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Experiencing AirPods: First impressions of Apple’s second-gen wireless earbuds after resisting the originals

When the first-generation AirPods were announced in September 2016, I didn’t give them too much thought. At the time, I was editing videos with large headphones on for eight hours per day, and the idea of swapping one set of headphones for another after work just wasn’t appealing. Purchasing a set didn’t cross my mind until one year later when Apple showed off the AirPods wireless charging case and elusive AirPower mat.

Later that fall, I took a trip to San Francisco and began to understand how AirPods might fit into my life. Spotting a set of the white buds sticking out of someone’s ears was still fairly uncommon outside of major metropolitan areas, so this was my first experience seeing AirPods worn in public. I decided I wanted to give them a try, but figured I’d wait for the wireless charging case to be released. It could arrive any day, right?

As weeks of waiting turned into months, I regretted not purchasing the first-generation AirPods on that fateful November day and enjoying them for over a full year in the interim. But by the start of 2019, even considering the “old” model seemed absurd. Needless to say, I scooped up the second-generation AirPods within minutes of their availability online.

Prior to yesterday, I had seen countless pairs of AirPods in public but never tried them on myself or inspected a friend’s set — that’s just gross. As a “late adopter,” the very nature of wireless earbuds is still as novel to me as the new charging case is to seasoned owners. Here are a few of my observations after a day of use:

AirPods 2 Case

The AirPods case is tiny

It’s difficult to get a sense of just how small the AirPods case is in Apple’s marketing photos. I imagined it to be about the size and weight of the iPad Pro’s 18W USB-C charger, but it’s much more compact and lightweight. 

Wireless charging is natural

Admittedly, I was caught off guard when I found the Lighting cable in my AirPods box. Wireless charging is so natural that I had forgotten it didn’t exist before last week. I don’t know if I would be a fan of AirPods if I had to plug in the case every night.

AirPods are more comfortable than EarPods

I was nervous that AirPods wouldn’t fit well in my ears. Had I just made a $200 mistake? My old EarPods were prone to falling out randomly. So far, I haven’t had any issues. If you’ve been holding off on a purchase for the same reason, it’s worth giving them a try. 

Podcasts are more appealing

I listen to a lot of podcasts, but only on my Mac or through my HomePod. Wired earbuds are no longer interesting post-headphone jack, and the iPhone’s speaker still isn’t ideal for extended listening. As I get used to owning AirPods, I think my podcast listening habits will shift to the iPhone.

AirPods 2 Buds

The second-gen Apple Pencil spoiled me

The matte finish and heft of the new Apple Pencil makes it feel substantially more luxurious and pleasant to hold than AirPods. The new Pencil’s battery life is pretty incredible too. I’m able to draw all morning while hardly making a dent in the battery. My AirPods, in comparison, chimed with low battery after a morning streaming Apple Music and podcasts. I understand that the battery capacity and technology between both products differs significantly, but the contrast was a little surprising. 

I haven’t embraced the double-tap gesture or “Hey Siri”… yet

Just like with the Apple Pencil, I have to remind myself to use the double-tap music controls on AirPods. My first instinct is to reach for my phone. I haven’t tested hands-free Siri control yet, but I don’t use Siri on the HomePod or iPhone that often, either. Hopefully the convenience of AirPods will help me discover more places to use it.

While I’m still thinking about how to adapt to an entirely new audio experience, I’ve been genuinely impressed by how quickly AirPods are becoming a natural part of my day. There isn’t a steep learning curve or annoying caveats to accept. It’s easy to forget I’m even wearing them. The experience is seamless, and I think that’s the mark of success.

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Avatar for Michael Steeber Michael Steeber

I’m a Creative Editor passionate about Apple Retail and design. My stories highlight the work of talented artists, designers, and customers through a unique lens of architecture, creativity, and community.

Twitter: @MichaelSteeber