Apple’s AirPods – its new wireless Bluetooth headphones, unveiled alongside the iPhone 7, 7 Plus, 7 S- are out now! In our AirPods review we test and rate the AirPods’ design, new features, audio quality and value for money
- RRP: £159
US : $159
- Cool and helpful auto pause/play functionality
- Slim and portable charging case
- Accurate Siri performance
- They tend to get loose in the ear and need readjustment (although they haven’t actually fallen out yet)
AirPods review: Hands on with Apple’s beautiful new Bluetooth headphones
Welcome to our AirPods review. For more headphones buying advice, check out our roundup of the best Bluetooth headphones and the best Lightning headphones.
Apple’s wireless AirPods, announced alongside the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus back in September, have finally hit the shops, just in time for Christmas. But are they good enough to justify their lofty price tag, and would we be happy to find them in our Christmas stockings? Find out in our AirPods review.
In this brief early edition of our AirPods review, based on three days of regular use with Apple’s new AirPods wireless headphones, we evaluate their design, new features, audio quality and value for money; once we’ve spent more time with the AirPods we’ll update this review to provide a more in-depth analysis of the product, so check back regularly!
AirPods review: Design and build quality
The AirPods look exactly like a traditional pair of Apple earbuds, except they cut off abruptly a couple of inches below the bud. It’s an odd look – they dangle down from your ears like weird futuristic earrings, or the detachable heads from an electric toothbrush – but having a protruding bit gives you something to tap on when you want to activate Siri. It’s an unusual look but one we rather like.
Of course, the first thing everybody asks about when they see the AirPods is the fit: do they actually stay in your ears? After all, the prospect of one dropping out and landing in the gutter is disheartening given that Apple plans to charge £65 for a replacement bud.
Your mileage may vary, but we – and most other reviewers – have found them pretty solid on this front. They stay in while running, jumping around listening to music, hitting ourselves on the head and so on. (Normal activities, in other words.) However, while they haven’t actually fallen out of our reviewer’s ears, he does have to adjust them every now and again because they tend to grow a little loose.
The AirPods, rather cleverly, come with a little charging case, which should extend their time away from the mains. (They’re good for five hours themselves, but you can then pop them back into the case and they will top themselves up with quick-charging technology. According to Apple, the case itself offers around 24 hours of battery life before it’ll require charging.)
The charging case is small enough to fit in the small compartment of a jeans pocket, meaning it’s easy to have on you all the time – unlike some competitors. And the best thing about it is that when you flip open the top of the case, a Bluetooth connection will automatically be initiated with your iPhone (assuming it has iOS 10 or later). This auto-pairing is really, really impressive and convenient, although it doesn’t work with iPads, and Apple declined to discuss why this should be.
AirPods review: Features
The AirPods offer a rather cool ability: they can detect when the earphones are being taken out of your ears thanks to built-in optical sensors and motion accelerometers, and will pause your music accordingly.
This is a thoughtful bit of design: Apple realises that people may not realise you’re listening to music on wireless headphones, so has added this feature to make those conversations a little easier. Once the conversation is over, putting the earphones back into your ears will resume music playback automatically.
The auto pause/play functionality sounds cool in theory but is much more helpful than we first imagined, especially when in shops and bumping into somebody in the street. It’s an almost instant connection, but the audio output won’t change until it detects that it’s in-ear – good for phone calls and FaceTime, as well as listening to music.
It seems, however, that if you take one earphone out for too long, the music won’t resume when you put it back in your ear.
You can activate Siri on your AirPods with a single tap (apart from that there are no buttons on the earphones). The lack of buttons makes Siri key to the equation: if you’re not comfortable using Siri to control your media playback and volume, you’ll still have to use your iPhone, which is a shame.
The good news is that Siri on the AirPods has proved extremely accurate, unless you’re in a very busy environment.
AirPods review: Audio quality
Here’s the million-pound question: do the AirPods sound good enough to justify that high price tag? In a word, yes.
The AirPods sound really good – as long as they’re in properly. You lose a bit of quality when they come loose, although that’s to be expected.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that there is zero noise cancellation. It wasn’t mentioned as a feature, granted, but if you were expecting it, be warned: you can always hear environmental noise.
AirPods review: US price and availability
AirPods review: UK price and availability
They’re available now, having launched on 19 December 2016. But, as with most high-profile Apple products shortly after launch, demand is high and supply appears to be limited, so be warned that delays are possible. Indeed, John Lewis is sold out at time of writing, while Apple warns that shipping will take six weeks.