As usual, Apple attempted to completely change the game with the AirPods, eliminating any sort of wire and opting for two independent earbuds. While this design makes them a bit precarious for working out, it is great for traveling. The complete absence of wires makes them incredibly low profile, which is great both for packing and trying to find a comfortable position when flying coach. Plus the included charging case carries 3-4 extra charges in it, which can keep you listening to podcasts through multiple layovers.
Apple Airpods Review
Pros: Portable battery pack/case, total freedom from wires, good sound quality
Cons: Expensive, not really suitable for working out
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The new iteration of AirPods remains aesthetically identical, but sports a new wireless charging case and Apple's newer H1 chip, which allows the buds to pair with devices more quickly. Wireless charging definitely feels like a big upgrade, though that upgrade will cost you a bit more. The faster connection speeds are also nice, but we never found any annoying delays in paring the older buds with any devices, so that improvement may go unnoticed.
The Apple AirPods offer a unique design that excels on long travel days, but isn't quite up to running and hard workouts.
The Apple AirPods are somewhat specialized in their usefulness, and thus had a lower overall score than most models. Below we detail how the AirPods performed in all the different tests we used to determine their overall score.
A Note About Ease of Use
We didn't include a user friendliness metric in our Bluetooth Earbud testing because the vast majority of models have near identical interfaces. The Apple AirPods are the exception. They Automatically pair with your iPhone when you open their case, which is very convenient. Once in your ears you can double tap either of the earbuds to activate Siri, which you can use to do pretty much anything (turn up the volume, change tracks, etc.). If you'd prefer you can change the setting so the double tap becomes a play/pause button. You can also use the double tap to answer and end phone calls. If you take one earbud out it automatically pauses your music. This works great on a phone, but can be a bit finicky on other devices. For example, we paired them to a computer, and when we took one out they disconnected and loud music suddenly started playing on our computer speakers. That's a good way to piss off your officemates.
The Apple AirPods sound quite good, earning a 7 out of 10 in our sound quality testing.
Overall the AirPods sound about the same as Apple's standard wired earbuds that come with every iPhone. We feel these earbuds sound quite good, but some people may feel a bit cheated that they're paying so much for earbuds that sound the same as the ones they already have (what you're really paying for is the wireless experience). They produce good clarity and relatively good bass, resulting in a well rounded composition. The Beats by Dr. Dre and Bose models generally have a bit deeper bass that adds more depth to the sound, but we doubt that anyone will be disappointed with the sound quality of the AirPods.
The AirPods really excel at making phone calls. In our testing both the caller and the callee were treated to crystal clear audio. These were the earbuds we reached for when we needed to hop on a conference call.
The Apple Airpods use a unique wireless design that creates a persistent fear of losing them. This fear made them a bit less comfortable. They earned a score of 5 out of 10 in our comfort testing.
The AirPods are one of the few Bluetooth earbuds that don't offer different earpiece sizes. If you like the fit of Apple's wired earbuds then you'll like the fit of the AirPods. Apple did manage to make the AirPods fairly light, so they don't feel like they're going to fall out of your ear. However, it's hard to shake the feeling that there is no tether to your expensive earbuds, which creates a bit of an 'earbud vertigo' sensation. We never had them fall out in normal use and just walking around, so this sensation isn't really warranted, but we couldn't get rid of it.
Remember that earbud vertigo we just mentioned? It gets a lot worse if you're running or jumping. Thus the AirPods earned a low score of 3 out of 10 in our athletic performance testing.
While the AirPods do have a more stable fit than you might imagine, the lack of any sort of tether makes it feel like they're going to fall out when you're bouncing around during a workout. Also, they don't have any rubber, so sweat makes them feel quite slippery. We were never actually able to jostle them out of our ears during our testing, but it always felt like a distinct possibility. And you don't want to be worrying about your expensive earbuds when you're trying to beat your best 5k time.
The AirPods lasted 5.5 hours on a single charge in our battery life testing. However, the included storage case has another 3-4 full charges in its battery, giving the AirPods the longest functional battery life of any of the models we tested. Pro tip: if you leave one AirPods in the case it will continue to charge while the other will automatically go into single earbud stereo mode, allowing you to get close to 24 hours of continuous music, albeit in one ear.
The AirPods with their sleek design and included charging case earned a perfect 10 out of in our portability testing.
The AirPods' case is about the size of a packet of floss and can easily slide into almost any pocket. That case doubles as a portable battery pack, greatly extending functional battery life. Plus the completely wireless design makes these ideal for listening to music while getting cozy in a bus or plane seat.
The AirPods list for $160, which is on the more expensive side of things. They also only satisfy a narrow range of activities, namely walking around and general traveling. If that's all you want to use them for they are a decent value, but if you're looking for something more versatile they are a very poor value.
The Apple AirPods offer a unique design that excels for long travel days but isn't well suited to exercise. If you're constantly racking up frequent flyer miles these earbuds will make your experience a bit easier.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata