On Monday, Apple’s controversial—and still hotly anticipated—AirPods hit stores in limited numbers, just in time for last minute holiday shopping. The headphones have a retail price of $159, coming with a one-year warranty and charging case.
Is that a little bit steep of a price for headphones? Maybe, but Apple has still made a significant step forward with the AirPods.
When creating the AirPods, Apple showed a clear concern for the user experience, addressing some common behaviors of the discerning music listener. For starters, sensors in the devices can detect when they’re not currently nestled in your ears and turn off your music accordingly. Just removing one bud will temporarily pause music similarly to unplugging headphones on existing phones.
The AirPods also offer integration with other Apple devices, almost instantly pairing upon activation in a way not seen with Bluetooth technology. Additionally, they work with Siri, activating with two taps and providing an integrated microphone for issuing voice commands.
That said, the obvious convenience of wireless headphones belies some of the physical flaws of the AirPods. Despite a minimalist shape, Apple has taken a “one size fits all” approach that may not satisfy certain users. Admittedly, I haven’t tried them myself (and am mostly just trying to get a sense of where consumers stand on the AirPods), but surprisingly, several reviews have seemed to indicate that the devices are much more snug than the wired EarPods that have come standard with past iPhones.
And they’re pretty strong, too. Though Apple has not mentioned anything about the AirPods being waterproof or stress-resistant, consumer tests (warning: video!) reveal that, for their techy, futuristic aesthetic, they’re also pretty darn rugged. Both the AirPods and the requisite charging case have weathered the dreaded washing machine without damage as well as enduring a fall from the top of a ladder.
Speaking of the charging case, early reviews have been praising the lengthy charge time of the AirPods. Granted, there’s not too much of a precedent as far as wireless headphones are concerned, but Apple is clearly trying to ease the transition between wired and wireless as smoothly as possible, and integration with existing charging devices is probably one of the better ways to do this.
So what’s the verdict? Despite a truly ridiculous level of outcry over the removal of the headphone jack from the iPhone 7, it’s currently looking pretty good for the AirPods. That said, they’re definitely not perfect; the sound quality is still only about as good as standard EarPods and the price tag may give some Apple fans pause. However, it’ll be interesting to see what Apple does with them next; they certainly represent a step into the future of wearable devices and are more than just a way to prevent cables from getting tangled.