Okay, we’ve all had our time to poke fun at Apple’s latest accessory to match the release of the iPhone 7. And we have to admit – it’s dang easy to laugh at the AirPod’s expense. The whole gamut of ridicule has been leveled at the AirPods, from jokes about losing them all over the place to bashing the price tag for a glorified set of earphones.
But now that we’ve had our laughs, it’s time to sit down and take a long, hard look at what the device has to offer – and whether it’s worth the $160 price tag Apple is asking for:
AirPods – A Fully-Functional “Smart” Headset
First things first: the AirPods can take voice commands, and they have a nifty proximity feature that turns them on or off as you use them. This elevates the device beyond a simple set of overpriced earphones. This will also prove to be a very useful feature for iPhone users who are constantly on the go. Also useful for audiophiles that want more control over their devices but need to keep their hands free.
Switch Audio Across Apple Devices
Fans that own a variety of Apple devices will appreciate how the AirPods can easily switch audio from one device to another. iPhone, iPad, Mac, Watch – just give the appropriate command using the device you want to pull audio from. Do note, however, that you need to get an iCloud account as well as the latest OS for the device. That’s currently iOS 10, watchOS 3, and/or macOS Sierra.
Losing the Earpieces is a Serious Concern
The mere act of inserting and removing the devices is a device hazard. The design of the AirPods make it difficult to get a grip. And if they accidentally fall down, there will be no safety mechanism to prevent them from going all the way down to the floor. This risk of losing the AirPhones is doubled if you tend to leave stuff all over the place.
The “Necklace” Option Looks Like a Must
Apple – and no doubt a string of third-parties – will offer a strap to connect one earpiece to another. The resulting loop provides a necklace of sort that catches the earpieces on your neck if they accidentally fall down. The same loop also turns your neck into a convenient rack, where you can take off the earpieces and let them hang down without fear of losing them. This workaround reduces the wireless appeal of the earphones, though the earpieces themselves are not physically tethered to a device.
Full Features Are Only Available on Apple Devices
No surprise that the AirPods will only completely work for Apple devices. Apple has indicated that you can, technically, use the AirPods with other devices. However, you won’t be able to use the virtual assistant, the proximity features, and the ability to easily sync between multiple devices. You will lose out on a lot of functionality if you plan to use the AirPods on any device other than what Apple offers. And even then, you have to use an Apple device that runs iOS 10, Sierra, or watchOS 3.
Power Upkeep Needs to be Considered
The earpieces themselves will be able to run full-blast for five hours straight. Slot them into the power bank that doubles as the earpiece case, and you have up to 24 hours of electricity to work with. This adds another layer of devices to be charged, making the AirPods difficult to recommend for long commutes or for travels beyond the power grid.
The Bottom Line
The AirPods are a no-brainer for the Apple-loving audiophile. The smart earphones offer a ton of convenience for the user, from the hands-free use of Siri to turning on the sounds as you place the earphones in your ear. All this, as long as the earphones are properly secured. The strap is highly recommended.
However, the average user may be better off just sticking to regular wireless earphones or headphones. $169 (plus $15 for the official strap) is a bit too much if you don’t expect to keep your earphones plugged in all the time. The AirPods also lose their appeal if you have full use of your hands. Many AirPod features become redundant if you can easily pull out your iPhone from your pocket.