Apple AirPods Review: Are Apple's Wireless Earbuds Worth the Buy?

apple EarPods review

I watch the screen as a hip, young, agile audiophile dances his way through an Apple AirPod commercial. I can’t help but think, as I see the young man on the screen, that I am probably not in Apple’s target demographic. However, I bought Apple’s hassle-free Bluetooth wireless earbuds anyway. Apple’s promise of simplicity, portability, and technology had sold me. Here's my Apple AirPod review.

Related: Wireless Headphones Review: Best Bluetooth Headphones of 2016

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My first concern was whether they would fit, since the similarly shaped EarPods that came with my iPhone often popped out of my ears. Thankfully, I’ve had almost no problem with my AirPods since I purchased them. I suspect the weight of the EarPod cord and the slightly different AirPod contour make the difference.

Simple and Easy to Use

After a simple one-tap setup with my iPhone, my Bluetooth AirPods are now always connected. Except for minor hiccups, the AirPods just work. I put the AirPods in my ears, and they connect to my iPhone. I take an AirPod out of my ear, and the audio automatically pauses. Assisted by the iPad control center, I can easily switch and listen to audio on my iPad.

By default, double tapping on an AirPod activates Siri. I don’t like talking to Siri in public. Further, I find Siri frustrating, as it often doesn’t understand me. I soon changed the doubletap setting to start and pause audio instead. When I do want to speak to Siri, or make a phone call, I use the microphones in the stems instead.

I often use only one AirPod for audiobooks and podcasts, double tapping to start and pause listening. I use both AirPods for music, and they sound great. They also do a great job at filtering out background noise.

Room for Improvement

I find that the AirPod’s lack of controls is their biggest drawback. The only way to adjust AirPod volume is to ask Siri and wait, or to do it manually on the phone. I am surprised Apple didn’t engineer additional control options. For example, Apple might have let me lower and increase volume by stroking down and up on an AirPod stem. Touch and hold an AirPod could have activated Siri. Special left and right tapping could take the audio backward and forward. I’m also not 100 percent happy with how the AirPods look. The two-inch white stems poking out of my ear seem dorky, but I suspect I’ll get used to the sight of them over time.

The AirPods come in a small, white, battery-charging case, which easily fits in my pocket. The included Lightning cable is used to charge the AirPods and case, providing 24 hours of listening. Depending on how often you use your AirPods, they can drain the battery case fairly quickly, so you’ll need to charge the case three or four times a week.

One of the biggest concerns people have when considering a pair of AirPods is either losing them or damaging them. After using the AirPods for a few weeks, I am not so concerned about that. They fit well in my ear, even when I’m bending over or walking fast, so I don’t worry about them falling out and getting broken. And starting with iOS 10.3, Find My iPhone can help you find a charged AirPod so long as it’s in Bluetooth range of an iCloud-connected iOS device. If the AirPods are discharged or enclosed in their case, Find My iPhone reveals the last location the AirPods and your iOS device were connected.

Final Thoughts

If Apple’s EarPods fit your ears well and you’re OK with putting down $159, then I absolutely recommend the AirPods. 

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Hal Goldstein (hal @ iphonelife.com) is the founder, partner, and Senior Editor of  iPhone Life. Hal founded Thaddeus Computing in May 1985, and remains CEO (www.thaddeus.com). Since its inception, Thaddeus Computing has written about, bought, and sold pre-owned mobile computers. Hal lives in Fairfield, Iowa, with his wife and co-founder, Rita.