Putting the "Air" in AirPods

I was skeptical of AirPods when they first arrived, as so many were. Would they stay in my ears? I had problems with EarPods staying in previously but hoped it was just the weight of the cord, as was often speculated.

My girlfriend got me a pair and let me open them on Monday when they arrived as an early Christmas gift and I’ve been fiddling with them since. Here we are on day three and I’ve come to fully embrace them. I first figured I’d only wear them outside when walking the dog or riding the bus, but today I tried using them all day, all over, charging in their case whenever I didn’t need them.

When we worked out on Monday with them, I kept thinking they were falling out, so I would constantly attempt to adjust without much luck. I was a bit discouraged until it hit me today: they feel like they are falling out because you barely notice they are there. Try as I may to shake them loose, they don’t.

I walked all over the house and outside with them today and loved how light they felt. At no point did they fall out, but they over time would become easier to forget about but for the stream of music that literally felt like it was playing in my head due to being able to still hear my surroundings. I know this isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for me.

After seeing the tear down of these, packed to the brim with impressively folded circuit boards and batteries, it really is an impressive feat of engineering that they are so light! I don’t know how Apple did it, but I don’t think the “air” in AirPods is just about wireless, but also about them being seemingly light as air. The MacBook Air and iPad Air got these names for good reasons, and AirPods, for me at least, are even more enjoyable for this awesome detail.

The key to adopting wireless headphones, among many things, will be to ensure people don’t find them uncomfortable. Once you get past the panic of “did they fall out?” it becomes quite apparent why they chose this design. It’s almost as though EarPods were designed with wireless in mind, and they wired them because the tech just wasn’t there yet. Sure, there are some slight physical differences to EarPods (the stem is longer and thicker) but these aren’t noticeable in your ears, and despite them they still feel just as light.

Are these the future? Maybe not this version, but while they may not be the first wireless earbuds, they certainly will bring a shift to the market I’m sure. They could use more features once the tech shrinks more (active noise cancelling, I’m looking at you!), but I’m far from unhappy with this iteration.

It may be hard for people to understand and appreciate just how light these feel until you try them. Our technology shouldn’t burden us with discomfort, rather it should integrate into our lives in a way that is nearly symbiotic. Something that is so light and comfortable that you nearly forget it’s there is pretty ideal.

Some folks dislike that you can hear things around you, but to me this is one of their greatest strengths over traditional in-ear headphones. The audio from the AirPods is typically able to go loud enough to overcome most sounds (but I would prefer to not crank it up past half way just to listen on the bus or train) and it’s useful to be able to hear cars and people around you rather than tune out the world completely.

While I am aware of “audio transparency” on headphones like the Bragi Dash, I’ve heard mostly bad reviews about this feature in reality. At the end of the day, rather than piping in the outside world through the headphones, it seems smarter to allow sound in, but provide a means to cancel it out. I suspect we’ll see this in due time, but again, the tech will likely need to shrink more to allow for good battery life.

We have an interesting future ahead of us with regards to headphones. Are these the best quality? No, but nothing this size, let alone being truly wireless, is better either. Are these for everyone? Probably not, between those who simply can’t fit them and those who demand other features, this is still a version one product. More will come, though I don’t know if I’d expect much to change in form factor. Apple owns Beats and will continue to make varying devices using their W1 chip (and possibly successors), so I’m sure there will be a pair for everyone eventually, but AirPods are exactly what I’ve been looking for.


Aaron Dippner

Software engineer who loves to nerd out about technology, home automation, gadgets and everything else.

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