Convenient, wireless earbuds for jack-less iPhones

The earbuds are housed in a minimalist white case, which doubles as one for charging.
The earbuds are housed in a minimalist white case, which doubles as one for charging. PHOTO: APPLE

Apple's AirPods are a pair of truly cordless earbuds, with no cable connecting the two ear pieces. It seems like the solution that the Cupertino tech giant is providing after ditching the ubiquitous headphone jack in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

As such, the product is attracting plenty of flak and ridicule. There are already several such cordless earbuds in the market, like the Earin and Samsung Gear IconX - both of which I have reviewed. So will the AirPods be better?

The AirPods look like the EarPods that shipped with every iPhone since September 2012, but with the cable snipped off.

It just looks weird. Sorry, Jony Ive, but I think the IconX looks way better, not to mention, it comes with silicone wing tips for a more secure fit.

And this is something the AirPods could do with, as I found myself having to constantly push the AirPods back into my ears while I was jogging with them. But the lack of a cable around my neck was liberating.

My wife commented that I looked like I was wearing some hipster earrings when wearing the AirPods, although I found that no one noticed my "earrings".

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $238, available late next month

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth

    COMPATIBILITY: Apple devices running iOS 10, watchOS 3 or macOS Sierra

    WEIGHT: 8g (earbuds only)

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 3/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

The earbuds are housed in a minimalist white case, which looks like one for dental floss. This case doubles as one for charging, as well as a portable charger that is supposed to provide up to 24 hours of listening time. There is a Lightning port at the bottom for charging, and a small power button on its back.

As you might expect, pairing it with supported Apple devices is a cinch.

Bring the case, with the AirPods in it, close to your Apple device; flick open the cover and a window showing the AirPods will pop up on the device. Tap on Connect on the window and they are connected.

I easily paired the AirPods with my sixth-generation iPod touch, my iPhone 6s Plus, and the review iPhone 7 Plus unit.

The AirPods will automatically power up when you insert them into your ears. With both earbuds in your ears, you can listen to music. Take one earbud off and the music will pause so you can take a call. Finish the call, then put the earbud on to continue listening to your music.

Audio quality is certainly better than the normal EarPods, as well as the Earin and IconX. It provides better oomph in terms of bass. And even though the highs and mids did not reach any great heights, music sounded sharp and clear. Conversations sounded slightly muffled, but clear enough for both parties, even while I was in rush-hour traffic.

I think the AirPods are good enough for everyday use, but audiophiles will probably think otherwise.

With no buttons, you have to double tap on the earbud to ask Siri to turn up or down the volume, skip to the next track, or tell you how much battery is left. While you can reconfigure the double tap action to play or pause a track, I think it is probably easier just to change the settings on your device.

On a full charge, the AirPods lasted just over 5hr - as advertised - before I needed to put them back into the case for charging. While its battery life is much better than Earin's 3hr and IconX's dismal 45min, the AirPods could not last - as a friend pointed out - a 6hr flight to Seoul.

Trevor Tan

  • Verdict: The Apple AirPods are a convenient and capable pair of wireless earbuds for your jack-less iPhones. That is, if you can get past its rather weird looks.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2016, with the headline 'Convenient, wireless earbuds for jack-less iPhones'. Print Edition | Subscribe