More on AirPods – A Few Weeks Later

  • The fit isn’t perfect. The buds are just a bit loose for me, and that’s unfortunate. But they don’t fall out while I’m walking around, and they stay enough in place that it doesn’t bother me. An occasional adjustment gets them right back into that ideal sound position. I’ve learned to be less paranoid about them falling out randomly, in any case.
  • I tried the silicon gel covers that some companies make for the regular Apple Earbuds. They fit perfectly on the AirPods, as they are exactly the same size. And the extra layer of silicon does help the buds stay in my ears a bit better. Especially for my right ear, which as I mentioned before, is a bit larger than my left, evidently. Problem is, once the covers are on, the AirPods will no longer fit into the charging case. They slide into the charging ports, but the lid won’t close. This is the one time I’ve actually wished Apple paid less attention to detail in their manufacturing tolerances. If those cutouts were just a bit larger, the lid would close perfectly. Unfortunately, the lid not closing is a deal breaker for me. So I’m back to using them without any extra covers.
  • Given this size issue, and knowing that for some with even bigger ears than me it’ll be an even bigger deal, I wish Apple would consider making at least two sizes of AirPods. Maybe they will. They make multiple sizes of Watch bands, after all. This is the reality of the wearables market. People are all sorts of shapes and sizes, right?
  • I don’t think about battery life at all. The buds themselves last more than a few hours; more than I generally listen in one sitting. Whenever they aren’t in my ears, they are in the case, where they recharge. The case has never come close to being drained in a single day. And I’m a “charge all the things every night” kind of person, so I have yet to drain the case down at all. I suspect if I forgot to charge the case for a while, I’d get at least four or five days of normal use out of them before absolutely needing to recharge. That’s unscientific, but the bottom line is that it’s never going to be an issue for me, because I do charge them every night.
  • Speaking of charge, I do wish the iOS battery widget would show the AirPods charge percentage (the buds and the case) at all times, rather than just when the AirPods were active. That would probably cost some battery life, but it would be good to know the case charge, in particular, without having to stop the music and place the buds into the case. Maybe I should just not care about the charge percentage of the case, since it never seems to be a problem for me. But I’m a data junkie about this stuff.
  • Not having wires is amazing; being able to seamlessly switch pairing between my Macs, iPads, iPhone, etc. is even better. I even use my AirPods at my desk in the office at home, where I have a set of nice wired headphones. Because it’s so easy to switch to them, and they are in my ears already. This means I can also walk around the apartment to get a glass of water, etc. without being tethered to my desk, continuing to listen to audio from my Mac. Pure bliss.
  • I wear the AirPods out and about every day. So far, two people have asked me about them. One had no idea what they were and was just stunned that I had wireless earbuds. (This was only a day after I got them.) The other asked if they were the new “Apple Wireless” earbuds. (That was a few days ago.) The AirPods are going to break out of tech culture and into popular culture fairly quickly, I’m thinking. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them showing up on more “normal” users in a few months.
  • I have dropped the buds a few times (one onto a subway platform, which was frightening, to say the least) but they are so light that there wasn’t even a scratch on the bud. This has only occurred when I was in the process of putting them back into the case, or putting them into my ears. They are a bit slippery, and they do need to be handled with some care. Also, winter hats/gloves/scarves, etc. mean you need to be aware of the buds a bit more. Of course, I no longer have to worry about my scarf getting tangled in the cable, so it’s a tradeoff.
  • The sound quality is still really great. Especially for a wireless earbud. This continues to be the most pleasant surprise for me. There is almost no isolation, though. Loud subway cars coming into stations, traffic, sirens—these all force me to pause my podcasts. This is probably a good thing for walking around the city, as those noises are important to hear. But it can be a bit annoying at times. I think I’ll likely still want to take my H6 headphones on airplanes, at least.
  • I know some have wished for more touch gestures, so you could do more than play/pause or invoke Siri. I’m guessing most of those people have not used the clunky touch controls on other wireless headphones. The thing is, putting your hand up to your ear is not a normal thing. Making precise gestures in that area of the body without looking is harder than it would seem. I’m guessing Apple has tested this and has found it not ideal to be sliding up and down along the bud, etc. The more you handle the bud, especially for those of us for whom the fit is not tight, the more likely you’re going to knock one out of place, too. Maybe a triple tap could be useful to skip ahead. But enough people have complained about the double tap not always being recognized that I wonder if even that would be ideal.
  • What I’ve been doing for controlling volume is using my Apple Watch. I know not everyone has an Apple Watch, but when I get on the subway, I just open up the Now Playing screen from my Dock, and then I have quick access to volume and skipping without taking my phone out of my pocket, at least. My Watch is set to leave the last app running, rather than returning to the watch face, so the controls are only an arm raise away.
  • I never use Siri with my AirPods, so I’ve set the double tap to play/pause. I know I can take a bud out to make that happen, but then I have a bud in my hand. I tend to pause my music and podcasts a lot while I’m writing an email response, thinking about a solution to a code problem, etc. I want to be able to stop the music and still do things with my hands.
  • I have edited an episode of my podcast, Release Notes, using the AirPods. I could not use them to record music, however. The latency is just too great for performance. Even for edits, it wasn’t ideal. But AirPods are not meant for professional recording sessions, so this isn’t a knock against them, per se.
  • People are suggesting Apple should make Jet Black AirPods. I think that’s another great idea (along with different sizes). It depends on how well they sell and how badly Apple wants to be in the headphones business, I guess. I’m sure they don’t want to overshadow the Beats brand, but then again, they didn’t brand these with Beats in the first place, so you never know. My guess is that the AirPods exist mainly as a gesture to other headphone manufacturers that better wireless headphones are possible. And to help sell the concept of an iPhone with no headphone jack. I hope manufacturers take the hint and we get some amazing new models this year, as I’ve said before.

Speaking of iPhones with no headphone jacks: I wasn’t someone who cared about needing the dongle for my wired headphones for a few months. I did forget my dongle once, which sucked, to be sure. And there were definitely times when I wanted to listen to music while also needing to plug the iPhone into my Mac. In other words, I had no problem with the removal of the jack philosophically, but I did experience the downside of that tradeoff a few times. Now that I don’t have to think about wires at all, none of this is a concern at all. I can see Apple dropping the headphone jack on the iPad this year. The Mac will likely come sometime later (because of the aforementioned latency issues for recording). We are moving towards all headphones becoming a wireless accessory. Period. It’s still a transition period, so there will be pain along the way. (Price, latency, needing to charge batteries, etc. are all still obstacles to overcome.) But given my experience so far with AirPods, the future of headphones is looking pretty awesome.