Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Friday, February 24, 2017

AirPods: a review

In a reckless moment I bought a pair of AirPods, and after using them for a couple of weeks, here are my thoughts:

1) If the sound quality of my set of Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones is a 9, and that of the wired earbuds that came with my iPhone is a 4, then the AirPods’ sound is roughly a 5.

2) It’s really nice to be able to go to the bathroom, or to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee, without removing the AirPods or taking your phone/tablet/computer. If you get far enough away to lose the Bluetooth connection, and then come back into range, the sound automatically resumes at the point where the connection had failed.

3) As everyone says, they really do stay in your ears.

4) The fact that you have to worry about charging the charger as well as the AirPods themselves is an annoyance. I keep thinking: More stuff to charge?

5) When I’m out on a walk and have my phone in my jacket pocket, the connection is reliable. But it’s not always reliable when the phone is in a trouser pocket. I haven’t yet figured out whether some garments impede the sound more than others, but in any case I don’t think that should be happening. The phone is three feet from the AirPods, for heaven’s sake! Having to carry the phone in my hands is not what I want to do.

6) When I’m listening on my old wired earbuds and want to adjust the volume, I simply reach up and click the volume button on the tiny console on the right wire of the buds. To adjust the volume on the AirPods, I double-tap on one of the pods to bring up Siri. This works most of the time, but not always; and then when I do get the beep that tells me that Siri is listening and I issue my commands, she/he/it hears and executes the command most of the time, but not always. It’s faster to fish the phone out of my pocket and use the volume buttons on the side.

7) When I want to pause the sound on the old wired earbuds, I click the central button on the console. To do the same on the AirPods, I remove one of them; when I re-insert it the sound resumes. This has worked every time I’ve tried it so far, and is a really nice feature.

8) When I’m using the old wired earbuds and want to skip to the next song, I simply double-click on the central console button. On the AirPods I double-tap on one, wait for Siri to respond, say “skip to next song,” and hope it happens. My only other option is to fish out the phone, unlock it with my fingerprint, open the app I’m listening to, tap the fast-forward button, and restore the phone to my pocket.

9) When I’m out walking I am almost always listening not to music but to podcasts on Overcast. One cool feature of Overcast-on-wired-earbuds is that when you double-click on that central console button, the podcast jumps forward 30 seconds. I use this feature all the time, and there’s no way to replicate it on the AirPods. You have to take out the phone, open Overcast, and tap the little “forward 30 seconds” icon. If Siri is supposed to recognize “forward 30 seconds” as a command, that has never worked for me. So when I’m wearing the AirPods it usually takes more than 30 seconds to skip forward 30 seconds, which basically means that that option has been eliminated from my listening experience. This is frustrating.

10) I love not having to worry about keeping cords out of my way when I’m walking or running.

11) When I’m listening to music at night in bed, it’s very nice just to remove the AirPods from my ears and set them on the bedside table: removing both of them stops the music. But clicking on a console button doesn’t cost me much more effort.

Overall, it’s a very mixed bag. I use earbuds primarily for podcast listening while walking, and I just don’t think that the convenience of wirelessness compensates for the significant inconvenience of inadequate and inflexible controls. If a future software update allows for more customizing of the gestures, then the AirPods could be, for me, a success. But given that they simply can’t be adapted to my listening habits, and given the inconsistency of the Bluetooth connection, and given the very slight improvement in sound quality (which doesn’t matter in podcast listening anyway), I think I’ll be returning to the wires.

2 comments:

  • Quote: "I love not having to worry about keeping cords out of my way when I’m walking or running."

    That's easily fixed. Slip that cord under a shirt or jacket and down to your belt or pocket where the iPhone resides. It won't catch on anything. The cord will also dangle down when you take it out of your ears.

    And I agree fully about how easily the controls work with wired headsets. I do wish Apple, Samsung, or the industy as a whole would come up with an open-source way to do that, so it could be adopted by every smartphone and headset maker. It'd give users more choices.

    Standardization around what works best helps everyone. I'm reading Glen Jeansonne's _Herbert Hoover_. He notes that as Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s, Hoover pushed for industry standards for everything from home construction materials to milk bottles. The result, he demonstrated, benefited everyone. The resulting lower costs to manufacture and distribute meant that companies could sell more products at a lower price and still make higher profits.

    And while they're creating a standard headset switch, the tech industry might come up with an improved connector for headsets too, one with just the right combination of staying in most of the time and disconnecting when yanked. Not liking the Bluetooth solution Apple is trying to cram down our throats doesn't mean we have to like the current connector. I can be replaced with something better.

    I'm ticked off that neither Apple nor anyone else has the creative imagination to come up with MagSafe-like connectors for other purposes from headsets and USB, to a replacement for that gosh-awful Ethernet connector. The last was deliberately designed to be a pain to connect or disconnect so non-IT staff would find it hard to mess with their Ethernet cables. That time is long past.

    Also, increasing demands for privacy, such as the HIPPA regulations for healthcare, mean that going wireless for everything, which is what witless Apple executives seem to want, is not a good idea. No encryption scheme is perfect. If it goes out over the air, someone can crack it and extract its contents. They can also use what they discover to break in wirelessly and wreak havoc.

    The movie, "Live Free or Die Hard," may exaggerate the risks of cyberterrorism and a disaster it call a "fire sale," but it should not be discounted completely.

    "The attack procedure is known as a "fire sale", depicting a three-stage coordinated attack on a country's transportation, telecommunications, financial, and utilities infrastructure systems."

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Live_Free_or_Die_Hard

  • I think your solution is more trouble than the problem!

Post a Comment

[Basic HTML tags can be used in this comment field.]