I’ve recently been using Apple’s Bluetooth earphones, otherwise known as AirPods. They weren’t my first choice – I don’t really enjoy the look of them, and was reluctant to get rid of my sturdy camouflage black wired earphones. Unfortunately, I upgraded to a new iPhone, one of the ones without the headphone jack, and that meant adjusting to a whole new world.
The AirPods are both brilliant and awful. Here’s how.
I love the freedom that comes with wireless headphones. I didn’t think I would, for some reason that I now cannot fathom. Having your phone tucked away in a bag or a pocket and being unencumbered by wires catching on door handles makes for a legendary upgrade. Of course any Bluetooth ears would do this, but these are my first and that makes them a little bit special.
I really like some of the intelligence that comes with the AirPods. They know when I have put them in my ears (for the most part), and I really like the automatic pausing or switching to mono when you take one or both of them out. I haven’t really engaged too much so far with the tapping to achieve things, although I can see that double tapping an ear to restart music will be useful.
Quick switching between devices isn’t as seamless as I hoped it would be but it still removes some of the pain of Bluetooth management. You should be able to get the AirPods to play from whichever screen you’re in, the same way you can Airplay when desired. I find that I still have to go into the Bluetooth screen of the settings app more than I’d like, but I can’t describe the joy at not having to disconnect. The wonder of not having to find which device the product was last connected to, just tap connect and go. It could be smoother and it could be quicker but it’s still strides forward.
I’m not so keen on having another product on my person that requires battery management. Thankfully, my phone upgrade has meant battery on that front isn’t as much of a problem as it once was, so I can focus all my attention on the AirPods. That’s good, because they are quite needy.
The real issue comes from there being three separate items that have a battery level. On the one hand, it’s clever and useful that the case also charges up the ears, but on the other hand, it’s another thing to have to charge. Then each ear has its own level, so you can listen to both, or sacrifice one while the other charges. It’s a handful.
And don’t get me started on actually seeing how much battery is left. Getting this screen to appear is a feat of endurance.
On the face of it, having to charge up your earphones doesn’t sound that complicated, but when you find yourself out on a walk with all three battery levels at 1%, you realise that you’ve gone wrong somewhere along the way.
Other niggles are smaller. My ears (or one in particular) took a while to get used to the shape of the AirPods, and it was actually sore for a couple of days. They don’t mould or bend in any way. You get what you’re given. They’re not exactly the best sounding product on the market, and they’re not noise-cancelling in any way. Taking them out of the case can be fiddly, and I quite literally always put them back in the box the wrong way round.
For me, at the moment, the benefits outweigh the negatives, but I am finding I have regressed to a less needy, more wired pair of headphones for my iPad that still accepts such caveman concepts. I’m eyeing up some other Bluetooth options too, but overall I’m quite happy that the transition to the non-headphone jack future hasn’t been as awful as I’d thought it would be.