Apple Delays AirPods Headphone Launch
During Apple’s iPhone 7 event in September, the company announced an upcoming set of ear buds, to launch at the end of October. Unfortunately, Apple is now unsure of the release date, listing “coming soon” on the retail site. With AirPods now possibly missing the holiday season, are they worth the hype? Should you save up for a new year purchase? The new buds promise to eliminate the cord, but also offer seamless device transition and Siri integration.
Before venturing too far into the article, let’s take a step back to catch you up, regarding the headphone vocabulary chart. “Ear buds,” are any small in-ear headphones, typically wired. “EarPods,” are Apple’s proprietary wired ear buds, that come with iPhones and iPods. “AirPods,” are the new Apple EarPods, that connect wirelessly to Bluetooth and Apple devices.
In fact, the AirPods are almost exact form factor replicas of the EarPod. With an exact shape and relative size, the AirPods are an extremely familiar unit. Early reviews, like the one below from Engadget, indicate if the EarPods fit well, so will the AirPods.
AirPods are the wireless variant and charge via a portable case. The units can expect up to 5 hour battery life on a single charge, can recover 3 hours of battery life with a 15 minute quick charge, and receive more than 24 hour battery life with the charging case.
The true “magic” for AirPods is connectivity. Thanks to a custom designed Apple W1 chipset, the units can pair with other Apple devices and switch quickly between them. Device transition is one of the big annoyances plaguing current Bluetooth-only ear buds. With Bluetooth only, a pairing dance must occur to switch from one device to another. Where the W1 chip comes into play, is being able to switch easily from device-to-device using a software switch.
AirPods also recognize when you are talking, thanks to an onboard accelerometer. Then, a pair of beam forming microphones filter out anything but your own voice, to ensure Siri hears clearly and calls go uninterrupted. More over, an IR sensor inside the bud notices if the unit is actually in your ear. If not, the other AirPod will continue to operate. Consequently, you can listen/talk in one AirPod at a time, which is great for calls or even podcasts.
The AirPods have a lot of good things going for them, but considering wireless ear buds start around $75, the $160 price tag for Apple’s AirPods is a little tough to accept. The easy connectivity and charging case go a long way to accepting the higher value, but better sound quality will probably be missing. Essentially, a convenience tax and Apple’s premium brand are probably the main drivers in the price point. You will have plenty of time to decide as Apple slowly determines when they will hit store shelves.