AirPods. Apple’s first real foray in wireless headphones, I have been lucky enough to pick up a pair on launch day, delivered right to my door thanks to an early pre-order. Being in Australia we have the advantage of the time difference meaning that even though the TNT Delivery Man didn’t show up until 1pm in the afternoon, I’m still one of the first people in the world to give them a try. I wanted to share my initial impressions with you all.
First of all, they arrive in the classic Apple packaging. Minimalist design, neat, clean, it’s all about the product.
Upon removing the plastic wrap and delving within, you are presented with a very straight forward instruction manual and the factory sealed product.
Having removed the Charge Case from the box it immediately presents itself as a well rounded, rectangular shaped box. There is a Lightning Port at the base which is used to juice up the ‘Charge Case’ which in turn charges the AirPods when they are docked. There is also subtle button on the back which Apple claims is used to sync to different devices.
Upon opening the hinge you will notice a little light indicator, this indicates white when it is in connecting mode, orange when the AirPods are charging and green when they are fully charged. ‘Hello, I am AirPod L and I am AirPod R’. Similar to the standard Apple Wired Headphone, the AirPods have a little text print indicating which ear they belong to just encase it isn’t obvious.
Almost immediately I got into playing with the AirPods and they were extremely easy to figure out. To sync them to your iPhone, all you need to do is turn Bluetooth On, mine was already on as I use it for my Apple Watch and also to sync to my car audio system with a Belkin CarAudio Connect FM. Once Bluetooth is on you simply open the AirPod Case and you’ll get a connect pop-up on your iPhone, click ‘Connect’ and then you are good to go. You can immediately start playing songs, podcasts or videos and you’ll be able to wirelessly hear them through the AirPods. Here is a little video I put together showing you how easy they are to setup:
I found that they can easily sync up to my iPad as well as my iPhone. Apple states in the instruction manual that the subtle button on the back of the ‘Charge Case’ is used to initiate sync mode but I found that this wasn’t necessary. I simply turned Bluetooth on for my iPad and then looked at Bluetooth Devices in Settings and was able to select AirPods and Connect.
This is super useful as I’m a Spotify Free User, meaning I still have ads/pop-ups in the Spotify App and that I can only Shuffle Play on my iPhone. I don’t really use Spotify on my phone mainly for data reasons when I’m out and about, I tend to use it mostly on my iMac or my iPad. Spotify treats an iPad as a Computer meaning you can play albums and playlists as they were intended without having to Shuffle Play. So now I can use my iPad when I am cooking dinner to play Spotify through headphones, I won’t need to be tethered as it’s a wireless setup, the AirPods are small and lightweight meaning my movement around the kitchen won’t be hindered and I’ll still have access to pretty much full Spotify except with a few ads here and there. This for me has unlocked ultra portable Spotify, which isn’t super essential but definitely nice to have.
While listening to music through my iPad I found I was easily able to hijack the Bluetooth Connection between my iPad and the AirPods. I did this by going Settings -> Bluetooth -> AirPods on my iPhone, this took a short moment and the AirPods switched connection from my iPad to my iPhone.
One of the coolest features that I noticed pretty quickly is that whatever you are listening to something and you remove a single AirPod the content will automatically pause. The moment you pop that AirPod back into your ear play will continue where you left off. This is quite remarkable as it takes a common action (taking earphones out of your ear when someone talks to you) and introduces an automatic behaviour (content pause and play). This essentially means you could walk around with AirPods in all of the time and easily flow in and out of conversations in the real world with very little effort or disruption from your music/podcast.
I had a play with how the charging works and it feels very similar to the way the Apple Watch Charger functions, wireless charging with a magnetic latch. You place the AirPods into the Charge Case and once they are close enough a magnet locks them into place, securing them and initiating charge from the case to the AirPods themselves. Interestingly enough you also have the option to charge a single AirPod at a time, if you just put one AirPod into the Charge Case you will be able to see on your iPhone or other connected device the battery percentage of each individual AirPod. When both AirPods are in the charge case they display in unison. Here is a little video I put together demonstrating the magnetic click in and the battery displays on iPhone:
For seamless access to your AirPods Battery Information you can swipe left from your iOS Home Screen you get access to your widgets. Enable the ‘Batteries’ Widget if it isn’t already enabled and depending on the state of the AirPods (In-Use, Individually in Charge Case or Both in Charge Case) you will see the corresponding battery percentages.
One of my favourite features of the standard Apple Headphones was the hard buttons near the microphone. While listening to music I like being able to easily adjust volume up and down as well as play/pause. The middle button was also great for answering and hanging up phone calls. As discussed earlier play/pause is sorted but it’ll be interesting to see how I adapt to the new Siri Features of the AirPods for volume control and other miscellaneous tasks.
My initial impression in regards to audio quality has been a winner. I listened to some music and it sounded as good if not better then the standard Apple Headphones. I also made a test phone call and the audio quality was as expected, the people on the other end of the line could hear me loud and clear and I had no issues hearing what they had to say. I did a very basic Bluetooth Range Test and like many other Bluetooth Headphones it is indeed limited by proximity. I was listening to Spotify on my iPad through the AirPods and found I was able to walk approximately 10m around the house away from the iPad before I started getting a few audio drop outs. Though audio did drop out I didn’t notice any degradation in audio quality of the bits and pieces that were coming through.
I’ve had a great first impression of the AirPods, the seamless setup process and the quality of the product is exactly what I would expect of high end tech in 2016. Over the next few days and weeks I’ll keep using them and see if I notice any major disadvantages or hiccups that need ironing out. If you’re interested in hearing more please let me know in the comments section below.