They came with huge expectations. But did not really seem too different from their predecessors. So are the new AirPods, or the AirPods 2 as some call them, worth investing in? Here’s our report card on Apple’s truly wireless audio wonders:
The new Air Pods look exactly – and we mean exactly – like their predecessors. They still stick out of your ears, like EarPods without wires. And they are still available only in white. Which is a good and bad thing. Good if you liked the earlier design, bad if you did not. Now, as we said earlier, we do think the AirPods were the best truly wireless earphones you could get (http://kunzum.com/2019/25/old-yes-airpods-remain-truly-wireless-earbuds/), but their design was not one of our reasons for liking them. Yes, they remain light, and but they still fall out, and there are still not any earbud size options. For many people, they remain iconic but we really wish Apple had done something different with them. Mind you, we still think the charging case (shaped like a box of floss) is one of the most compact we have seen – the charging light on the case to indicate wireless charging is working is the only real design change we have seen on the device. We also would have liked some sort of dust and water resistance certification.
The hardware on the AirPods now includes what Apple calls the H1 headphone chip, which it claims allows you to switch between devices faster and also connect much faster. And well, it is not just a jargon thing – the buds do seem to connect in the twinkling of an eye, although they were not slow in the past either. Also on board is a wireless charging option, if you wish. However, there is no sign of active noise cancellation or isolation or controls on the buds themselves!
Ease of use: A+
What made the AirPods special in our book (read that article again, if you wish) was the fact that they were just so incredibly easily and convenient to use. Pairing them was as easy as flipping open the charging box and pressing the button on it. Subsequently, whenever you open the box, the AirPods automatically connect to your device. And removing one of them pauses whatever is playing, while reinserting them into your ears, makes the media resume. What’s more, now you can simply say “Hey Siri” to access Siri – no need to tap on the earbuds! They remain the gold standard in terms of usage, these ones.
Audio quality: A
The audio quality of the first AirPods was very good, if not quite in the league of what we were getting from the likes of Bose and Sennheiser and other Bluetooth headphones. But it still was very good and more than adequate for mainstream users who liked to listen to music and follow shows. And that pretty much remains unchanged in the new AirPods. We think the quality has improved with a slightly softer touch overall, but it is a marginal touch. We cannot see audiophiles loving them, and we cannot see general users complaining. Call quality however seems to have improved significantly.
Battery life: A-
The battery life of the new AirPods remains about the same as its predecessors – about three to four hours depending on the volume levels. However, talk time for calls has gone up to about three hours. The case will give you enough battery for 24 hours and of course now you have the option to opt for a wireless charging case too, although you will need a wireless charger to charge THAT worthy. Honestly, the convenience of the charging case saves the AirPods from criticism in this regard, but we do wish Apple had squeezed in a full working day’s battery life into these little buds by some tech miracle.
We had earlier pointed out that the original AirPods were actually priced well below what the competition offered. However at Rs 14,900 for the basic model and Rs 18,900 for the model with the wireless charging case, the AirPods 2 are definitely on the more expensive side. They are now more expensive than many of the alternatives (some of them very good ones) from the likes of Jabra and Sony. If you have the original AirPods and just want the wireless charging case, it will set you back by Rs 7,500, which is a little ouch in our books.
Final grade: A
The new AirPods do improve on the older ones but are really a marginal improvement. If you have the original AirPods, you might not find the new versions compelling, unless you make lots of calls and value the option of just calling out Hey Siri, rather than tapping on the AirPods. Yes, the sound is slightly better and the wireless charging adds a “cool” option, but we think these are a small step for the AirPods and not a giant leap for earphonekind.