Though ordered over two months ago, my AirPods finally arrived last week, and I must say it was well worth the wait.
I had read enough about the AirPods to know that they would definitely be an improvement over my PowerBeats which were cumbersome to wear, and difficult to make a Bluetooth connection. The set was a total waste of money, though what I paid for them at the time was probably $60 less than the AirPods.
There are plenty of articles and videos about how to set up and use the AirPods, so I’m not going to focus on that. The purpose of this article is to explain why I find the AirPods useful, especially with my Apple Watch. If there’s one item that could enhance the Apple Watch’s functionality, it’s the AirPods, because of the way the two devices work together.
What do you think about the AirPods? Leave a comment at the end of this article.
Why I Like the AirPods
As with most Apple products, the AirPods are overpriced, but at the same time they are so much more convenient than the traditional wired earphones that it makes the extra cost somewhat bearable.
As you probably know, the AirPods’ W1 chip makes for an extremely easy single tap connection with your individual Apple devices. The set even works with my 2011 iMac. There are no buttons to push and hold, and you don’t need to fumble with putting those silly around-the-ear clips on. I understand those clips are most important for when you’re running while wearing them, but that’s not my problem. I only wear my AirPods while walking, lying in bed, talking phone, or cooking in the kitchen.
In addition, I don’t have to hassle with untangling wires, and I can easily carry my AirPods in my pockets like a set of car keys. When I’m using the AirPods, they can easily be recharged like any other Apple mobile device.
I’m also very pleased with the Bluetooth reception range. In my home, I can walk downstairs and keep good reception, and even go as far as my front yard. I have had occasions where the audio or media would suddenly drop, but if I have my Apple Watch on, I can restart what I was listening to on my phone.
AirPods and Apple Watch
The initial Bluetooth setup of the AirPods, as you probably heard, take less than 15 seconds. Holding my AirPods near my phone, the connection was instantly made. (However with my iPad, I add to actually restart the device before the connection took hold.)
When switching between the iPhone and the iPad, you have to swipe up the Control Panel to enable the AirPods. That must be done each time you change devices if you want to listen to media app. But the task is not that much different from plugging traditional wired earphones into your device.
Check out this article about why the AirPods and Apple Watch compliment one another so well.
However, what I like most is how the AirPods and the Apple Watch work together. First off, if I’m using the AirPods when I receive a phone call, I can simply tap the AirPods icon to answer the call. This saves me the trouble of taking out of my iPhone when I don’t want to speak directly into my watch during a call.
When I receive a phone call or during a phone call, I can simply grab one of my earbuds, stick it in my ear, and hold a conversation.
Also, with the Apple Watch, when one or both of the earbuds are enabled in your ear, you can simply press Play in the Music app without having to enable Bluetooth connection as you must with the iPhone and iPad. (Note: to manually enable the connection on the Watch, swipe up on the Watch screen, select the remote button, and then tap the AirPods button. )
The Watch is also a convenient way to adjust the volume when using AirPods; otherwise, you have to use Siri or your connected device to adjust the audio. I set the preference for double-tapping on an earbud to pause and play a media app.
With the Apple Watch and the AirPods I can actually leave my iPhone in my office and now listen to my music using the earphones while taking walk or cooking in the kitchen. Again, no more wires to get in the way. The same goes for listening to Voicemail messages from the Watch. Though the Watch has its own speakers, the audio is far better, of course, coming from the earphones.
It’s this kind of seamless connection between the AirPods and the Watch and that opens the door for lots of other feature and apps.
For example, I typically play podcasts using Overcast (free) because unlike with Apple’s Podcast app, I can play and control the podcast better from my watch. (In fact, the Apple’s app doesn’t have a Watch version. It’s controlled via the Music controls.) With the AirPods I now can listen to podcasts and even YouTube videos more easily because I’m not tied to the phone.
I also use another other app called WatchPlayer (free) which allows for downloading podcast episodes directly to your Apple Watch. (Thanks, Apple WatchCast for the tip.) I keep a few episodes on WatchPlayer for times when I don’t have my phone nearby.
WatchPlayer makes me wonder what are the other possibilities for audio and media interactions with the Watch that could be independent of the phone. For instance, how about the ability to voice activate the Camera shutter on your phone via the Watch, or enable voice notifications for some apps or types of messages when using the AirPods? It might be useful to get a voice notice when the Watch or iPhone battery is running low. Or maybe Siri can announce the name of a caller so you can choose to take or reject the call without looking at your phone or watch.
You can certainly voice-activate Siri on the watch, and have it open apps and get weather reports, but I would like to see more integration with other apps, now that I’m using the AirPods.
While I realize that there are other wireless earphones on the market, I try to stay within the Apple ecosystem as much as possible, especially when it means seamless integration between all my devices.
I don’t look forward to upgrading a pair of AirPods every year, but I do look forward to functionalities like the ability to swipe up and down to adjust the volume.
I also understand that AirPods are not for every Mac or iOS user, but if you don’t like the wired connection, the AirPods are a great investment.
Let me know what you think of them.