How I Finally Learned to Love Apple's AirPods

When Apple revealed its AirPods — the increasingly widespread wireless earbuds that look like someone ripped the wires out of the EarPods that the company packs with every iPhone — I scoffed. Specifically, I could be found at every corner, saying, "They look so stupid! Bluetooth stinks, and I don't want to give up my headphone jack!"

Today, I stand ready to eat crow: Not only are AirPods (actually) good, but they're also some of the best things Apple's made in years.

Give Pods a Chance

So, what made me consider this product I'd written off? One morning, before I was about to get on a plane and get out of town, a pair of cheap (yet portable) headphones I was gifted years ago died.

Then, in my head, I heard the voice of Tom's Guide multimedia producer Nick Bush — who's also a music producer — who'd been talking up the quality of the AirPods to me. So, I thought it wouldn't be a bad idea to give them a chance, even if rumors suggested a new model was coming out soon.

Everything began so delightfully, as using the AirPods' is remarkably effortless. After I unboxed them and popped open the lid on their charging case, a setup window jumped onto my home screen. This seriously beats the traditional Bluetooth headphones process: opening the Settings app, tapping the Bluetooth menu and turning the power on for a pair of buds.

With all the friendliness (and none of the creepiness) of Microsoft's Clippy, a small window popped up and suggested that I click Connect. And with that, the tiny, white buds were paired. This is the kind of simplicity that Apple was once known for, before the days of Siri and butterfly-switch keys.

Then, came the nearly miraculous moment when I realized how light these buds felt in my ears. Sure, they're called AirPods, but how did Apple manage to make them feel so airy, though still secure enough that I never worried about them falling out? It's a miracle of industrial design.

With the AirPods in my ears, ready to rock, I pressed Play on my daily playlist, which was set to Shuffle. Instantly, the delicate flutes of Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" fluttered into my ears, soon backed by the track's signature horns. Having used Apple's own earbuds for so many years — and writing a column in my college newspaper about their poor quality, back in 2006 — I was shocked at how good the AirPods sounded.

AirPods don't deliver the strong sound I get with my prized Beoplay H6 (2nd Gen) headphones, but that's not always a top priority. The AirPods' incredible portability cannot be beat, especially when on long trips.

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Over the next week, as I trekked around England — from Wolverhampton to London to Brighton and back to London — I rarely worried about charging the AirPods' case, which charges the buds themselves. Sure, after a few days of solid use, I would see the case hit 30 percent or so, and then I'd use the same Lightning cable that I use to charge my iPhone, and the case would be charged again before I knew it.

And I never, ever used my wired Beoplay headphones, the backup pair I brought, keeping them stowed in my luggage, as putting away AirPods is as easy as tucking their case in the fifth pocket of my jeans.

Why AirPods Are Apple's Best Product in Years

Back to my claim, though, that AirPods are at the top of the mountain among Apple's latest and greatest. I don't need to explain why the AirPods beat Apple's less-successful HomePod (which is still struggling to find a fandom), and while the recent iMacs and MacBook Pros have seen some success, those are merely iterative and less than revolutionary. The AirPods, on the other hand, are the first pair of Apple-branded headphones that are worth buying.

Also, while AirPods cost a whopping $159, that sticker-shock-level price is nothing compared to the $999 iPhone XS and $1,099 XS Max, which make the $749 iPhone XR seem affordable by comparison. And those phones don't offer the utter simplicity that AirPods give you, instead making you relearn how to use your iPhone (just as the millions who have read our How to Close Apps on the iPhone XS article have done).

Yes, the Apple Watch Series 4 is the first major update to the wearable, but that device's appeal is more niche. The AirPods solve a common need — listening to music with privacy — rather than seeking to enhance your health and fitness.

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So, if you, like me, live in the Apple ecosystem but have yet to drop the $159 on AirPods, you need to give them a chance. Not only do they work with iPhones, but they also work with Macs, MacBooks and all other Bluetooth devices, including Android phones. I'd give a stronger recommendation if Apple decided to roll out a new pair, with even stronger Bluetooth connectivity or longer battery life.

Credit: Tom's Guide

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.