Apple AirPods: Hands-on with Apple’s wireless headphones

The biggest controversy of the iPhone 7 launch was undoubtedly the ruthless murder of the 3.5mm headphone jack. Apple sees the future of headphones being powered from its own Lightning connector, or ideally, without a wire/port at all. I tried the AirPods – Apple’s new wireless headphones – immediately after the keynote. And honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about them.

That’s probably not what you want to read in a hands-on review. But anyone who’s telling you “they’re great” or “they’re rubbish” is playing a guessing game. There are obvious pros and cons to the AirPods, like there are with any wireless device. However, it’s important to remember that these headphones aren’t for everyone. The EarPods that come in the box with the iPhone 7 are the earphones that are meant for the proletariat, AirPods are meant for people who want to free themselves from their terrible life of tangled wires and a physical tether to their phones.

AirPods sound quality

I have more bad news for you. I can’t tell you what the sound quality of the AirPods is like (with any conviction) yet either. And nor can anyone else. Why? Because a room full of excited tech journalists ruined it. The crowd, high on coffee, on the busiest day of their professional year created just enough noise to make headphone testing pointless. Fear not, I’ll update this with some legitimate observations as soon as I get the product in for testing – which will be very soon.

READ NEXT: Apple Watch Series 2 hands-on review

Connecting AirPods to an iPhone

Pairing AirPods to an/any iPhone is easily my favourite thing about these headphones. Simply flip open the charging case in and put them next to your iPhone. A message will flash on your iPhone within seconds, press confirm, and that’s it. You’ve just paired your AirPods and you’re now ready to put them in your ears.

The next thing you’ll hear is a satisfying low ding to let you know they’re ready to roll. Once in position they have a couple neat party tricks. The first is a simple double tap which is the cue for Siri to say hello – the AirPods have mics built-in so you can ask Siri a question without touching your iPhone. The second trick is a simple, but brilliant one. Take one AirPod out of your ear and your music will automatically pause. Put it back in and music resumes.

How they feel

Imagine cutting off the cables of your regular EarPods and then putting them in your ear. Are you imagining it? Well, that’s pretty much exactly what the AirPods feel like in your ear. There’s no clever design that enhances their grippiness or added weight. They just feel like Apple earphones but without the wires.

Battery life

There’s more good and bad news when it comes to battery life. The good news: the charging case will give your AirPods enough power to last 24 hours. The bad news: each Pod has a maximum battery life of five hours from a single charge, so you’ll have to charge them multiple times to achieve the advertised 24 hours. This isn’t great. However, there is a reasonable workaround. Place the AirPods back in their charging case for 15 minutes and the Pods will be good to go for another three hours.

At first I thought this was unreasonable. But then I gave it further thought (as I’m paid to do) and I came to this conclusion: I can’t remember the last time I wore headphones for five hours straight without taking a break. If I want wireless in-ear headphones badly enough that I’m willing to pay £169 for a pair, then I’m willing to work a 15 min charging session, during downtime.

Will I lose them? 

The charging case also solves my other gripe with AirPods, which is that they seem incredibly easy to lose, due to the lack of wire. Take the AirPods out of your ear and immediately put them on charge and this issue is no longer an, er, issue.

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