I’ve only been using them for about a day, but so far it seems like Apple got this one right. The AirPods seem to be exactly what you’d expect: OK audio, easier pairing and device switching, a bunch of nice design touches that just work. The charging case is delightful.
The biggest question mark was whether they would fit my ears and stay in. I always found the EarPods a bit loose. The AirPods look very similar but stay in much better. They don’t feel quite as solid when moving as my (now broken) Jawbone ERA headset, but they are much better than my current Plantronics M165. I did not have any problems exercising or changing my shirt.
The biggest flaw is that there are no buttons. Controlling the audio with Siri is unreliable at worst and slow at best. Not only does it take a while to speak your command and for Siri to react to it, but it even feels like a long time between double-tapping and when Siri is ready to listen. This does not seem to be due to the tap detection, because when I set double-tap to play/pause it reacts promptly. Siri also seemed very loud compared with the volume of the music and podcasts I was listening to.
As-is, the AirPods work well for general use and exercise. I’d like to see a version with more noise isolation and/or canceling for airplane use and working in noisy environments.
Update (2016-12-22): Josh Centers:
I tried a few different troubleshooting steps, including toggling Bluetooth, unpairing and re-pairing, and restarting the Mac, and this combination is eventually what worked[…]
Disappointingly, and contrary to what I expected, AirPods have the worst latency of everything I’ve tested so far. For context, a wired connection achieved latencies of 61ms playing Tapt, and 106ms using the iOS keyboard. The AirPods had latencies of 251ms and 296ms respectively, in the same tests. Even the worst offender in my previous test, the JBL Flip 2, achieved significantly shorter latencies (218ms and 258ms, respectively). In contrast, my £30 Brainwavz Bluetooth earbuds achieved respective latencies of 199ms and 249ms in the same two tests. I would theorise that perhaps the need to ensure both AirPods play sounds in sync necessitates some small amount of additional communication, and thus latency. Hopefully it’s something that could be improved with software updates in future. Of course any wireless technology is going to be slower than a contemporary wired solution, and I didn’t expect the AirPods’ latency to be on par with wired audio, but their failure to beat the latency of much cheaper Bluetooth earbuds is a downer.
Update (2016-12-23): I did not have problems previously, but today the left and right AirPods got out of sync five times within about 30 minutes. There was also a time when I pressed the Play button and got no audio (and no incrementing counter).
A few days after having received my AirPods order, I’ve quickly come to realize how the lack of accessible audio playback controls can hinder the overall experience.
Between an ever-decreasing Wi-Fi signal strength and iOS’ inability to quickly switch back to cellular, I have zero luck using Siri when walking from my front door to the elevator. Siri needs an internet connection to understand even the most basic of commands, and that’s what frustrates me most. Apple already solved this issue years ago.
Voice Control, Siri’s iOS predecessor, could handle offline requests with no issue.
Update (2016-12-27): See also: Accidental Tech Podcast.
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