Apple’s third-generation AirPods mark the first major redesign of the popular earbuds.
Combining features that were previously only available on the Pro and Max models, spatial audio and adaptive EQ have made their way into the latest release.
The promise of longer battery life and improved audio quality was something we had to check out, and here are our thoughts on Apple’s latest AirPods.
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How do I get it and what will it cost?
AirPods (3rd generation) are available now with Apple setting up pricing within the AirPods family of products to suit most budgets, with the 2nd generation still available for purchase but discounted.
The new AirPods in our review come in at $279, which is cheaper than Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro but a tad pricier than Buds2.
However, the older 2nd generation AirPods match that price at $219, while the Pro model is $399 and Max priced at $899.
You can purchase directly from Apple, in-store and online as well as other Apple retail partners.
Who is it good for?
The newest generation of AirPods are perfect for those on-the-go who want little fuss in their choice of headphones.
As you’d expect, compatibility is seamless for iPhone users.
While we didn’t quite consider it “magical in every way” as promised by Apple, the process of setting up the AirPods with devices was very smooth.
For those who aren’t devout Apple followers, they’re also compatible with Android smartphones. Although, reviews are mixed on whether the sound quality translates as well.
The ability to share a song with another friend using AirPods was also a fun way to mix up the user experience.
Another added benefit is the sweat and water resistance, making them a hardy option for anyone who loves a tough workout or occasionally gets caught out in the rain after forgetting an umbrella.
The case is also water-resistant, giving you peace of mind if you accidentally leave it in an exposed spot.
How does it work?
If battery life is a priority for you, this is a great option. Unlike previous generations, you can easily put pesky charging reminders to the back of your mind.
In the process of this review – using the headphones for general day-to-day activities such as listening to a podcast on the bus to work, playing music while exercising and making phone calls – they only needed a plug-in after a few days.
One aspect that was frustrating though was the background noise that comes through while using the earbuds.
Despite featuring “adaptive EQ”, a car driving past in the street could still easily drown out what you were listening to.
It also seemed to be an issue with the microphones. On a number of phone calls using the AirPods, with some usual traffic noise in the background, the person on the other end complained about struggling to hear what I was saying.
Compared with the first generation of AirPods, this inability to block out background noise was noticeably worse.
However, once in a quiet place the sound quality was superb. The “spatial audio with dynamic head tracking” creates an incredibly immersive experience no matter what you’re listening to.
The contoured design felt very comfortable when sitting in the ear and managed to withstand erratic movement, such as running.
One of the best new features is the skin-detect sensor that Apple says “discerns if AirPods are in the ear — versus in a pocket or on a table — and pauses playback when removed”.
This meant not missing a vital moment in a podcast or a killer chorus from a song if I needed to pop them out for a second to talk to someone. A convenient addition.
What we think
Apple has delivered impressive upgrades in this next step forward for the AirPods. For those who use their headphones for basic day-to-day requirements, it’s a quality choice, particularly if you’re an iPhone purist who prefers to stick with the easiest compatibility.
However, if you’re someone who takes calls most of the day and likes to shut out noise when focusing, I’d recommend looking at upgrading to the noise-cancelling AirPods Pro.
They’ll set you back $120 more. It could be money well-spent if you’d prefer that business negotiation to avoid being interrupted by constant requests of, “sorry, can you repeat that?”
Apple provided this publisher with AirPods (3rd generation) for testing purposes. This did not affect our views on the device, and our review remains independent of the manufacturer.
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