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Apple AirPods Review: Almost Magical. Part 1

Design

Outside of the obvious lack of wires, the AirPods look exactly like the EarPods that are typically included with your iPhone. Constructed from glossy, white plastic and capped off with a tiny chrome band at the ends, the AirPods are designed to rest just inside your ears, leaving the long skinny rods to gently graze your earlobes.

Credit: Samuel C. Rutherford / Tom’s GuideUnless I saw myself in the mirror, I couldn’t see how ridiculous the ends of the AirPods looked hanging off my ears. I definitely felt subconscious as I hit the subway. At first, I used my long locks to hide them. I asked several friends what they thought. The nicest comment I received was that the AirPods looked like some cool space-age jewelry. The worst was that it looked like I was mimicking that infamous hair-gel scene in the film There’s Something About Mary.

I’m all for innovation and crazy design, but if this is the future of headphones, I think I’ll pass.

When they’re not in use, the AirPods reside in their charging case. Like the AirPods, the case is made from shiny, white plastic. If I had to compare it to anything, I’d say it looks like a fat dental-floss box. The lid is attached via a silvery rear hinge, which opens to reveal a pair of AirPod-shaped grooves and a tiny indicator light to signal battery life. At the bottom of the device is a chrome-lined Lighting port for use in the event the charger’s getting low on juice. The charger’s small dimensions mean that you can easily slip it into a bag or pocket.

Comfort and Stability

As subtly outlandish as the AirPods look, my real concern was whether these $159 buds would stay secure in my ears. Since the they’re wireless, the potential for inadvertently losing one or both of the AirPods is high. So is the price. Apple is planning to charge $69 to replace a lost bud. 

Credit: Samuel C. Rutherford / Tom’s GuideI’m happy to report that after two days of braving the New York City subway, and another day traveling from New York to Austin, Texas, I found that the AirPods stayed firmly secure in my ears. They stayed put when I found myself running down the stairs to catch the 6 train. However, the left bud felt a little loose after I leaped through the closing doors. Outside of that incident, the AirPods sat comfortably in my ears, even during a serious head-bobbing session as I listened to Jay Z’s “You Don’t Know (Remix).”

Setup

Setting up the AirPods is blink-and-you-might-miss-it fast. Within 2 to 3 seconds after I turned on the iPhone 7 Plus and opened the charger lid, a prompt launched to connect the AirPods. 

Once they were connected, every time I opened up the charger lid, a widget popped up on the iPhone displaying the remaining battery on the AirPods and the charger. What’s really cool is that once you’ve connected the earbuds to one of your iOS devices, they get connected to the others, too, thanks to iCloud. It’s a little Big Brother-esque, but convenient nonetheless. 

If you want to use your AirPods with an Android device, simply press the small button on the back of the charging case to activate pairing mode. The button can also be used to reset pairing with iOS devices, in case you want to let a friend borrow your AirPods for a while. The buds will cheekily show up as Not Your Airpods on an unpaired device.