1. Pairing, connection to Apple and non-Apple de vices
A lot of the magic of the AirPods is in the seemless way they connect: the initial pairing process is easy and after that, once you take them out of the case, you will instantly see a pop-up window on your iPhone (or any other iOS device running iOS 10 or later) showing you the battery status of the headphones. And that’s it: you’re good to go. The connection runs over Bluetooth and is impressively solid and does not drop every so often, as is the case with many wireless headphones out there. You can also pair the AirPods to non-Apple devices, but the pairing process is not as simple, nor as fast.
2. Apple W1 chip
The secret sauce behind the stable and fast Bluetooth connection that is key to the AirPods experience is a first of a kind, miniature Apple W1 chip that provides intelligent, high-efficiency playback, while delivering a consistent and reliable connection. The Apple W1 chip also intelligently handles the connection with all of your Apple devices, and allows you to instantly switch to whichever one you are using (you can switch from the phone to the watch effortlessly, for example).
The fact that you can have easy access to Siri via the AirPods is liberating: you can ask the assistant all sorts of questions by just double tapping the outer side of the AirPods. Integrated motion accelerometers respond to your touch and trigger Siri, which can then answer your questions without you having to reach for that iPhone. By the way, if you want to use the double-tap shortcut for something else than Siri, you can. You can customize it to play / pause your music, for example. Well, unfortunately, there is no way to easily skip songs – there is no triple tap, or any other easy shortcut.
4. Smart in-ear detection
There are also infra-red sensors inside each AirPod that detect when it is in your ear. Using this informaton, the AirPods only play when you are ready to listen, and music playback will automatically pause once you take a bud out of your ear.
5. Voice detection
When you’re speaking, voice accelerometers recognize the vibration and source of your voice, then working with a pair of beam forming microphones reduce external noise. The use of directional microphones is notable: such kind of microphones are better at filtering outside noise and will be able to better isolate your voice from the environment.
6. Battery: weekly rather than daily charging
Officially, each AirPod provides up to 5 hours of listening on a single charge, while the charging case provides more than 24 hours of battery life. This is excellent battery life for wireless earbuds of that caliber and is a worthy engineering accomplishment. What this also allows is for most users to charge once or twice a week. Many conventional Bluetooth headphones require daily charging (Samsung’s similar Icon X headphones, for instance, only last around 2 hours on a single charge), and the AirPods neatly avoid this issue.
7. Is the $160 price too much?
Yes, $160 is a lot of money to spend on a pair of earbuds, especially when the initial reviews claim that the AirPods sound very similar to Apple’s $25 EarPods of before (we will check on that in our own review that’s coming up soon), but if you look at other truly wireless earbuds, you can see how the pricing makes sense. The closest competitor, the Samsung Gear Icon X price was set at $250 at launch, but currently Samsung has discounted the headphones to $160. The Motorola VerveOnes+ are priced at $200, while Jabra’s EliteSport go for $250 and Bragi’sThe Dash will set you back $250 as well.