If you’ve been following our blog and reading our reviews, you’ll notice that we’ve reviewed a lot of wireless earbuds from a lot of different brands.
- Vodo Vibe – 8.4/10
- Jabra Elite 65T – 9.2/10
- Jabra Elite Sport – 8.1/10
- JLab JBuds Air – 7.8/10
- Sudio Niva – 7.8/10
But one significant brand we haven’t discussed is Apple and their AirPods. Which you could argue led to the hype over wireless earbuds.
We got our hands on the 2019 2nd Generation AirPods. Based on what we’ve reviewed so far, are they all Apple hype or worth the $159?
Design – They Stand Out, a Lot
We all know Apple for their sleek, minimalist design and build quality. They do it again with the AirPods with it’s small and compact glossy, white design. The AirPods protrude into a long stem that’s actually longer in person, capped off by a silver chrome finish.
The buds and case are lightweight and made of a plastic that is a fingerprint and dirt magnet, but the build quality is excellent. It feels like a quality product. The case has got a rear-mounted pairing button and a chrome-lined Lightning port.
To me, what makes the build quality stand out are the magnets. The lid is held closed by a magnet, and flicking it open or closed is super easy. There are also magnets on the inside of the case, so if the lid does open, the earbuds won’t spill out.
It seems that Apple was going for a design that’s a bit on the flashy side to stand out from the bunch. They’ve succeeded in that because the AirPods have gone from a meme to a symbol of status. However, I’m not a fan of the design. I like wireless earbuds to look as if I’m not even wearing one, and… well, this ain’t it chief.
Comfortable, but Not Secure
The AirPods are really comfortable, a little too comfortable. At only 0.14 ounces comfortable in a way, you tend to forget you have it in your ear. And because of the one size fits all design it has and the glossy plastic material they fit isn’t secure for everyone.
The AirPods don’t cause any uncomfortable pressure, which is nice, but you always feel this anxiety that they’ll fall out, which I’ve never felt with a wireless earbud. You may see some people working out or going for runs in them, chances are it fits them well. However, if it doesn’t fit well, it really doesn’t fit well and has an even higher chance of falling out during workouts. Thanks to the Find My app you can locate them with GPS or play a sound if you do ever lose them.
How Do the AirPods Sound?
The AirPods sound decent, but the design compromises the sound.
The AirPods’ inability to seal your ears leads to a lot of problems that aren’t all that easy to get rid of when using them.
Outside noise is a massive problem. The AirPods are on the bassy side, which most people won’t hear because they don’t cancel or block out sound. When you’re in a noisy environment, they try to compensate for the lack of isolation with bass when you turn up the volume which you can hear a lot, but then the highs are subdued, and there’s a lot of noise leakage. You can listen to everything that I’m listening to, which is an uncomfortable experience in a quiet public setting.
The AirPods blow the Lightning-equipped EarPods, the ones bundled with recent iPhones, out of the water in terms of sound quality. But competitors like Jabra with their Elite 65T Active blow the Airpods out of water in terms of sound quality and isolation.
Connecting the AirPods to an iPhone is fast. Three seconds to be precise. And the initial pairing of them is effortless. The 2nd Gen is the first pair of AirPods to feature hands-free Siri.
But if that’s not for you, You can adjust the buds’ double-tap shortcuts in Settings. For instance, I set the right bud to play/pause and the left to skip tracks. But I don’t like the limitation to the double-tap shortcut. A single tap would be more efficient. And on top of that, some kind of feedback, whether sound or vibration that lets you know it senses your touch would be great. Or to take it a step further, physical buttons like the Jabra Elite Active 65T offers would be perfect, but knowing Apple, that’s probably never going to happen.
Although the main feature of the Airpods is its integration with iOS when you strip that away it lacks in the features department. It wouldn’t hurt to add fitness features and a HearThrough where you can adjust the ambient noise or just more functionality.
The Jabra Elite Active 65T is the gold standard for wireless earbuds with its four integrated microphones. But Apple’s H1 chip and dual mics are clear with minimal echo.
Apple claims that the battery will last about five hours on a single charge. We weren’t able to reach that. The overall battery life is okay compared to regular Bluetooth earbuds. If you put AirPods 2 in the case for 15 minutes, you will get up to 3 hours of listening time or 2 hours of talk time.
One thing you have to bare in mind is that because the Apple AirPods’ batteries are small. They won’t last long compared to other units. Battery cells can only go through so many charge cycles before degradation, and even moderate use of the AirPods will accelerate that. Just like all true wireless earphones, you can’t replace the batteries in the AirPods. This product will wear out within a few years.
I’m not a fan of Apple’s vision for a “truly” wireless earbud. They’re heading towards the path of a hands-free voice assistant (Siri) for functionality. And you, the user having limited input to the physical device (You can’t even increase the volume without your phone).
Since Siri isn’t that advanced yet, it holds the product back. A problem is most companies are trying to copy this vision Apple is heading towards. They think its the right one from how much popularity the AirPods have gained – I don’t agree with that. I prefer companies like Jabra’s approach. A “truly” wireless earbud should be a product I don’t need my phone for at all. I have full access to every function and feature right from the bud instead of having to use a voice assistant. Don’t get me wrong voice assistants are handy, but giving the user the option is important.
Once you strip away the “ecosystem” and the fantastic integration with other Apple products, it really doesn’t have that many features. It’s a convenience device. That’s why Apple has sold a lot of it. It just works. But it just working, won’t be enough for most people considering there are other wireless earbuds that work too but offer much more in the same price range.
Are the AirPods Worth It Or All Hype?
The AirPods aren’t known for sound quality. They’re known convenience, but that only works if you have an iOS device and ears that fit the product—otherwise, you’re spending a lot of money on something that may disappoint you. That said, they’re made for iOS users, and they still don’t offer much in terms of extra functionality. The Jabra Elite Active 65T offers an array of features like fitness tracking etc. The Vodo Vibe is super comfortable and has a great design and sound.
For an extra $50-100, you get the next best thing. The AirPods Pro. These offer everything the Airpods should have but at $250 which is still a lot of money on something that has a lot of competition below its price bracket.
AirPods (2nd generation)
AirPods 2 is expensive for what you get. You stand out from the crowd with its shiny white stems which serves as a status symbol—whether that’s a good thing or bad thing is up to you. If you’re well invested in the Apple ecosystem, they’re all hype, get them at a cheaper price or save up for the AirPods Pro.