The AirPods were as close as we got to an honest-to-goodness hardware surprise at today’s big Apple event in San Francisco — though anyone who heard tell of the untimely demise of the headphone jack probably could have seen this coming. Pre-Beats, at least, headphones have traditionally been something of an afterthought for the company, as anyone whose ear canals have smarted from its first-generation earbuds will gladly tell you.
These new headphones feel a bit different in that respect — after all, if you’re going to do something as drastic as killing the headphone jack, you ought to offer up more of a consolation than an in-box dongle (the first, and hopefully last, time I’ll ever write that phrase).
As the name implies, the new headphones look pretty much exactly like the company’s EarPods line, with the obvious distinction of being wireless. It’s an interesting aesthetic choice, one that bucks the recent trend of fully wireless Bluetooth headphones, which are largely circular. These maintain the EarPods’ long tail, which actually goes a ways toward helping them fit better in the ear.
As far as how well they’ll actually stay in there if you, say, go for a jog, it’s hard to say, though the buds could certainly benefit for some sort of anchoring system akin to what you get on sportsbuds from companies like JayBird.
The sound quality isn’t bad, though we’ll have to hold off full judgment until we’re able to listen to the things in a less chaotic environment than a press area after an Apple event.
There’s some interesting functionality on-board, as well. There’s a certain benefit to the Apple synergy here — in this case, they pair pretty instantly with your iPhone the moment you open the charging case (which, incidentally looks almost exactly like Glide dental floss, because good design is timeless, etc.). They feature touch functionality, as well, so you can, say, double tap to activate Siri, who will take commands via the built-in mics.
The music also stops automatically when you pull them out of your ear — definitely a nice feature that should save on battery life. Speaking of which, the company is promising five hours of life on a charge, which is actually quite good, if true, beating out the estimates of a lot of other fully wireless buds. That’s augmented by the promised 24 hours of life offered up by the charging case.
At $159, they’re not exactly cheap for a product that will feel like a must upgrade for many iPhone 7 upgraders, but it’s certainly in line with other wireless models.