When Apple announced its wireless earphones called the AirPods alongside the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus the crowd practically sniggered. If a pair of pricey, earring-like and easy-to-lose earphones were the consolation prize for removing the headphone jack from the newest iPhone no one was biting. But then, Apple has the harshest critics, whether they’re fans or haters. But as with all things out of Cupertino, the proof is in the testing.
The first thing you’ll notice about the AirPods is how quintessentially Apple they are. Only available in the same glossy white finish of the original, wired EarPods packaged with every iPhone, there’s a matching flip-top case to house and charge them that’s all rounded corners and minimalism.
There’s a pairing button on the back of the case that’s tough to see (until it gathers a little grime around its edges) and which you won’t need to use unless you’re trying to pair the Pods with a non-Apple device (or a really old one). Otherwise, the only breaks to the white plastic are a Lightning charging port on the bottom for charging, and a single LED between the AirPod slots under the lid.
Simple pair, easy wear
Pop them out of their case – they ship partially charged so there’s no need to wait – and any iPhone or iPad in range will immediately try to pair with them. Unlock the phone or tablet and you’ll be prompted to pair with the AirPods. And that’s about it. Thanks to Apple’s new W1 chip and some software smarts Bluetooth pairing has never been this simple. And the range is incredible, we managed a good 20m and could still hear our music just fine.
Pair once and the AirPods will automatically connect in future, giving precedence to the last device you used. It’s not quite as slick pairing them to a MacBook, but it’s no more difficult than pairing other Bluetooth devices.
A pair of beam-forming microphones – one in each AirPod – make for astounding clear phone calls by filtering out background noise, and tapping either AirPod answers or ends a call. Double-tap either and you’ll wake Apple’s voice assistant, Siri, which is the only way to adjust volume, skip tracks or do anything else from the AirPods directly, aside from pausing your audio, that is, which happens the moment you remove either AirPod from your ears. Put it back in and the audio continues.
You can expect around five hours of listening time to a charge, which drops a bit if you’re spending a lot time taking or making calls, but the case offers another 19 hours worth of charge and recharges the AirPods in around 20 minutes.
Because they’re a little bigger than the wired EarPods we had no problems keeping the AirPods in our ears, even while exercising. But we admit to being a little nervous once we were slicked with sweat. So nervous we kept checking they were still in place every few minutes. And while Apple reckons they’ll survive regular workouts, the lack of an official waterproof rating makes us reluctant to test that theory. However, thanks to their incredible user-friendliness, quick charging and comfy fit, they are certainly worthy of consideration for the iPhone owner looking to go truly wireless.