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Apple AirPods Review: Almost Magical. Part 2

Apple AirPods Review: Almost Magical. Part 2

Smart Earphones

Even though they look like the EarPods, the AirPods are smarter than your average in-ear headphone. For instance, if I started listening to music with only one earbud in, the AirPod would switch over to mono, which combines the dual channel into one so you can hear everything with one Pod. The one-Pod solution comes in handy when taking calls. 

When I had to take a bud out to hold a conversation, the music paused almost instantly, resuming once I placed the AirPod back into my ear. 

The AirPods were definitely built with Siri in mind. Tapping twice on either bud would pause the music and bring up the familiar pair of beeps along with the digital assistant’s voice. I used this function to skip tracks, adjust the volume, play specific songs and ask about the weather for my trip to Austin. 

Credit: Samuel C. Rutherford / Tom’s GuideAs convenient as this function is in theory, in practice it wasn’t as seamless. Even after using the AirPods for a couple of days, I’m still having trouble tapping that right spot to summon Siri. And once I do tap the right area, it takes about a second for Siri to set up and another couple of seconds for the personal assistant to recognize and carry out my command. For volume and track selection, using my phone is the more time-efficient option. In the future, I hope Apple can add a few other gesture controls to eliminate the need to use Siri for basic controls.

The AirPods can work with third-party apps, but only if those apps have added Siri integration. Unfortunately, neither Spotify nor Tidal is currently showing Apple any love. When I tried using Siri to perform commands on either service, the AirPods enacted my commands in Apple Music instead. 

The AirPod’s functionality carried over to my work-issued MacBook. Thanks to the latest macOS Sierra update, I had no problem tapping to summon Siri on my notebook. 

Audio Performance

OK, they’re wireless and smart, but how do they sound? Pretty darned good. When I was listening to Floetry’s “Hello,” Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” or Wyclef Jean’s “Mona Lisa,” the AirPods consistently delivered crisp, clean vocals with balanced highs. The bass could be boomy at times, which could be somewhat distracting on tracks like the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Going Back to Cali.”

Still, I was impressed with how clear other details sounded, like the bell-like chimes and crisp snares on Fabolous’ “Baby Don’t Go” or the electronic wind instrument bolstering the background of Quincy Jones’ “You Put a Move on My Heart.”

I wish Apple would figure out some kind of ear-tip solution for the AirPods and EarPods. While the AirPods will fit comfortably in most ear canals, very rarely will you get a tight enough seal to block out ambient noise. The only way I could completely block out the roar of the NYC subway was to crank up the volume, which isn’t good for your hearing. At regular volume, you can expect a reprieve from nearby conversations and some street noise if you’re walking around.

Battery Life, Charging Pod and Bluetooth

Credit: Samuel C. Rutherford / Tom’s GuideApple claims that the AirPods can last 5 hours on a single charge, which is longer than most of the current competition. Four hours and 29 minutes into wearing the Pods, I got the heads up that it was time for a charge.

Credit: Samuel C. Rutherford / Tom's Guide

Credit: Samuel C. Rutherford / Tom’s GuideThat meant I had to make a trip to the charging case. Apple estimates that the earbuds can provide 24 hours of juice on a full charge. Even better, the charger can deliver about 3 hours of charge in a mere 15 minutes. I put that claim to the test, popping the Pods into the case with 10 percent power remaining. After 15 minutes, the AirPods had 70 percent battery life. 

Overall, the charging case delivers on Apple’s promises. However, like with the AirPods themselves, I’m worried about misplacing the case. As this is the only way to charge the Pods, you’re out of luck if you forget or misplace the device. It costs $69 for a replacement. I suggest that Apple find a way to let you track the case from your phone. 

Credit: Samuel C. Rutherford / Tom’s GuideDuring my time with the AirPods, I’ve encountered only a few instances in which the sound has cut out, usually when my iPhone sunk to the recesses of my pocket. It’s a problem that plagues most Bluetooth headsets, but so far, it’s a rare occurrence with the AirPods. 

While the AirPods might briefly lose the connection with my phone, they haven’t lost connection with each other, which is becoming a common complaint from wireless earbud owners.