AirPods follow-up

Standard

Since I got my AirPods they have become the only wireless headphones I am using. I thought I would keep using my previous set, but they have replaced my (very much liked) Jaybird Bluebuds X completely, despite inferior sealing of the ear. The reason is simple: the AirPods score profoundly higher than my Bluebuds headset for…

  • first time set up
  • turning on / off
  • convenience to share across all my devices
  • staying in my ears

The last one is curious. I would have thought that the Bluebuds are way better in terms to running, particularly when it comes to running. The truth is, however, that when I am running I adjust the fit of the Bluebuds every few minutes because they are close to slipping out of my ears. How come? The problem is the cable which runs between the ears and is susceptible to pull the headset out, despite the nice rubber surface and good general ear fit.

This never happens with the AirPods, hands down.
And the reason is exactly that: because they do not have a cable. This simple thing is one of the biggest (surprise) delighters for me. 

The sound is good and the battery life…

Ah! – the battery life.
This one is interesting: the AirPods claim 5 hour playing time on a single charge. And they can be recharged several times with the case they come in which holds another 24 hour charge and tops up the AirPods when you put them back in. The idea of a charging case is not new, but it’s a nice and elegant implementation. Nerd that I am I was checking the battery status of AirPods and case like a hawk since I have them. In the beginning I thought the numbers I saw seemed to make sense for the claimed playing time.

But then I realized in the past weeks – amidst more and more chatter on the web about the same thing – that something was wrong. Both the AirPods and the case were losing power much faster than they should have. I compared my notes on battery status with what I read on the web and, yes, it looked like that my set was affected by batteries that drained faster than they should. It did not have any real world impact, except that I maybe had to charge the case every three days versus every five days, but it annoyed me and I was getting ready to have my AirPods replaced or fixed.

And then Apple suddenly released a firmware update. I did not have to do anything: the update installed itself without me doing anything.
I then re-checked my battery life in the same scenarios I had tested before. And look and behold: where the case lost 10% or even more before, it now loses nothing or maybe a percent charge. Perfect!

So, everything great?

Well, there are two things which do not work so well:

  1. The AirPods have no button or gesture to control volume. I can do it via the Apple Watch, but it’s still more cumbersome compared to a cable remote.
  2. You can control volume also via Siri. It works fine for volume, but it’s not a great experience. In general, Siri has still problems with accuracy and speed, despite the certainly very adequate microphones in the AirPods. It is super weird to double-tap the plastic thing in your ear and then speak articulated commands to an invisible something. And it is annoying when this takes longer than using a physical solution and / or requires several attempts.

Yet, despite these downsides, the AirPods are easily the most surprising and delighting product Apple has released in a while. All the iPhone and iPads and Macs are stunning and amazing from a technology and design point of view. The AirPods, however, add and rekindle a kind of magic which you only get once in a while.

And when you happen to find it, you fall in love and you stick to it.

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