Tuesday 17 October 2017

Apple AirPods: Tech review

Apple AirPods
Apple AirPods
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Our technology editor reviews the Apple AirPods.

Price: €179  

Rating: 4 Stars

Despite being announced last September, Apple's wireless AirPods only arrived in Irish shops as 2017 was making its entrance. I've had a while to test them out. So what are these Bluetooth in-ear earphones like to wear? Will they stay in your ears? Will you lose one of them easily? And how do they compare in audio quality with normal wired earphones?

The short answer is that the AirPods are very good (and reasonably priced) compared to some wireless in-ear rivals. This is mostly because they have really good, clear audio.

They're also surprisingly firm in your ear. I've gone walking and jogging in them without any issue.

I did, however, feel the need to bring the small recharging case with me. The way the AirPods' power work is that the carrier case automatically recharges them when you put them into it. (That case, in turn, can be recharged with any ordinary iPhone or iPad Lightning cable.) The battery life on the AirPods is between four and five hours on a full charge, which is comparable to other wireless headsets. However, 15 minutes in the carrier case gives you around 2 hours 40 minutes of additional battery life in the AirPods. This means you shouldn't get stuck for more than a few minutes on, say, a transatlantic flight.

Speaking of the recharging case, this is one of the highlights of the AirPods from a design perspective. The moment you open the case, the AirPods look to connect with your iPhone: a message on your screen prompts you to connect and you're all hooked up. There's no messy manual three-second pressing down of a button or waiting for the correct sequence of beeps -- it just works out of the box.

(By the way, the AirPods don't just work with the iPhone 7, or even just with Apple devices: they work with almost any Bluetooth audio source.) Another nice touch is the inclusion of the accelerometers and sensors, which stop a live audio connection if an AirPod is removed (or falls out) from either ear.

Each AirPod has a microphone as well as an in-ear speaker. As a basic level, that means that you can use them as hands-free accessories for phone calls (which they worked pretty well for, even walking into the wind on Amiens Street). Compare prices.

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