Alright. Sorry. My bad. I take back everything I might have said about Apple’s problems with innovation, and take back my crazy thoughts that Apple’s engineers spend too much time with home decorating and driving their new Teslas here to there.
I have a brand new pair of AirPods, thanks to the North Michigan Avenue Apple Store. Last week I read that some stores might have inventory arriving daily for the holidays while online ordering had already pushed back delivery to January of next year. So, I walked into the Apple Store and there they were. A couple of dozen. I bought a pair.
First up, Apple can still innovate because there is nothing like the AirPods. They pair instantly. Open case. Press Connect. None of that Bluetooth nonsense. They know when they’re in your ears and when they’re not. And so do you, thanks to an audible sound that they’re ready to go.
If you’re listening to music and take one out, then the music pauses. Put it back in your ear and the music starts again. The pop up window on your iPhone tells you how much battery power remains in both the AirPods and the charging case. It’s all based on proximity of case to iPhone. Cool. One obvious secret to differentiating AirPods to standard Bluetooth wireless earbuds or headphones is how each side is independently wireless.
Second, despite the small size and odd shape, these are earbuds that stay put. I went jogging this morning (at the Mall; this is Chicago and only the really dedicated jog outside in December) and wanted to test how well they stay in the ear. Your mileage and ear shape may vary, but they stayed where I put them. Maybe the lack of a cable prevents the tugging which often makes standard earbuds pop out.
Guess what? Siri works and seems to understand me more clearly because the microphone aims toward the mouth so maybe it picks up less ambient noise and the noise cancellation works better. Whatever it is, Siri responds better and I don’t have to repeat myself. You still have to double-tap the AirPod (either side) because there’s no always on Hey Siri… That would be a battery hog.
Caveats? Siri is still iPhone screen happy and while certain commands like play this song or that song or a playlist work fine with AirPods, too often Siri thinks you’re holding your iPhone and dumps request actions to the screen. Siri on AirPods often asks me to unlock my phone for a response rather than just tell me what I need to know. And sometimes Siri does not respond so I don’t know whether the action request is completed without checking the iPhone. Apple needs to fix that but I see other issues, too, including authentication. If someone walked off with my iPhone, potentially, Siri could give out information or perform tasks to any voice that asks, so some kind of biometric pairing of AirPod to user would be nice.
Other than the occasional Siri response mis-match, there is much to like. Sound is excellent although it seems there is less bass than good headphones or even some Beats Bluetooth earbuds, which tend to be bass heavy. What we see in AirPods is some true game changing innovation that is likely to disrupt a segment of the premium earbuds industry. There is some serious miniaturization going on here. How long before Samsung rolls out a pair of Samsung EarPods?