Let's talk about the AirPods

I’m interested in sound and abhor bad headphones. The fact that great music is consumed through crappy cheap in-ear headphones is a travesty. And yet, here I am sitting at an airport, tapping away on my iPad Pro, and listening to an audio book using Apple’s wireless option, the AirPods.

Let’s get one thing straight right away: The AirPods doesn’t offer great, even good, sound quality. The talk time is about 90 minutes, then you need to charge them. They’re expensive, the fit isn’t perfect, and white is so 90s.

And yet, despite all this, the AirPods might be the best thing to come out of Apple in a long time. They’re magical.

Because you see, where other wireless options feature a wire between the headphones, and are generally bulky, the AirPods are anything but. Truly wireless headphones isn’t anything new, but ones that doesn’t suck, doesn’t skip or loose connection, that’s rare. So rare that I haven’t found a serious contender in the same price range, or even ones above. That’s the other thing, because while the AiPods cost a pretty penny, they’re actually not even expensive compared to the competition. Rumor has it Apple is selling them at lower margins than they usually do, and I find that easy to believe.

None of this is the magical part.

Pairing is instant and obvious with an iOS device (all others are stuck in Bluetooth hell). It just works has never been more true, the experience is so seamless that I jump between devices without a second thought.

Take out an AirPod and it pauses the playback. Put it back and it resumes. In fact, if the AirPod isn’t in your ear, it isn’t on. Not the first to feature this, but I daresay these things have never worked so well.

AirPods aren’t for listening to music, however they’re certainly good enough to play some in the background

I’m not a fan of Apple’s headphones (also known as EarPods), they fit me poorly and if the cable gets slightly caught in my clothes they’ll almost fall out. AirPods are wireless, no cables, and while the fit could be better I can exercise without worrying that they’ll dislocate. In fact, I can see how some people forget that they’re wearing them in the first place.

Fucking magical, that’s what it is. The AirPods are the first pair of headphones where I don’t mind the sound quality. Battery life isn’t an issue, not only do they charge in mere minutes within the sleek battery case, it’s more than adequate for listening to music on the commute. I don’t want to turn off the world when I’m in traffic, I want to hear my surroundings should something happen.

AirPods aren’t for listening to music, however they’re certainly good enough to play some in the background. I’d say you’d have to reach professional DJ level in-ear headphones if you want to really listen to music as it was meant to be heard, and even then you’re still worse off than over-ears.

As far as phone headphones go, the AirPods are as good as it gets. Full of compromise, sure, but also so completely superior to everything else in terms of life fit. The competition has a lot to live up to, and I can’t wait for what’s yet to come.

Have you read <em>Haunted Futures</em> yet? cover

Have you read Haunted Futures yet?

I’ve got a story in the science fiction/near future anthology Haunted Futures, together with the likes of Warren Ellis and Tricia Sullivan. Check it out!