AirPods 2 Review: Another verse, same as the first

The first AirPods found a mass market success. When they were first announced at a whooping $159.00 I wasn’t sure that they would stand as the hit that Apple wanted after Apple cut the headphone jack from the iPhone because of “courage.” Luckily for Apple, the AirPods were built with the magic that Apple had been known for and the AirPods reached that mass market success that you can see at most high schools or airports.

I knew that I wanted a pair of AirPods before they were even introduced. I was quick on the draw and ordered them as soon as Apple had them for sale. Once I got them, I loved them. They were by far the best pair of BlueTooth headphones I have tried. It was a sad day when I found that my AirPods had fallen out of my pocket and gone missing. I waited for over a year to replace them, always waiting for the new ones to come out.

Now that the new ones have released, I’ve put them through their paces. Here’s what I think about the new AirPods 2, and whether you should buy them or not.

Design

Nothing has really changed design-wise between the 1st generation and the 2nd generation unless you order the wireless charging case. For the standard pair of AirPods, everything looks the exact same: white, EarPod style headphones with a small white case. There were no new colors or textures as were rumored this year.

AirPods 2
AirPods 2

The standard case is the same as it was for the first pair of headphones, but this year Apple is offering a wireless charging case for an up charge. The two cases are pretty much the same with three changes made to the wireless one.

Number one, the charging light has been moved to the exterior of the case, instead of inside it. This allows you to make sure that your AirPods are charging when placed on a Qi charger.

AirPods Case charging
AirPods Case charging

The pairing button on the back has been moved up higher on the case. This has been done to not interfere with the wireless charging coils.

Finally, the hinge has been changed as well. The hinge on the wireless charging case is more muted silver on the back. I’ve read that the hinge also needed to change because of the wireless charging.

Other than that, the design and outward appearance of the AirPods remain the same. If the originals didn’t fit in your ears before, nothing has been changed to allow them to now. If you didn’t like the white sticks sticking out of your ear, nothing has changed with the AirPods 2

If you are waiting on a different color or different sizes, you’ll need to keep waiting or look elsewhere for now.

It’s still early days here, but I’d imagine that these cases and ear pieces will still get grimy and dirty over time unless you’re cleaning them often. I would suggest purchasing a case somewhere if you want them to look pristine in the future.

Inside the AirPods 2

Inside, things have changed. Where the original AirPods really set the standard for totally wireless BlueTooth connections and pairing, the second generation really improves on it.

The new H1 chip really does seem to bring quicker connections and changes in connection to the AirPods. Before, you might put the AirPods in your year and have to wait a few seconds before you heard the pairing sound chime through your ears. Now, it seems like I’m paired as soon as the AirPods are placed. It makes it much quicker to go from nothing to listening to music.

If you are someone that has multiple devices or someone that moves between devices often, you’ll benefit from the new H1 chip. If you don’t have many devices you move between or if you don’t mind waiting ten seconds or more, you’ll be find with the older pair of AirPods if you can find them for a discount.

Also coming with the new chip is the ability to have “Hey Siri.” Before, activating Siri required a double tap of one of your AirPods (this was something that could be changed as well). Now, you just need to mention her name and Siri is there to help. I didn’t think that having Siri available like that would be such a game changer, but it really has altered the way I use the personal assistant. If you don’t mind talking to the personal assistant in public, you’re all set. If you do feel a little self conscious, I can’t make you feel any better, but I can tell you that Siri usually can hear me even in a whisper state.

Allowing Siri to be summoned by voice frees up the double tap feature to do something else. Apple had it defaulted to Next Track on my pair, but you can set up what you’d like as long as it’s Play/Pause, Next or Previous track, or Siri. You now have more options to customize your AirPods.

Pairing

Pairing the AirPods to your iPhone still couldn’t be any easier. All you have to do it open the case near your iPhone. A screen will pop up on your phone screen and you push the button to pair and then you’re done. That’s it. If you own multiple Apple devices, your AirPods are set up on any system that’s compatible and is signed into the same iCloud account.

To use your AirPods 2 on a device other than your iPhone, you simply go to control center, Force or long press on the music widget, then press the AirPlay button to find your AirPods. Or from within the Music App or iTunes on a Mac select the AirPlay button.

Sound

As I mentioned in my preview, if you’re an audiophile you’re not going to be happy with these.

Personally, I think they sound great. The audio is clean and balanced and for something so small, the bass is strong. I know that some wish that these had an EQ or allowed you to customize the sound, and I totally understand that. Luckily for me, I haven’t really felt the urge since you can’t really set it by song. I wonder if Apple is using data to control the EQ like it does on the HomePod.

Personally, I do think that the new AirPods 2 sound better than the first generation, but I’m not sure that I can qualify that. It could just be that they are louder and have more battery. It could also be new device excitement.

Working out

The AirPods aren’t the best workout headphones. I would probably look to something more like the recently announced PowerBeats Pro if you are planning to workout in them.

That said, I do just that about every day.

I use the AirPods when I go running or lift weights. They have never fallen out of my ears unless something came close to hitting my head (like a barbell) or when I took off a sweater.

When I run with the AirPods, I have them paired to my Series 4 Apple Watch, which does not have the LTE option. This is about the only time that I’m not connected to the internet. It is also the time I really wish that I was so that I could use Siri or stream music. It is frustrating that I have Siri on every device, but I can’t use her when I’m doing something like running. I wish that Apple could turn off the feature when you aren’t connected to the internet or move Siri to the device itself.

Instead, I find myself using the “Hey Siri” command without thinking about it and waiting on my device to tell me that it can’t connect to the internet.

Other than that, I worry about how water and sweat proof these headphones are. I know in the ifixit teardown they found that there is a coating on the device to help repel water, but I’d like to see more water proofing down the roiad.

The Other stuff

AirPods don’t have to be paired with just Apple stuff, but I don’t have anything that I’ve needed to pair to a BlueTooth headset at the moment. I wish my Nintendo Switch had BlueTooth for audio, but it doesn’t. Still, if you want to see what the AirPods are like, you can still use them with a different device.

The thing that really makes AirPods great though are how versatile they are. The case is smaller enough that you can take it with you everywhere (just make sure they don’t fall out of your pocket as mine did) and they are so easy to use. They also go that extra mile and be thought out like all those exciting Apple products of yore. Taking one of the AirPods out of your ears and having the music pause is pure craziness when you do it for the first time. Or if you start with one AirPod it will set the playback to Mono since you only have 1 AirPod in. If you put the other in, it still changes to Stereo.

That’s not even to mention the ability for the AirPods to use the microphone on your phone to help boost the audio of people talking to help those with hearing loss. It’s such a great idea that I never would have thought to put in a product like this.

Wireless Charging

Other features like wireless charging are nice as well. You just have to plop your AirPods case down on the same Qi charger that you use for your phone and the chase will charge up. If you are trying to move to a cordless future, you’re going to love this feature. As it is, I’ve used it, but I have to take them out of my protective case to get them to charge that way. As it is, plugging in the Lightning Cable charges them much faster.

If we had news about the now dead AirPower charging pad I would probably recommend those getting the charging pad to get the upgraded case as well. It would only make sense.

Since the charging mat is dead, I would say you’ll have to look at how you plan to use your headphones. I wouldn’t rule out future iPhones having a two-way wireless charging coil to be able to charge your AirPod case in the future similar to the way the new Samsung Galaxy phones work with their charging case. If you want to have that ability in the future, you’re going to want to at least think about the buying the pair with the wireless charging case. If you don’t do that now, you’ll still be able to add that ability to your AirPods later by buying the Wireless Charging Case, but it will cost you more in the long run.

Bottom Line

New to AirPods

Here’s the bottom line – if you’re reading this, you’re wondering if you should buy the new AirPods 2. If you don’t already have a pair of these things, I would say -without pause – yes get them.

But then you’ll have to decide if you want to get the pair with the Wireless Charging Case or not. That’s going to be a personal thing. Do you want to have the ability to charge them wirelessly? Do you have Qi chargers around the house that aren’t being used by your phones?

The question on if you should upgrade is a different story though.

Generation 1 owners

Should you upgrade your AirPods if you already own the first generation? I would say it boils down to if you use multiple Apple Devices. If you switch devices often, you might see the value in upgrading to the newer model. Also, if you’ve had your pair since they first launched, I’m sure that your battery is terrible right now.

So, if you switch devices frequently or your battery in your current pair of AirPods are toast then you should upgrade to the AirPods 2.

If you are looking for better quality, noise-cancellation, or something else that the first pair lacked, you’ll probably need to keep waiting.

Pick up your pair of AirPods with Wireless Charging Case from Amazon here

Or your AirPods with the Standard Charging Case here

What do you think about the AirPods 2? Have you already snatched up a pair? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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