The new Apple AirPod is frighteningly capable, outstandingly futuristic and outlandishly pricey.
Back in September this year -feels more like a century and half ago!- Apple announced a new connected grand vision of us going totally free from pesky wiring starting now and soon after. Free at last! To make the point ever clear and sharply pointed they additionally removed the oldy but still goody headphone jack from their future devices, and announced 4 new wireless headphones, with the cream of the crop being, of course, the Apple AirPod. Forget the name though cos this baby won’t get you a cozy pad in the clouds or thereabouts. But it is still Apple-guaranteed to leave your jaw drooling on the floor when it starts flexing its quite considerable muscles and exhibiting its expansive charms.
So what is the AirPod? If you have ever used Apple products, specifically its famed Earpods, then the new baby is a slightly different, a little fatter and totally wireless version. And I mean TOTALLY wireless as no wires either at the front or sneakily joining the pods together at the back are present. Connection with other devices and each other is done via ultra-long range and effective Bluetooth, courtesy of the inbuilt and totally magic W1 chip. I know I have long been embarrassingly gushing over the W1 chip, but permit me to gush some more. The new chip magically boosts Bluetooth connection from the usually dwarfish 30+ feet to near 150 feet of absolutely rock-solid, unbreakable Bluetooth connectivity no matter the environment you are in. And revolutionary doesn’t do quite enough justice in its description nor adequately explain what it is really capable of.
As to be expected, Apple’s announced vision caused chaos and excitement aplenty, while other device manufacturers soon followed the Apple lead and announced the phasing out of the 3.5mm jack on their own mobile devices. Consumers on the other hand eagerly awaited the new ear companion Apple solemnly promised them would lead to a brave new world like it was the coming of Christ. Now after unforgivable delays and rollout push-backs, we were lucky to get our grubby hands on one.
To start with, they look perfectly ordinary; like my irresistibly irascible niece had stylishly cut off the wires to the Earpods perpetually glued to her rather elfish ears. Apple seems concerned about scaring people off by unveiling a weirdly futuristic monster and has thus retained the old, familiar look guaranteed not to send devotees running for the hills. Slip the pods in, and the feel is comfortable if somewhat loose. The AirPod comes naked with none of the familiar differently sized fins and earbud wingtips/fins we are long accustomed to for more optimal fitting of different sized ears. One size must fit all seems to be the new Apple motto. Thus, it would be advisable to test them out before actually buying them or be forced to tape them into your ears to avoid losing your prized possession. While being advertised as sweat-proof and hence for the exercise crowd, it is anything but such courtesy of its so-so fit. The fitting is the only serious point against the newfangled Apple gizmo and while not a turn off is still a blinking red light warning you should heed. Additionally, the design is open-air, meaning of course that background noise and chatter do creep in.
The AirPod comes in a carrying case -white of course- that doubles as a charging point good for all day charging, and that magnetically locks in the AirPod so that not even a bouncy ride in a desert dune buggy can shake them loose. Its closing lids are additionally magnetic, ensuring further device protection and durability. And did we mention how oh-so-small it is and able to fit into practically any pocket?
Pairing the AirPods with any Apple device is easier than sucking on a cherry-flavored lollipop. The first time you carefully open up the carrying case like it’s a case of hundred-year old scotch, a screen will materialize on your iPhone screen requesting you to do the needful and connect to it. And that is all as they will always seamlessly connect every time you take them out of their coffin, sorry case. With all needed tweaking and fine-tuning being done on your mobile iOS control center because of course the AirPod lacks buttons of any sort. After that first pairing, AirPod availability will be on iCloud for all your Apple devices, and it will autonomously know which one you are currently getting high on audio with. The AirPod additionally works on the heretic Android and Windows OS devices as well as Mac OS Sierra computers, though not without sacrificing some features, usability, and functionality. But still boasting far more overall performance than the majority of its other Bluetooth competitors currently on the market.
Double tapping on any of the AirPods will additionally either pause audio playback or summon Siri from her cave. She can be as useful as she is frustrating and additionally capable of adjusting the AirPod settings for you rather than you having to pull out and flash your 24K gold-plated Apple iPhone in public. With built-in accelerometers and proximity sensors, the pods additionally know when they are removed from your ears and will instantly pause playback, saving battery life.
Audio performance is largely the same as the Earpod since according to Apple the internal components are largely identical. Still, the low end feels much more detailed and improved than those of its predecessor. Bass is fine, but lacking the oomph to turn you into a wildly gyrating, mindlessly sensual being. Latency is very low as each AirPod independently receives its own Bluetooth signal, with the W1 chip handling the syncing like a boss. Similarly, when making or taking calls, the AirPods performed flawlessly, with callers often remarking how clear my voice sounded in even noisy market environments.
Apple promised us 5 hours of marvelous wireless playback and they definitely weren’t kidding as the AirPod astonishingly lasted that long. Popping them in into their case to charge up was a delight too with fast top-up times. Price is $159, and you must additionally cough up $69 if you do inevitably misplace one and need a companion to the other.
The Apple AirPod is a mind-blowingly capable if expensive piece of future tech that delivers totally solid performance. If you don’t mind the occasional somewhat loose fitting and want to hear the future now, then go knock yourself out and get your pod in the sky.