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AirPods are Cool

 

Maybe I’ll do a little more writing here on the blog or elsewhere this year. I’ve meant to note lately that I’m really very much liking my AirPods.

Among the write-ups I’ve read around the internets, Steven Aquino’s review resonates strongly with my own thoughts, especially the idea that they’re just fun to use. There’s some real magic in the way they pair and in how nicely they tell my iPhone or Mac to pause when I remove one. For me, using them with Siri is a little hit or miss: I’ve found the right amount of pressure to double-tap with to activate it but not smash the thing into my ear, and can usually speak quietly to change the volume, pause, skip tracks or start a phone call.

When there is some background noise, however, Siri doesn’t always catch the command; likewise if I just mis-speak or if Siri just isn’t feeling cooperative, then the whole thing can hang up and leave me digging in my pocket for the phone. Right now, where it’s winter in the high country, this may mean stuffing a glove under my arm, wrapping the dog leash around my waist, and grumpily poking at my iPhone curmudgeonly. (A note about wearing these in winter: Right now I’m tucking them under a warm hat much of the time, so the fit is nice and snug. But in very cold weather, the metal antennae of the AirPods are quite efficient cold conductors. Chilly ears.)

The ease of use of the AirPods + case means that I basically am taking them everywhere with me. I never did that with wired ear buds. As a result, I find that I’m listening to more music and lots more podcasts than compared with a few weeks ago: A quick walk with the dog means five or ten minutes with a show or some tunes, and I’m really enjoying that.

Weaknesses

In my use so far, the only place where the AirPods don’t feel like a rock star must-have is for voice calls. This is a big part of my use case, as I work from home quite a bit and spent a lot of time on the phone. AirPods do give me a lot of flexibility to walk around while on a call and make it quick and easy to get on the phone (no more untangling ear bud wires after fishing the things out of my bag). But: 1) Voice call battery time is not good: Compared to five hours of listen time, I get, max, two hours of phone time, even when I’m mostly on mute and only occasionally using the mic on my end. This leads to the awkward dance of putting in one AidPod while the other charges, then checking the charge every once in a while, and swapping ears to re-charge the active *Pod. Not optimal, but I get that it’s not the primary use case for most. And, 2) Not regularly, but frequently enough to be a distinct problem, the phone will stop sending the call to the AirPods and revert to phone audio. Resolving this is a matter of re-selecting AirPods as the audio destination, but it’s annoying and sort of worrying that this happens at all, much less once or maybe twice a day if I’m on the phone a lot or on a particularly long call.

So, overall I’m pleased as can be, really liking these tiny magic things and the way they fit into my daily life now. It’s fun to have a cool and somewhat delightful Apple experience these days.