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 can now 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 after a two-month delay, they’re finally here. TechCrunch first reported that Apple was delaying the launch.
Here’s everything you need to know.
Price and availability
As of Tuesday, December 13, Apple Airpods are now available to order online for $159. They won’t be delivered until December 21, but that’s still in time for the holidays.
“The early response to AirPods has been incredible,” an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch at that time. “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 was unclear what the issue was, and Apple did not offer any more information.
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, many of which 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.
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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 respectively.
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, but 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.
Article originally published in October. Updated on 12-13-2016 by Lulu Chang: Added news of AirPods’ launch.