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Those expecting some extra cash this holiday season may be eyeing Apple’s $160 AirPods as a present for themselves. Apple recently sent along a pair for me to test, replacing some pre-release AirPods I’d played with before and found a little too ahead of their time for most people.
Many of my initial thoughts stand. I didn’t notice a dip in audio quality. The AirPods never dropped a connection, and they pair easily with the iPhone. I still had no problem with the 5 hour battery life, though those on long flights may disagree.
But I’m a little less worried about losing them now. Ear shape may vary results, but I had no problems. Running with them at a nearby lake wasn’t a problem at all. (And I’m not a particularly smooth or elegant runner, believe me.) Ditto while jump-roping. They actually held up better during exercise than when I had tried sleeping with them in my ears. With my prime worry gone, I reveled in the freedom of not having a cord. I don’t often get tangled in my headphones, but it was nice not worrying about it while pulling on a sweatshirt or doing a jumping jack — a glimpse into a future world without wires.
I still have my gripes. AirPods lack many functions I expect from headphones, such as being able to control the volume from the cord. Siri picks up the slack — and you can ask her quietly to change the volume or skip a track — but it takes longer than a button-press and requires me to talk to myself in public. (Not my favorite activity.) And while AirPods switch smoothly between Apple Watch and iPhone, they won’t pair simultaneously with your phone and your Mac or other Bluetooth-enabled device. For me, that’s a slight step down from headphones that let you connect to several devices at once.
Plus, I still missed the cord as a safety blanket. Take an AirPod out of your ear, and you have to hold it — tightly, in my case, for fear I’d drop one and lose $80 down a swan’s gullet. Ideally, AirPods would always be in your ears or in their charging case, but we do not always live in an ideal world. They could easily slip into the wash in a pocket with my loose change. They do come with a one-year warranty, plus out-of-warranty service in case you lose or damage them — but replacing a lost one would cost you $69 each.
Overall, I’d say AirPods aren’t a must-have product because you lose some function by going wireless. Still, I’d only really advise against them if you’re prone to losing things. Losing AirPods would be much more frustrating than mislaying a $15 pair of headphones from the airport. But if you think you can keep track of them and are intrigued by their compact convenience, AirPods are an interesting step into the wireless future.