Nearly a month after the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus were released, qualms about the lack of a headphone jack on Apple’s new smartphones have died down. That’s likely because people are making do with the 3.5mm headphone jack adapter that comes in the box.
It’s either that or a lot of people are opting for Bluetooth earbuds. Well, you’ll be able to get a pair from Apple, and they’re specifically designed for the company’s products thanks to the W1 chip. Apple’s AirPods were supposed to launch toward the end of October, but they have been delayed.
Here’s everything you need to know.
Price and availability
While Apple never unveiled a firm release date for the AirPods, for a while its website listed the end of October. Now TechCrunch reports Apple is delaying the launch.
“The early response to AirPods has been incredible,” an Apple spokesperson tells TechCrunch. “We don’t believe in shipping a product before it’s ready, and we need a little more time before AirPods are ready for our customers.”
It’s unclear what the issue is, and Apple has not offered any more information on when the earbuds will be released.
The AirPods don’t come with the iPhone 7, and they’re fairly expensive at $160. But the price is in the range of other fully wireless earbuds currently available, most of which typically start at $250. There are a few other options closer in price and function to Apple’s AirPods, notably Bragi’s The Headphones.
Heaven forbid you lose one of the earbuds, but if you do, don’t worry. Apple will sell both earbuds individually, but the price for one earbud hasn’t been disclosed.
The W1 chip
Apple wants to get rid of wires, and the W1 chip inside the AirPods helps get the company closer to that vision. It’s the brains of the AirPods and improves the efficiency for almost every function. It makes pairing with your iPhone faster and easier, and it manages power better so you get a longer battery life.
When pairing, all you need to do is open the carrying case for the AirPods, and if your iPhone is nearby you’ll receive a notification asking if you want to pair the two. It’s that simple.
The chip also makes wireless transference of your audio more efficient, and that means the earbuds can get about five hours of playback time per charge.
The W1 chip isn’t only in the AirPods, but also in several other Apple products like the Beats Solo3 Wireless, Powerbeats3 Wireless, and the Beats X. Even with the W1 chip, all these devices including the AirPods still use Bluetooth, meaning you’ll be able to pair them with non-Apple devices.
To pair with non-Apple devices, press the button on the carrying case.
Apple’s shower head-shaped AirPods are still similar in design, comfort, and sound in comparison to the wired earbuds that came with previous iPhone devices.
Both earbuds have dual optical sensors that sense when they’re in your ears to pause and play music, and there are dual-voice accelerometers that can detect when you’re speaking. Each earbud for the AirPods are packed with two microphones, an antenna, a battery, and the W1 chip.
Since each earbud has all that tech, you can use one without the other — all audio will automatically be routed to the earbud you decide to use.
Once you pair the earbuds to your iPhone, it will automatically pair with your Apple Watch and Mac if they’re running the latest software — watchOS 3 and macOS Sierra.
Don’t expect great audio quality with the AirPods — wired headphones and earbuds are typically better in this regard. Still, wireless earbuds have been catching on for a while and they will only get better.
What else can the AirPods do?
Apart from listening to music, you can trigger Siri with a quick double-tap gesture on either of the earbuds. Unfortunately, the only way to change the volume for music is to ask Siri or use your phone. Asking Siri to do it will pause your music, which can be annoying.
If you don’t care for having Siri at your fingertips, you can set double-tap to simply play or pause music in the Bluetooth settings page. If you’re getting a call, just tap once to answer.
The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus may be waterproof, but that doesn’t mean the AirPods will be. They’re capable enough to prevent rain or sweat from ruining the device, in case you’re using the AirPods at the gym. But anything more than that may damage the earbuds.
Battery and charging
The downside with wireless earbuds is that you have to charge them — yep, yet another device to charge. The AirPods come with a carrying case that can charge your earbuds when you’re on the move — it can offer up to 24 hours of listening time. The earbuds themselves will only have five hours of playback time per charge.
To charge both the case and the earbuds, all you need to do is plug in a Lightning charger to the case.
We’ll keep you updated on the AirPods, and when they will be released.
Article originally published in October. Updated on 10-26-2016 by Julian Chokkattu: Added news of delays for the AirPods’ launch.