AirPodsWednesday, Nov 8, 2017 · 1000 words · approx 5 mins to read
I once told a nice man at Apple that I’d never talk about Apple on the Internet ever again. Pinky swore and everything. I don’t think they care any more though, and I’m going to be nice, so let’s see how we get on.
I work from home now and spend a lot of time on the phone because that’s all technical middle management is. You sit on the phone and type things in to Outlook. During the times I’m on the phone and can’t type things in to Outlook because I might have to say something, it’d be good to be able to get up and walk around the house and free myself from these deskly shackles.
Obviously wired headphones would be fine here. A nice set with an inline mic so I can take calls on the go would be totally fine, letting me get up with my iPhone and walk around the house. But what if the wire snagged on something? What if it got caught on the arm of my chair as I stood up? I’m not sure how I’d cope. Life as a well paid Outlook user that tenuously works on computer games is stressful enough.
So I needed something wireless, yet the world of wireless headphones is fraught with clear and present danger. Terrible audio codecs, bad battery life, Bluetooth pairing nightmares; Apple promises to make all of that go away with their range of wireless headphones, mostly Beats-flavoured. Then there’s AirPods.
AirPods are two tiny little wireless in-ear ‘phones that talk to each other and to your phone (even your really shitty Android phone!), and come in a natty little charging case so that they can top themselves up with power when you’re not using them. They use Apple-flavoured Bluetooth to connect to any iOS, Watch or Mac device you have in a fairly slick way, and despite being modelled on the EarPods in terms of the in-ear plastic bit that you mash into your hearing holes, they were supposedly quite a bit nicer to wear.
I also had a secondary reason to get a set: exercise. I’ve been on a health kick recently to stop the long slow decline into a clone of the Fat Bastard character from Austin Powers (complete with Scottish accent), which means being outside more or in the gym. The gist is that I hopefully move around a bit more than usual, ideally by heaving my legs up and down at unnatural pace, sometimes followed by lifting heavy things up and putting them down again. It doesn’t make sense to me either, but it works.
Anyway, that horrific set of physical movements goes by much quicker if there’s a nice bit of music with some pace to it that I can listen to at the same time. So with the Watch, which I also have because shiny things, the AirPods were the natural option to pair with it and get audio on the move without having to take my phone with me too.
So at Watch Series 3 launch time, while the nice lady was processing the transaction to sell me mine, she asked if I wanted anything else. “CAN I HAVE SOME AIRPODS”, I blurted out before my brain could catch up with my subconscious. I think it’s because I’d just spent a lot of money on a glowing OLED screen for my wrist that constantly reminds me how fat and useless I am.
Fast forward a couple of months with both Watch and AirPods. I’ve had a good stab at using them to try and be less fat, and to try and have some desk freedom while on the fucking phone for my 45th call of the hour, and now I have a verdict: they’re mostly quite nice.
They’re still a bit crap in terms of the shape and in-ear fitment. I get why they want a recognisable and consistent design (I don’t really, I’m lying), but it begets it ever nicely fitting all ear shapes. My ears are marginal as far as AirPod comfort goes, so during every few sessions of wearing them, my right ear will get sore because the shape isn’t a great fit for me. And if I’m sweating in the gym, sometimes the right one will get slippery and just fall out. Thanks for using rubber grommets like every other in-ear headphone vendor with a clue, Cupertino.
You’ll also look like the lost Apple-loving sheeple that you are while you’re wearing them, but other overwhelming social anxieties mask that well enough for me. Oh, and the charging case is a supermagnet for dust, pocket lint and dog hair, so don’t look too closely at it after you’ve had your AirPods for a while. It’s grim.
The rest is pretty nice though. They pair really quickly with all of my other Apple devices, after pairing them only once with my iPhone. The pairing gets synced to all of your other Apple stuff via iCloud, including the Watch. When you take them out of the case and put them in your ears, they look for the latest device they paired with, and if that’s nearby then you’re golden. If not, or if you want to pair with something else, that’s just a tap away in your device’s Bluetooth settings and the re-pairing is quick.
Sound quality is surprisingly good. They’re not sealed, so they let sound in from your environment which reduces overall audio quality, but otherwise they’re pretty good. I listen to bass-heavy music and I don’t want to flush the AirPods down the toilet when I do. Apple marketing, if you’re reading: you can put that testimonial in any marketing material if you want. They’re also really rather good for podcasts and spoken word stuff.
So, if you’re like me and need to move about a bit more and want audio without wires while you do, they’re decent.