be invoked, then saying 'Turn the volume down' and waiting for it to respond is without a doubt the dumbest way I've ever heard of to turn your music down (or up)." This joke is kind of late, but my voice-control fever dreams didn't mean anything?

  • Mikiesque

    Can you please confirm the impact on your phone battery life, given it need constant Bluetooth connection?

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      Negligible, I really haven't noticed any additional battery drain when using any modern Bluetooth audio devices. I've never seen any actual scientific testing to verify this, but I've read more than a few discussions on Reddit and in other places of people suggesting that the power drain of recent Bluetooth chipsets is getting to a point where the actual usage over just sending that same power over copper to traditional headphones is getting to the point where the difference is effectively a wash... Which, sort of makes sense? Maybe?

  • nini

    is utilising Siri really the requirement? I doubt anyone is really using Siri to control the volume, that's just silly.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      If you want to control your music or volume without using your phone, yes. It's a pretty common use case of having your iPhone in an arm band while working out, in your jacket pocket, or something similar and just using the in-line volume and playback controls, isn't it? I use the ones on the sides of my Beats all the time when running because I keep my phone in a belt pack thing that keeps it snug against my body so it doesn't bounce around.

      • nini

        I know only too well being a big fan of in-line controls but I wouldn't use Siri for doing that unless you can say "Hey Siri, lower volume by 10%"

      • mstacheef

        Great review and totally agree. I got them on Monday and consider these more of a game changer than the Apple Watch, which I also love. I've been using a Bluetooth headset for years, really since they first came out, and that's my first and primary use here: for calls. The call quality is better than any BT headset I've used, including my recent favorite the Plantronics Edge. The mics on these and the noise cancellation are excellent. And the ability to use one for music when I'm walking around has My second primary use. Battery life on both the AirPods and phone are great and I'm amazed at how stable these things are in my ears. Literally can't get them to come out or even get loose.

      • Timmy2x

        How can these be a one size fits all item?? There's so many different size ears lol

      • dancj

        They're kind of cone-ish shaped so if you've got smaller ears you don't push them on as far. In theory.

      • merrickal

        How does the airpods fare when listening via the Apple Watch?

  • bilboad

    Great and helpful review, thanks. I've read a number of reviews now, and yours is the first one to spend more than a sentence discussing the implications of the lack of physical controls, which I think will be a pretty important issue to some people. In particular, several other reviewers even repeated Apple's solution of using Siri for audio controls as if it was a reasonable alternative, so I appreciate that you actually tried it and reported on how poorly it actually works. It sounds like otherwise the headphones are excellent, so it just depends how much someone minds losing the inline controls. Personally, I use headphone controls regularly, not just for pausing and volume, but also for skipping forward and back in the track list, so for me this is a deal breaker. Kind of disappointing since otherwise they seem ideal.

    • countBasil

      I use my pebble watch to control podcasts. Thank heavens for hardware buttons on a smart watch!

      Don't know about $160 though ...

  • Timmy2x

    For me it really comes down to two things that will keep me from buying these, first the price and second...gravity.

  • kickypants

    But when playing games is there a sound delay like every other wireless headphones

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      I haven't noticed any, but I'm a person who was able to play games on a DLP TV which people always said was the worst kind of TV to have for video games because of input lag... So hopefully someone who is sensitive to these things can chime in.

    • Lamar Taylor

      There is no delay with audio when watching YouTube or full movies. I've experienced no popping and cracking like you hear with other Bluetooth headphones.

  • Michal Hochmajer

    Hey Siri (say in rhythm),
    volume up up up up up (at 170 bpm drum and bass),
    volume down down down down (at 80 bpm hip hop),
    volume up down up down up down (at 70/140 bpm dubstep).

    Functionality
    one tap - Stop/Play
    two - Next song
    three - Previous song
    four - Next after previous song
    five -...
    up to 65535

    Who knows. Maybe Apple will add multigesture in next generation.
    Five fingers to pinch your library etc. 🙂

    5 hours is suprisingly long for such a small device. Is it on average volume?

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      Yeah, comfortable listening volume around the house which for me is around 60%.

  • FuZion

    You can set volume directly, for example simply saying "volume 50%" does exactly that. You can only use denominations of 10 but that should be ample for most cases.

    Still, I too feel that using Siri is a dumb thing. They should have allowed a slide up/down motion on the side of the EarPods.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      Oh that's a good tip, I'll add that in.

  • http://chibi-jib.tumblr.com/ SaKo

    What does Super Mario Run have anything to do with EarPods. What was the point of shoehorning it in the title?

    • CarlRJ

      One of the most widely discussed complaints about Super Mario Run has been that it needs a constantly-on internet connection in order to play the game. This article spends considerable time talking about how one needs an internet connection to use Siri to do something as simple as _changing the volume_ on the headphones. I thought the connection between the two topics was pretty obvious and natural, not shoehorning.

  • tp015657

    I'm sorry for the sods who will actually get this, there are many comparable products with similar sound quality under the $50 mark in the market.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      For instance? I've not seen any other Bluetooth earbuds that don't have a wire connecting the two of them, get five hours of battery life with a quick-charge case that offers another 24, that also have a absurdly great connection range and seamless automatic connectivity between different iOS devices... But I don't really follow the market that closely. I'd love to check out some sub-$50 competitors.

      • tp015657

        First of all not having a wire connecting them both is the worst feature i can point out, basically a gimmick over convenience, there is a reason why previous products who tried this out did not take off as they easily fall off and get lost and you can say goodbye to them if one drops into a drain/driveway which can easily happen when jogging, did i mention they are horrible for jogging/workout and are not sweatproof?
        2nd, most earphones give 7-8 hours solid (2-3 more, thanks for jaybird for setting the standard) without the bank and as for the bank i'd prefer to get a proper 22,000 mah battery for $50 or less during sale to charge both my wireless headphones for 48 hours and smartphone twice at the same time.
        3rd, for that price they better as hell sound great but by no means is it outstanding as even the newest and cheaper jaybird x3 (x2 even cheaper) can beat it with an app to boot where you can adjust bass, treble, highs and lows and are good for working out and jogging with wingtips to be secure.
        4th, range, basically all bluetooth earphones with 4.1 can achieve the same range as Airpods which are everywhere regardless of how much Apple pays for their marketing team to dazzle you about range.
        5th, seamless automatic connectivity? What is that? Another marketing gimmick? It only takes me 10s to pair any bluetooth headphones and never worry about it again since you only pair devices once.

        The only thing going for the Airpods is the housing inside the battery which is pointless anyway since it only adds another bank to carry over other options, as well as the apple branding if you happen to be a big fan of them for "bragging" rights.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        The lack of a wire connecting the earbuds is definitely not a gimmick. I regularly run long distances and a light wire whacking you and rubbing against the back of your neck might not seem like a big deal for the first five minutes, but speaking from experience it gets pretty annoying past the 5K mark- Particularly as you start to get sweaty and the wire starts sticking to your skin and pulling at your earbuds when you turn your head. Again, speaking from experience here, the AirPods are just better to run with than my Jaybird X3's (which I paid $100 for) as they're both lighter and more secure.

        I really don't think you read anything I wrote here, as not only are they near impossible to knock out of your ear on accident (Hell, watch the video if you don't want to read the text) but playback stops instantly. A scenario where you're running, lose one, somehow don't notice, and it falls down a sewer drain without you noticing just doesn't seem realistic unless you're just the most unobservant and unlucky people on the planet. Also, AirPods are totally waterproof (again, watch the second video if you don't like reading).

        I'm sort of at a loss as to how "Just carry around a giant external battery if you want more battery life" is a good solution, but, if you're happy with your setup of wired earbuds, battery pack, charging cables, and everything else... More power to you! Your responses just don't make a whole lot of sense though, as it seems like you really don't know that much about them, arguing several things which not only are just objectively wrong but also are explained inside of the review text. It kind of smells like trolling.

      • TP014546

        Why would i be trolling? Because i simply had an opinion and preference other than yours?
        I don't know what bluetooth headphones you have used in the past that had a wire dangling (you make it sound long) but if it was the jaybird X3 then i'd have to disagree with you and choke it up to different experiences as i have never had your "issues" (including sticky wires due to sweat) with the other sets i mentioned in another reply a good example would be the ones from mpowah that have a hard plastic springy wiring stays on with no problems without being affected.
        I did read your article just disagree with you, my experience with them was abysmal as they kept falling off on me while jogging, you have to realize that one size/shape fits all never works out which is why other brands include wingtips of different sizes.
        I never said anything about losing and not noticing, those are your words, my example was  if you happen to jog and one falls off to a drain or a ditch or bounces off pavement only to end up under someone's shoes or tires before you can race to salvage them (these are not specific scenarios but examples of anything that can go wrong) which being wired together would have prevented such accidents not to mention lack of wingtips.
        Regarding the battery banks You do not need to carry them or their wires (both actually smaller than you make them out to be) around when jogging/working out, any other headphone will last 3-4 of 2h sessions from a full charge anyway, my mention of multiple usage battery banks was a counter argument to the Airpod's exclusive usage which you can carry the former around in your backpack along with your laptop and whatnot if you are on the road.
        Contrary to what you wrote in the article not even apple advertises them as sweat/water resistant/proof (where is the rating?), just because they survived your few test runs does not mean they will last as mine started crackling after it's first week and was told they weren't when i had to return them.
        I just voiced my opinion and you were the one who replied and asked, not my problem you couldn't make sense of it to start assuming things about me as even the report by business insider echoes my concerns and dismay but if they ultimately end up working for you then good on you just not worth the asking price imo as there are better alternatives.
        Mind you English is not my 1st nor 2nd spoken language but i do try.

        So i basically got banned from commenting on this article just because i disagreed with you due to different experiences, good job Eli Hodapp and really mature to delete my comments, basically accused me of trolling then prevented me from replying, bet that made you feel superior on some level.
        Good to know such behaviour is allowed in Toucharcade.

      • Timmy2x

        Eli you do come off a bit harsh from time to time just saying let the people speak there minds.

      • puggsly

        1) No, it is not. It effectively makes these both headphones and 2 head sets. This may not be a feature for you but it is for some, and for most reviewers they don't fall out and are waterproof.
        2) No, most earbud style are in this range and most don't recharge in 15 min.
        3) Sounds like they do! and if sound is the only criteria don't buy earbuds, buy over the ear headphones. Sound is one aspect of their cost.
        4) Again, no! Bluetooth is also affected by the antenna, and the amount of power used and a host of other things.
        5) Well, it is a system where the earbuds pair automatically to iOS devices and then to all other Mac and iOS devices through the iCloud service. It is amazingly cool.
        Now, I get it! You don't want these, so I recommend you don't buy them but they are some amazing tech that many of us do want to purchase for most of the reasons you are dismissing.

    • Zendorphin

      Please specify some. Interested.

      • Timmy2x

        I have a feeling we're not going to get any, my guess is he just doesn't like the price.

      • tp015657

        Not to disrespect some fellow users here but i don't camp the app for long periods of time so i either i don't keep refreshing like some or it is that those who reply do so long after i'm gone.

        On the subject, of course i don't like the price it is outrageous to even ask for that much when the quality is not up for the asking price.

        As for alternatives check my reply above.

      • tp015657

        You can look around at Skullcandy, Jlabs, Plantronics, Taotronics, Phaiser, Mpow, JVC, Samsung, Sony... Etc (many more)

        Avoid Aukey like the plague they suffer delays.

        Just be smart when shopping, some models have lag/delay just read the feedback on amazon and check youtube reviews of them.

        Plantronics, Phaiser, Sony, Samsung, Taotronics and Jaybirds to name a few offer in the 50-100 bracket if you are looking at quality.
        Apple's earphones are quality as well just not for the asking price, remember with Apple you are also paying for the brand as well which is a waste.

  • http://www.jeandenis.net/ Jean-Denis Haas

    Nice review, thanks!

  • JoAnn Welsh

    You can also adjust the volume with an Apple Watch.

    • Garrett Dilley

      I've read very little from any commentary that discusses the benefits of AirPods with an Apple Watch. Audio controls are potentially as simple as in line controls (arguably better with visual feedback), and more accesible than buttons on your phone. Also, with automatic audio switching, it's super easy to start up your run playlist and leave your phone behind.

      AirPods are almost a must buy for Apple Watch users if you ask me. They're that brilliant together.

  • mstacheef

    The lack of music controls is definitely an issue for me. Not a major one but more of an annoyance. I've actually been using Siri to skip, pause & resume when my phone is across the room or in my pocket, which isn't a big deal. Everyone's satisfaction will depend on the use case and what they're comparing the AirPods to. Personally, I use PowerBeat3s for running, but these are a replacement for my Plantronics Voyager Edge as my headset for calls, which is a $129 single-eat headset, so compared to that and all the other high-end headsets the AirPods are competitively priced and perform much better. Add to that you get a second headset for Better music and video and these are a total game changer.

  • Timmy2x

    Ok I watched the video and they seem secure in the ear which is great but as the guy even said in the video they look very strange in the ear almost like half a headphone. It's probably just me but I always though that people with the Bluetooth headsets seemingly talking to themselves always looked like d bags, would someone in here help a brother out and recommend a great sounding Bluetooth earbud for under $50? There's way too many to research I've tried on amazon with there reviews but no matter which I look at there's always a handful that say stay away from these headphones! I guess for under $50 you just have to take a chance.

  • Eldad

    So i basically got banned from commenting on this article just because i disagreed with the author, good job Eli Hodapp, basically accused me of trolling then prevented me from replying, bet that made you feel superior on some level.
    Good to know such behaviour is allowed in Toucharcade.

  • Duane Locsin

    A simpler solution for volume controls on a wireless headphones is of course swipe gesture, but I think that could be patented already by..maybe Bragg dash.

    I have been using a Nokia b590 Bluetooth head phone for works out for years, but I am getting this for the more "discrete" use at work.

  • skatter

    I'm so very glad I own both an Apple Watch and AirPods.

    I have Siri turned off on the AirPods because a simple pause/play button is all I really need normally. And if I want to adjust the volume and not pull my phone out of my pocket, I can just do it on my watch. Hit the side button, tap Now Playing and adjust to my heart's content.

    Yet another small but awesome ability of my trusty AW!

  • Lamar Taylor

    I was skeptical on the AirPods until I tried them on and used them. I went into an Apple Store the day they came and bought a pair and I LOVE them and use them all the time. I'm a guy who never used the iPhone Earbuds cuz they didn't fit my ears but to my surprise the AirPods fit my ears and never fall even while I do sit-ups, arm curls, and jog. Here's what I like so far:

    1. Easy to set up and use. My came charged at 70% and were ready to use out of the box.

    2. These are great while standing in lines at the grocery store, bank, mall, post office, doctors office, or waiting at the car wash. They also block out those bad kids who cry and disobey their parents in public.

    3. These works great with Siri, work great when making phone calls, and when using your voice to type. Most of the time when people call me I use speak phone just to hear but these are a much clearer and better option.

    4. I like to wear hats so using my giant over the ear headphones is bulky and not a good look. These AirPods don't look funny at all and nobody stares at you or laughs at you in public. It's just the opposite...attractive women always seem to ask questions about them and say they look nice. At the airport nobody seems to notice and they worked well in that noisy and crowded environment.

    I thought these were too expensive at first but I've been using them everyday so they are worth it to me. These are probably my favorite gadget right after my iPhone and that comes as a total surprise. Bottom line....try out a pair first to see if they will fit you. From there these work exactly as advertised and better.

  • Quaze

    *yawn*

    • Quaze

      Oh look my totally non-offensive comment was removed again. The thin-skinned hipsters strike again.

      • Shaun James Musgrave

        Dude, all of the moderation staff is on holiday at the moment, probably enjoying their Christmas dinners. You're getting upset at an automated spam filter. 😛