Apple AirPods UK Review: Still hard to beat

Apple AirPods UK Review: Still hard to beat

AirPods are the first completely wireless earphones from Apple, and they’re sold as the perfect companion to the iPhone 7.

In many ways, they’re still the best wireless earbuds you can buy, thanks to a rock-solid connection, easy setup and great battery life.

Then there’s the competition to consider. Since the Airpods were announced, there have been plenty of new challengers on the scene, but none quite measure up.

Apple In-Ear Bluetooth AirPods - White £159.00 amazon uk(Check current price)

Design - Apple AirPods Review

Announced alongside the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, the AirPods were intended to silence anyone who didn't like the lack of a headphone jack on the new Apple phones.

Yet, after using these dinky wireless buds constantly for a few weeks, it seems too easy and a little unfair to boil what is essentially a fantastic product down to a few ‘funny’ online pictures.

Initially, my biggest concern was the odd design. AirPods look like someone has taken a pair of scissors to the cord of EarPods, leaving just the lonely buds.

They look just like Apple’s older earphones – the ones you got with your iPhone, and hopefully replaced with something much better – except the stem is slightly elongated to accommodate improved microphones. Some will think they look odd protruding slightly from your ears like an über-futuristic Bluetooth headset, but I don't mind about that.

They’re surprisingly subtle when you’re looking face-on and although they do look a bit odd from the side, and I’m sure I’ve seen some lingering looks from passers-by, but I don’t feel quite as self-conscious wearing them as I thought I would.

My bigger concern, though, is fit, because what use are earphones this small and delicate if they just fall out? For me, they fit perfectly and nestle comfortably into my ears. I can vigorously shake my head and they’ll refuse to fall out – same goes for if I accidentally knock them.


Sound quality and Siri - Apple AirPods Review

If you plan on buying the AirPods because you’re looking for a sound experience that’s on par with the price, then don’t bother. But I can’t see anyone doing that.

EarPods were often lambasted for their meagre sound, and while there is some definite improvement here, they’re far from what would describe as ‘great sounding headphones’.

As with lot of these completely wireless earbuds there’s a noticeable lack of crispness in instruments and detail in vocals. But, there’s a lot more bass when compared to the older EarPods and most sub-£100 earbuds. The bass isn’t too harsh either, and it doesn’t overshadow the other parts of a song. I’d say the bass is much more manageable than Beats cans, which often ruin genres of music that aren’t hip-hop.

Music with a very engineered sound – chart pop, for example – actually sounds quite impressive and there’s plenty of clarity in electronic beats that you wouldn’t get on EarPods. Pump the volume up to full whack and this will quickly disappear, but that’s hardly a surprise.

Issues do arise when running with the AirPods, as ambient noises overtake the audio thanks to poor sound isolation. If the AirPods aren’t stuck right into your ears, it’s easy for other noises to wash away the sound.

I love my Bose QC35s and I know our Homes Editor Ced swears by Sony’s excellent MDR-1000X, but even the best Bluetooth headphones still suffer issues. Audio is prone to cutting out when you put the phone in your pocket, and pairing is a cumbersome affair of pressing buttons and hoping the connection is made.

Pairing is a simple task of opening the battery case, popping them next to your iPhone and waiting. A message will appear, tap ‘connect’ and you’re done.

What’s even cooler is that those AirPods are now connected to every other iPad, MacBook and Apple Watch signed in with your iCloud account. I opened up my MacBook and there they were, sitting in the Bluetooth menu.

Range is excellent too, and audio never seems to drop, which isn’t something you can say about Bluetooth which as a technology is prone to momentary drops and digital blips.

There are a bunch of accelerometers inside, too, just like an iPhone. These know when you put the AirPods in and start the music, and they pause when you remove one. You can keep one bud in the case and all audio will be routed through the one in your ear.

Tap on the centre and Siri will pop up too, but due to Siri still being mostly rubbish I can’t say I use this feature much. Apple’s voice-assistant is still too slow and misunderstands me too often to make it worthwhile to stick with, and having it be the only way to skip tracks and alter the volume without reaching for my phone is annoying. I would like some virtual controls on the buds, but we’ll have to wait for version 2 for that.

They are not exclusively for iPhones and iOS either, with Android support being decent if not quite as good. You won’t benefit from the easy setup, or Siri integration, but the connection is still rock-solid and battery life just as good.


Battery life and charging case - Apple AirPods Review

While audio quality isn’t one of the AirPods’ best attributes, battery life certainly is. Apple’s claim of five hours worth of juice per charge for the buds is almost bang on, though this does drop a bit if you’re on the phone a lot.

Five hours might not seem that impressive, but you’ve got to take into account the included charging case can fully charge the AirPods about five times. This gives you around 24 hours when all’s said and done, which is quite a lot better than the competition.

Once the case is dead, plug in a Lightning cable and it’ll juice back up. It’s all very seamless.

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Should I buy Apple AirPods? - Apple AirPods Review

Many, including me, instantly dismissed Apple’s first foray into wireless earphones almost immediately after they were announced.

But they are in-fact one of the best pairs of completely wireless earbuds available. They’re cheaper and better sounding than Motorola’s Verveone Plus, better looking than Sol Republic’s Amp Airs and have a stronger, more reliable Bluetooth connection than pretty much every other pair of wireless headphones.

Apple In-Ear Bluetooth AirPods - White £159.00 amazon uk(Check current price)

Verdict - Apple AirPods Review

Sound quality might not be on par with the price-tag, and some will still bash the design, but I think the complete package wins out. Ultimately, the Apple AirPods make me excited for what Apple can achieve with their next version as the first attempt could still do with a little improvement.

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