Apple announced the AirPods with the launch of the iPhone 7 back in September 2016, however, they've only recently gone on sale. I doubt we'll ever know what caused the delay considering how secretive Apple is. But they're here now and I received a review sample from Apple a few days back. I've been using them with the iPhone 7 Plus and here's what I think about them so far.
Packaged in a tiny and efficient box, the AirPods come with a charging case and a Lightning cable. Apple doesn't include a wall plug so you'll need to use the one that came with your iOS device. I'm not sure why Apple decided to do this but my guess would be to save on costs. Priced at AED 649, the AirPods are the least expensive wireless earphones I've come across.
Lets start with the charging case that is about the size of a pack of dental floss. It's much smaller than I thought it would be and has the aesthetics of an Apple product. The milk-white charger has a Lightning connector at the bottom and a round button on the side that can be used to pair with non Apple devices. Inside the case, the AirPods are held by magnet with an LED in the middle that is orange when it's charging them, and turns green when the AirPods are fully charged. The LED only indicates the charge for the AirPods – there's no way to find out how much charge is left in the case itself, so it's probably best to have a charging cable handy just in case.
Connecting the AirPods to your iPhone is what Apple calls a magical experience, thanks to the Apple W1 chip, and I agree. You simply open the charging case near your iPhone which almost instantly recognizes and pairs with it with just one tap. It's the promise that NFC made but one that Apple delivers, and I hope the rest of the industry follows. Through iCloud the AirPods then automatically sync with your other Apple devices so you never have to pair them again.
As soon as you place one of the AirPods into your ear, you hear a small tone that lets you know they're ready. They're about the same size as the EarPods that are bundled with your iPhone, with a mic at the end to accept voice commands. While listening, you can remove any one of the AirPods, to pause the audio and putting it back in your ear resumes that. Again, a fantastic user experience. While you're wearing the AirPods, double tapping either one of them brings up Siri by default. You can chose to pause your music instead but considering how there aren't ANY controls on the AirPods, it might be a good option to leave Siri on by default to skip tracks or change volume levels.
Coming to the sound quality, the AirPods surprised me. I was expecting a somewhat similar quality to the bundled earphones that come with your iPhone but the AirPods are much superior. The audio is much clearer, louder and doesn't distort even at the highest volume levels. It's obviously not as good as a thousand Dirham set of headphones but it sounds pretty good.
Where the AirPods faltered for me was trying to get them to stay in my ears. They're the same size and shape as the earphones bundled with iPhone, and I can't get those to stay in my ear for a long time either. While they don't instantly fall off, I can feel them getting looser by the minute, and after a couple of songs, even a slight movement makes them fall out. This seemed to happen more from my ear than left, so maybe my ears are just oddly shaped. They're ok for listening to music while sitting down on my chair, but I definitely won't be able to run with them. That being said, my wife had no issues with the AirPods staying in her ear. Best I can say is that if the EarPods that come with your iPhone don’t easily fall out of your ears, the AirPods won't either.
Lastly, Apple claims that the AirPods last for five hours on a full charge and the carrying case ups that to 24 hours, which I think is a reasonable claim. I travelled with the AirPods for a week, and while I never used them on a continuous five hour session, I did use them for about fifteen hours in total and still had plenty of charge left.
At AED 649, the AirPods are affordably priced for fully wireless Bluetooth earphones. They sounds great, and if you are using an iOS device, you can use Siri for a lot more functionality than just to listen to music. The pairing process and the sensors provide a delightful user experience - one you expect from the likes of Apple. The only thing I'd say is to try them or the EarPods out first to make sure that they stay snugly in your ear.