In my January 2017 review of Apple’s AirPods, I called them “the best wireless earbuds I’ve tried — by a lot.”
I’m happy to say my conclusion still holds with the second-generation AirPods, which are improved in areas that I didn’t realize needed improving.
Apple introduced the new model — also called just “AirPods” — last month.
Outwardly, the AirPods look identical to the originals.
The design, battery and sound are the same. If you were hoping for different colors, keep hoping. They still come in white only.
The touch controls remain so users can play and pause songs or answer phone calls. The battery case looks the same, but there are some new options.
What has changed is the circuitry inside.
Apple introduced a new chip called the H1 that brings a bunch of under-the-hood tweaks in performance.
According to Apple, the H1 delivers two times faster switching between devices (like an iPad or Apple Watch) as well as a faster and more stable wireless connection. If you are a gamer, the new AirPods offer up to 30 percent lower gaming latency (sound lag).
The H1 also offers one and a half times faster connections for phone calls and — most important for me — it enables voice-enabled Siri.
I found the AirPod’s implementation of Hey, Siri to be a game-changer.
The response when I said, “Hey, Siri” was almost instant.
I really don’t use Siri much on my iPhone, but in my testing for this review, I started trying to test the limits of what it could do for me, and I was impressed.
“Hey, Siri, play the Rolling Stones.”
“Hey, Siri, set the volume to 30 percent.”
“Hey, Siri, create a note called Shopping List.”
“Hey, Siri, add toothpaste to my shopping list note.”
“Hey, Siri, read some news.”
All those commands were performed perfectly and faster than I expected.
Sure, all those things can be done without AirPods, but I usually keep my phone in my back pocket, so wearing AirPods means I can interact with my iPhone much easier.
I’m getting used to doing more hands-free tasks.
I’ve been an AirPod user since they were introduced, and at times I’ve experienced slow connection. Sometimes I put an AirPod in my ear and don’t hear the “connection chime” at all. I have to take the AirPod out and reinsert it. It doesn’t happen every time but often enough to be a bit annoying.
The new H1 chip has really improved the responsiveness of the AirPods.
They just feel snappier.
They connect every time. And they feel more solid and refined.
I’m hearing the same great sound, and now I have more confidence in their performance.
I was happy with the old AirPods’ performance, but I didn’t know what I was missing.
More battery life
The H1 chip is also an energy saver.
The AirPods can offer up to five hours of music listening on a charge. The battery case can keep the AirPods playing for more than 24 hours. These times are the same as the original AirPods, but talk time for phone calls is increased from two hours to three hours.
The new AirPods are available with the standard charging case ($159.99), which uses a Lightning cable to charge, or with a battery case that charges wirelessly ($199.99).
The AirPods I reviewed had the wireless battery case, and it was a snap to charge. I’ve been wirelessly charging my iPhones for a few years, so I already have wireless chargers at home, in my car and on my desk at work.
Now when I get home or to the office, I just set them down on the charging pad for a top off.
Apple says a 15-minute stay back in the battery case will give the iPods enough charge for three hours of listening or two hours of talk time.
The wireless charging case can be purchased separately for $79 for use with the original AirPods.
The wireless case is the same size as the old case, but the LED has moved from inside to outside on the front so you can see the LED come on when you set it down on a wireless charger.
Connecting the AirPods to your iPhone could not be simpler. Just bring them close to each other, and your iPhone will pop up a dialogue box asking whether you’d like to connect.
The AirPods will also then be paired to all your compatible devices using the same Apple ID.
AirPods can also be used with non-Apple Bluetooth devices. There is a button on the back of the case to put them into pairing mode.
Checking the battery life is as easy as bringing the AirPods close to your iPhone and opening the case. You’ll see a battery status dialogue showing the charge level of the AirPods and the case.
If you liked the old AirPods, you’ll like the new ones.
Apple clearly likes the design. It tested thousands of pairs of ears to come up with the design that would fit most people comfortably.
If you were hoping for a different design or different sizes or colors, you’ll be disappointed.
I find the AirPods comfortable and easy to use.
The response is fast enough that if my iPhone rings and I don’t have the AirPods in my ear, I have plenty of time to take one out, put it in my ear and answer the call.
I’m wearing the new AirPods more than ever and looking for new ways to use them.
Pros: Good sound, simple setup, solid performance.
Cons: Not many. They are a bit expensive.
Bottom line: The AirPods remain my favorite Apple product.
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Jim Rossman: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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