If you’ve been an Apple customer for any length of time then you know the drill. Apple releases something new, critics howl and complain, customers line up to buy and a hit product is born. That’s just the way it is.
With all the criticism Apple gets these days– and I’m one of those who isn’t afraid to call it like I see it– here’s the first Apple product I’ve owned in recent years that is getting plenty of good press, good reviews; for a product that blows the competition away. How is that even possible?
Cut me a little slack here, but I will try not to use finally in this sense again. For awhile. Apple’s customers do seem to have an affinity with their iPhones, iPads, Macs, and even Watches that borders on love. That’s just the way it is. Early this week I managed to walk into an Apple Store at just the right time and walk out with a pair of AirPods. If you like earbuds, and these fit into your ears without pain, you will love the AirPods. It’s the best new Apple product since Watch which wasn’t all that great until Watch Series 2.
AirPods are great out of the box. Well, two boxes.
Alright, the basics. To Love.
AirPods don’t have a cable to connect the two earbuds together. They work wirelessly and independently, thanks to how Apple manages Bluetooth. Use one. Use both. All that Bluetooth pairing nonsense is made moot thanks to Apple’s own W1 CPU and the unique software that manages to keep music in sync. The pairing is just a few seconds. Really.
There are two boxes. The box that holds the box which is really the AirPod charging and storage case. Unlock your iPhone. Open the charging case lid. Your iPhone will ask you via a popup if you want to connect. Tap Connect and it’s done. Really.
This is where Apple’s curated ecosystem comes into play. You won’t need to pair the AirPods with your Mac or iPad or Watch. It just works as long as each device is signed into your iCloud account.
Does. Not. Stutter.
One of the problems I’ve had with other Bluetooth earbuds and headphones is the tendency to stutter sound when listening to music. AirPods don’t stutter. Or, at least, haven’t yet. The sound emanating from the AirPods is better– to my ears, your ear mileage may vary, and I’m probably older than most AirPod users– than the iPhone’s enclosed earbuds, and other earbuds I’ve used, but not quite as much as a decent pair of wired headphones.
How do they fit? This is a problem for some people. I have a few co-workers who simply cannot wear anything in the ear, so headphones are the only method to get sound without sounding off to cubicle farm mates. For me, they’re fine, but it’s a one-size fits all proposition. Here’s the killer. AirPods are two earbuds, and they’re not connected so why don’t they fall out of your ears? As it turns out, the antenna and microphone design– the elongated part of each AirPod– fits snuggly down the ear lobe, and since there is no cord tugging at them from the bottom, they actually stay put. Sweet.
Caveats? A few.
Siri controls music playback and that means you have to talk to Siri and in some environments she becomes a bit hard of hearing. Activation requires a little double tap on either AirPod, even if you’re connected to a Mac. That’s it. And if you don’t have an internet connection, Siri basically becomes a deaf mute. AirPods remind me a bit of the iPod whereby Apple’s competition was a few dozen portable music players, and the company cobbled together a wonderful music playing experience in a device that carried far more music than any other. The iPhone? It was a big screen phone with touchscreen app access and a giant battery.
AirPods? Expensive, wireless earbuds that just work. Finally.