Tuesday, January 10, 2017

AirPods vs. the Competition

Jordan Kahn:

In the lead up to Apple’s release of AirPods late last month, I had tested just about every pair of cord-free earbuds already on the market. But now that AirPods are here and I’ve been using them daily for an extended period of time, the difference is even more striking than I anticipated.

With AirPods, Apple has done what it does best: taken an emerging product category with a frustrating user experience and delivered a polished product made possible by its control over both the hardware and software. And the AirPods are one of the best examples of that in a long time.

The AirPods continue to work well for me. Every few days there is a little glitch, but it’s short-lived and usually corrects itself. This is a big improvement over the Bluetooth headsets I had been using, and the audio quality is much better. Physically, the AirPods are a bit too slippery and easy to drop, and it takes two hands to get them out of the case. I wish they came in black.

Owen Williams:

AirPods are actually one of the few Apple inventions in recent memory that ‘just work’ like the company is famous for. From the moment you take them out of the box and flick the charging case open, they’re paired with your phone and automatically pop up on the screen, which actually shocks you for a second — you mean that’s it? It is.


When asking to change the volume, or skip a song not only would it rarely recognize me awkwardly tapping on the side over and over, it’d often do the opposite of what I asked, or even just randomly call someone. On top of that it’s incredibly slow, so by the time you’ve managed to do what you started out trying to do, it’d have been faster to pull out your phone, unlock it, do it and put it back again.

We all know Siri is crap on the iPhone, but putting it in your ears doesn’t make it any more convenient, instead, it made me resent how bad it really is.

I don’t think the idea of voice control is fundamentally flawed, but Siri is just too slow and unreliable.

I’ve seen a lot of reports of trouble with the double-tap gesture, but it’s almost always worked for me the first time. I expected to play/pause by temporarily removing one of the AirPods. But in practice I find myself using the double-tap nearly every time. When I’m pausing the audio, it’s usually also at a time when my hands are wet or dirty or I don’t have a good place to put the AirPod.

Serenity Caldwell:

I’d just about given up on listening to music wirelessly during my warmup — and then came the AirPods. Their tiny shape makes them a perfect candidate for slipping into my ears during warmups without having to remove any of my gear, and my helmet keeps them in place easily while I skate. And thanks to their lengthy Bluetooth range, I can put my iPhone by our bench, do laps, and never worry about losing my connection.

Previously: My AirPods Experience.

Update (2017-01-10): See also: The Talk Show.

Update (2017-01-12): John Gruber shows how to remove the AirPods from the case.

It would be nice, when the Mac and iPhone are together, if the Mac could “steal” the AirPods without having to first deselect them on the iPhone.

Lex Friedman’s way of removing the AirPods from their case is even better.

Update (2017-01-13): Park Silkenson compares the two methods.

2 Comments RSS · Twitter

Physically, the AirPods are a bit too slippery and easy to drop, and it takes two hands to get them out of the case. I wish they came in black.

Many of the complaints (or "critiques" is probably more accurate) I hear about the AirPods seem to be solved by the Beats Solo3. The Solo3s don't fall to the ground, they have scads of battery life, and they have a full slate of controls.

And they come in two flavors of black. ;^)

I hear complaints that they're too big/not portable, too bassy, or too expensive. But at $220 on Amazon compared to AirPods for $160, well, I use headphones enough I could probably overlook the price difference at that point. And as someone who listens to plenty of techno/electro music, the bassiness isn't an across the board issue for me. The Crowes sound good, and Metric sounds incredible with Solo3s.

I'm not sure why more Apple ecosystem folk don't bite on the Solo3s. Not quite saying I think it's happening here, but many seem to be talking themselves into the AirPods in spite of themselves. I expect the AirPods have a much improved mic, but I haven't seen anyone bother to "notice" that yet, iirc. Not sure what exactly, other than looks and/or a user's preference for in-ear headphones (which may be enough!), AirPods have going for them.

TL;DR -- I'm not sure the AirPods are so far and away better that they should claim as much of the W1 chip market as they seem to be claiming in W1 chip reviews.

@Ruffin Good to know that the Solo3 is good, but I really do prefer in-ear (and in-pocket).

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