Categories
AirPods Apple

Second Generation AirPods: A Review

Technology affords various things to occur, instant communication, in-depth research, and personalization. This last one has become expected by many users. Instead of getting the same experience as everyone else, users have come to expect that their experience will be different than most others. With that customization comes the need to be able to partake in that personalized service apart from others. One way that this is possible is through the use of headphones. There are a large number of headphones from different manufacturers available. These headphones also come at various price points.

Somewhere on the higher end is Apple’s wireless earbuds, the AirPods. Apple’s first AirPods were announced in September of 2016 and were released in December of the same year. In the more than two years of availability the AirPods have gained popularity and have become more and more common.

Apple released the second-generation of their popular wireless earbuds on March 20th. You could place an order for the second-generation AirPods, with or without the wireless charging case, for delivery between March 27th and the 29th. When I found out there was a new pair, I immediately ordered a set, with the Wireless Charging case. My delivery date was between March 27th and March 29th. However, it seems like I am destined to have issues with my first pair of AirPods for each generation. At least that has been the case for my first generation as well as this generation.

The Issue

As I mentioned above, I ordered the AirPods on March 20th, for delivery on the 27th. UPS attempted to deliver them on the 27th, but I was not home at the time. I was notified that they it could not be delivered and would try again the next day. I knew that I would not be home on the 28th either. So I asked to have it delivered to a UPS store, so I could pick it up from the store.

I went to the UPS Store on the 28th, and they indicated that they did not have it. One of the UPS employees called corporate support to make sure that the package would be delivered on the 29th. This took about 15 minutes on the phone with them. The support person indicated that the package should be there on the 29th. The UPS Staff member who helped me indicated that they typically receive packages around 11:00 am. I figure, okay, I can pick them up then. So I go back to the UPS store on the 29th, again no package. While I was at the store a UPS truck drove up, and a staff member asked if they had any packages for delivery, but they did not. At that point the UPS Store staff indicated that I had to contact customer services and start a claim for a lost package.

So I drove home and then called UPS customer support. After explaining the situation the representative and the story, the representative indicated that the package is considered “lost” and that I could not initiate an investigation, the shipper had to do that, so I would have to call them.

I called Apple and explained the situation. The Apple representative needed to get some information to start the investigation. When Apple initiates an investigation, they refund the money and then handle the issue with UPS. So I got my money back, which is fine, however I did not have a pair of AirPods. To go with this, the second-generation AirPods, at that time, would take 2 to 3 weeks before they should ship.

I looked to see if I could a pair and pick them up from the Apple Store, but no nearby Apple Stores had the AirPods with Wireless Charging case. However, my local Apple Store did have the AirPods and Wireless Charging case separately, for “Pickup Today”. This is the route I ended up going. It cost more, but I was able to get them sooner.

I am disappointed in that UPS manage to lose a package, I know things happen and that the number of packages that end up lost is probably way less than 1, given the number of packages that they deliver. I recognize that it was just my turn to have this happen, but it seems like it should not have disappeared given that it arrived back to the depot. Now, onto the actual review.

Second-Generation AirPods

If you were given a pair of first-generation AirPods as well as second generation AirPods and you were asked to tell the difference just by looking at them, you would not be able to do so. That is because there is no physical difference between the two generations. All of the changes have been inside the AirPods themselves.

I do not use my AirPods the entire day while I am at work. However, whenever I am at home I generally am using them. The second-generation AirPods have an all new wireless chip, called the H1, which is specifically designed for headphones. This replaces the W1 wireless chip present in the first generation.

The benefits of the H1 over the W1 start off with offering 30 percent lower latency and is Bluetooth 5.0, instead of Bluetooth 4.2 with the first generation. This directly translates into one of the most noticeable benefits of the second generation AirPods, faster switching between devices.

It is not often that I switch devices, however there are instances when it does happen. With the first-generation AirPods it seemed like it would take an awfully long time to have the headphones switch. During my testing it is approximately 7 seconds for the switch to occur between two iOS devices. When switching from an iOS device to a Mac, it is a bit longer, closer to nine or ten seconds. In reality this is not a long time, but in today’s fast-paced world it can seem slow.

With the second-generation AirPods, the switching has been significantly improved. When going between iOS devices the amount of time is less than half, at about 3 seconds. When switching between an iOS device and ac Mac it is about half at five seconds. This is a significant improvement and a very welcome one.

The H1 chip also enables an additional feature, Siri.

Hey Siri

Siri is Apple’s digital assistant and now Siri can be with you in your ears. This is the case with other earbuds as well, but only if an iOS device is nearby. With Siri in the second-generation AirPods, your phone does not need to be near by in order to use the digital assistant. That is not the case with the second-generation AirPods.

When you activate “Hey Siri” on the second-generation AirPods, Siri will be activated on the device that the AirPods are connected to and it will use that device to process the Siri interactions.

If you have multiple iOS-based devices and say “Hey Siri, all of them might light up but only one will respond. The devices will determine who has precedence and that device will handle the request. If you are a household that has a HomePod, it will typically be the HomePod that will handle the request. The second-generation AirPods will now also participate in the determining precedence of devices. Specifically, the AirPods will take precedence over all devices, including the HomePod.

This order makes sense given that if you are using the AirPods and want to use Siri you likely want to use the AirPods to handle the request. You can still manually trigger Siri on a specific device if you want that one to handle the request. What would be even better is if you were able to set different trigger phrases for different devices. This could be a selection from a pre-defined list.

Charging

The first-generation AirPods created an interesting take on charging headphones. Whereas most wireless headphones require you to plug in a cable to charge them, the AirPods used the case as the charger. The AirPods themselves charge via induction while in the case. The case itself would have to be charged via a lightning cable.

For the second-generation AirPods, this changes, but not necessarily for everyone. With the second-generation AirPods you have the option of purchasing them with or without a wireless charging case.

The wireless charging case is a Qi-compatible charging case. This means that you can use any Qi-compatible pad to charge your AirPods case. Having a wireless charging case does change things a bit. The case itself is a bit heavier as well as bit bulkier. The differences ar slight, and may not be noticeable.

There is one other change with the case. In order to know the status of case and the earbuds, the AirPods case has an indicator light on it. For the first-generation AirPods this was under the top and in between the two AirPods. With the non-wireless charging case you could connect a lightning cable to the case and then flip the case open. If you did this, the indicator light would stay on indefinitely. This is not a scenario that would occur for most users, however it would occur for some.

The location of this indicator light has changed with the Wireless Charging Case. The light is now on the front of the case. This is necessary in order to be able to quickly see the status when the Wireless Charging case is on a Qi-compatible charging pad.

You might think that with the light being on all the time would be a problem. But Apple has anticipated this and the light will turn off after about 10 seconds. This is the case for either wireless charging or when you plug in the Wireless Charging case to a lightning cable.

Closing Thoughts

If you already own a pair of first-generation AirPods, then it may not necessarily be worthwhile upgrading to the second generation. There are of course some exceptions to this. If you purchased the AirPods when they were first available the battery is not likely as strong as when you first got them, so purchasing the second-generation may be a sound investment.

Right now, if you want to purchase a pair of second-generation AirPods with the Wireless Charging case, you will have to wait for a bit. The second generation AirPods with Wireless Charging case will currently ship in 3-4 weeks, when ordering from Apple, although they may be available for pickup from your local Apple store sooner than that.

As a side note, as of this writing, UPS is still trying to locate the package. You would think that given that their entire business is built on package delivery and tracking that they would be able to find the package, but it does not seem to be the case.

Categories
AirPods Apple

Apple Releases a new set of AirPods


It is not often that Apple gets into a new product category, but they did just that back in September of 2016 when they unveiled a whole new product line for them, AirPods. In the 2 1/2 years since their announcement, they have been a very popular product and one that delights the users.

Today Apple has released the successor to the original AirPods, the second-generation AirPods. There have been some changes to the AirPods, but there are some things that has not changed. The biggest of these is the design. The AirPods are still the small and wireless headphones that you have come to love. The second-generation AirPods still have 5 hours of battery life on a single charge, charging them for 15 minutes will give you three more hours of battery life, and the case still provides 24 hours of battery life for our AirPods. Even with all of the changes, some things have been changed.

Changes

There are a few new features of the AirPods though. The first is that the AirPods now have longer talk time. A full charge will provide 3 hours of talk time, This is an hour more than the original AirPods. The longer talk time on a single charge also means that a quick charge of 15 minutes will result in two hours of talk time, and the charging case can provide up to 18 hours of talk time. The quick charge is twice as much talk time, and the case can provide an additional 7 hours overall. This is a great improvement, particularly for a product so small.

There is another change that should be mentioned, you can now use the trigger phrase “Hey Siri” and your AirPods should respond. This is done via a setup on your iOS device or your Mac. This is an optional feature that does not need to be configured, if you do not want.

The third change is around the case. There is now a wireless charging option. The charging case will work with any Qi-compatible charger. This includes any of your existing charging pads. Even though there is a wireless charging case, you can still charge the wireless case via lightning.

The last change with the AirPods is one that you will not see. The second-generation AirPods hav a brand new chip, called the H1. This chip is designed specifically for headphones. The H1 enables the longer talk time as well as ability to use “Hey Siri” on them. The last improvement with H1 is that switching devices is twice as fast with the H1 chip, versus the old W1 chip in the original AirPods.

Pricing

There are two different price points for the second-generation AirPods. You can buy a pair of AirPods starting at $159. This will get you a pair of second generation AirPods, and the standard charging case. If you want to get a pair of AirPods with a wireless charging case, that is a bit more, $199 to be exact.

If you have a pair of AirPods and would like to use wireless charging on those, there is an option for that too. You can buy a wireless charging case on its own for $79.

Closing Thoughts

The second-generation AirPods sound like they will be a great improvement over the first-generation model. Only time will tell if that is the case. You can order a pair of second-generation AirPods, with or without the wireless charging case, as well as the standalone wireless case today. The new AirPods will be available starting next week.

If you do order, you can also have them engraved if you would like to add a custom engraving. As with other Apple products, the engraving is free, however it will extend the delivery time to 2 to 3 weeks.

As of publishing, the AirPods with wireless charing case have a 7 to 10 day delivery.

Source: Apple.

Categories
Apple

Technology Disasters

No matter how hard we try, we cannot stop all technology issues from occurring. We have all had our share of technology disasters. Through the years, I have had my own share. I have managed to lock myself out of countless computers, and I have even managed to delete some important files, this last one we have probably all experienced from time to time. One of the things that I do is take care of my devices. I cannot say that I am perfect with my gadgets I have had my share of issues.

I have managed to ding a couple of devices, most notably my original iPad, a cracked iPhone screen, and a scratch on a Series 0 Apple Watch. There is one product where I have had worse luck than others: the iPod nano. Besides experiencing the scratched front of the first iPod nano, I have managed to One of the other things that I have managed to do is lose an iPod. This was also an iPod Nano. Maybe I just have bad luck with iPod Nano. I have yet another story to add to the already existing list.

The Ordeal

So last Wednesday, just after 9 a.m. I went and used the restroom. After I was done and the toilet was flushing, I leaned over and I managed to lean over just a bit too far, and my AirPods fell out of my shirt pocket and straight into the toilet. Yes, you read that correctly. And before you think anything, the water was clean.

At first, as with most other times when something similar happens, you go “Wait, really?”, and I quickly tried to grab them out of the toilet. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful. If I would have been at home, I might have had a chance, but since I was at work, there was no hope due to the increased water flow. After realizing that what I hoped did not happen, actually did happen, I washed my hands, and went back to my desk.

If a single AirPod had dropped down a sewer or elsewhere I could have contacted AppleCare and paid for a replacement, or if I was able to reach it, I could have used a magnetic screwdriver or other magnetic tool to grab the AirPod, sadly that was not the case.

I already knew that getting a new pair of AirPods would not be very likely given that Apple’s own shipping stated a 6 week order time. I had resigned myself to not being able to get a new pair anytime soon. I went looking on all sorts of websites to see if I could find any in stock, or relatively in-stock soon. This included the usuals: Amazon and Best Buy. Then I thought about it for a minute and realized that there was a site, Is In Stock and I looked there. As suspected, they said “Notify When Available”.

I took a chance and looked at each of the sites listed. All of the sites either said “Not Available”, or “add to cart” with delivery at a future date. I took a chance and ordered from one of the sites. An hour or so after I ordered, I contacted their chat help to see if they had any in stock. Lo and Behold, they did infect have “an stock”. I take it that either the chat representative mistyped or English is not their first language. At this point, I was pretty confident that I would be getting my replacement AirPods this week. Luckily, they actually arrived on Saturday, so I now have another pair of AirPods. Even though I only spent a few days without them, I do have a few observations about having to return to using the wired EarPods.

Observations

During my few days having to return to using wired headphones. First off, wires are evil. They get tangled too easily in things, they are a hassle, and without an adapter, you can’t charge and listen at the same time.

Of course, the EarPods do have some benefits, most notably that you can continue listen if you take an EarPod out, however, I have become accustom to it stopping when I remove an AirPod, so this behavior was a bit different to have to return to.

Having my Beats Solo 3 as a backup came in very handy. While the AirPods are very convenient, the bigger battery of the Beats Solo 3 Wireless allows them to to last for a quite a while. If I had not had them, I would have likely run home during my lunch and retrieved a pair of wired EarPods.

Once you become accustom to the AirPods, it is difficult to go back to using wired headphones.

Final Thoughts

I fully realize that me losing my AirPods is 1) entirely my own fault, 2) a “First World Problem”. I will not deny either of them in the slightest. Strangely, I had the AirPods for exactly 120 days, this came out to about $1.33 per day. Was it worth the price, yes. However, I do wish the cost per day would have been amortized over the course of a couple of years, not 120 days.

I am glad that I was able to get another pair so quickly, otherwise it would have been tough to deal without them. Even in the short time that I have had them, I have come to rely on them. One thing that I will no longer be doing is putting AirPods in my shirt pocket. Instead, they will go in my side pocket or I will leave them somewhere else. If you are interested in the AirPods, now is the time to order them since it may take up to six weeks to arrive.

Categories
Apple Review

AirPods: A Review

I, like many people, am constantly using my iPhone. The most common thing that I am doing with my phone is listening to audio. I can be listening to podcasts, audiobooks, or even just music. If you encounter me out and about, there is a 90% chance that I will have headphones in my ears. Headphones are one of the things that I will most likely have on me at all times. This has been the case since around 2005 when I got my first iPod; the iPod Mini.

That is not to say that I did not use headphones before, far from it. I used to listen to cassettes as well as CDs, and I even had a 32MB, yes, 32MB, Diamond Rio MP3 player. Since cassettes, CDs, and the Diamond Rio MP3 player were all around well before smart phones, I had to use wired headphones in order to listen to my music. Given that I am constantly listening to something, a good and comfortable set of headphones is an absolute must for me.

I should go without saying that I have had a slew of different headphones over the years. This does include a couple of bluetooth headphones as well. As with many people, once I find a pair of headphones I like, I will continue to buy them until they are no longer available. Luckily, my headphones of choice are Apple’s EarPods. Even though I have always had a phone that has AppleCare with it, I have not always gotten my headphones replaced under the warranty and instead opted to buy additional pairs.

History

One of the items that almost any Smart Phone needs is a way to listen to audio. All Smart Phones have at least one speaker in order to provide audio feedback. Most Smart Phones include a pair of wired headphones in with the phone. Apple’s iPhone is no exception. Apple has been including headphones with some of their products since 2001 with the introduction of the first iPod. Apple has modified their headphones in the intervening 16 years.

The second set of headphones that had a different shape were the Apple In-Ear Headphones that were introduced in September of 2008. The In-Ear Headphones consisted of three different size inserts that would allow the user to determine the best fit. The In-Ear headphones differ from the Earbuds by being ones that provide a seal inside the ear.

The shape of Apple’s earbuds remained the same from 2001 until September 2012, when they introduced the EarPods. The EarPods were developed by scanning thousands of ears and creating what is a shape that would fit the largest number of ears. It does not fit every year, but they do fit most.

With the release of the iPhone 5, Apple introduced a new connector, the Lightning connector. This connector is the one that is still on the iPhone, as well as the iPad, iPod Touch, and iPod Nano. With the release of the iPhone 7, Apple announced a radical change, the removal of the headphone jack; a staple that had been there since the release of the original iPhone in 2007. Headphones are still included in the box, as they have been since 2007. The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus now include EarPods that have a lightning connector instead of the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack.

AirPods

At the same event as the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus introduction, Apple also introduced their first Apple-branded wireless headphones, the AirPods. The AirPods have the same shape as the EarPods, just without the wires. This is actually a bit of an understatement, the AirPods are actually much more than just a simple pair of wireless headphones.

Wireless

Traditionally, when one thinks of wireless headphones, they picture a set of headphones that do not connect directly to a device with wires, but still have a wire connecting the two different earbuds. That is not the case with the AirPods. Many headphone manufacturers provide Bluetooth headphones, but they have a wire connecting the two ear pieces together. This is not the case with the AirPods. There is not even a charging cable that connects to the AirPods. The AirPods are truly wireless.

The Wireless aspects to the AirPods are provided by a custom chip that Apple has designed; the W1.

W1 chip

The AirPods incorporate some proprietary hardware, Apple’s W1 chip. The W1 chip, as I explained in my review of the Beats Solo 3 Wireless headphones:

The W1 chip is an Apple designed chip that is specifically for being able to quickly pair with any iOS 10 or macOS Sierra device. The W1 chip also enables is the syncing of the pairing information between all of the devices using the same iCloud account.

The synchronization with iCloud is designed to allow your devices to automatically switch, without having to go through the tedious, “un-pair”, “re-pair” dance that is typical of Bluetooth enabled devices.

And this is entirely the case for the AirPods as well. Both the Beats Solo 3 Wireless headphones and AirPods use the same W1 chip; as does the Power Beats 3, and the Beats X will as well, when they are released. As mentioned, the W1 chip is more than just a standard Bluetooth chip. The W1 provides some new functionality; particularly the ability to more easily switch between devices.

The W1 Chip does more than just provide easy syncing. The W1 Chip is also able to relay to an iOS device how much battery power is left on each individual AirPod.

The W1 Chip is responsible for the ability to take an AirPod out and have the audio that you are listening to pause. This functionality is not possible if using the AirPods as a traditional set of Bluetooth headphones. However, the double-tapping of Play/Pause does work while using the AirPods as traditional Bluetooth headphones.

The AirPods are still traditional Bluetooth headphones and can be used with devices that are not running iOS 10 or macOS Sierra. As a matter of fact, they can connect to anything that supports Bluetooth. In order to sync with a non-iOS 10 or macOS Sierra device, perform the following steps:

  1. Enable Bluetooth on the device.
  2. Open the lid on the AirPods case.
  3. Press the synchronize button on the back of the case.
  4. On your device tap on the AirPods.
  5. The AirPods should connect to your device.

The Case

One of the things that is most needed for any pair of wireless headphones is the ability to charge. How would you charge a pair of wireless headphones? With the AirPods, they are charged within their own case. The AirPods case provides more than just charging. It is also the mechanism for synchronizing the AirPods with your device.

The synchronizing of the AirPods with your device. The pairing process is simple.

  1. Place the case within a few inches of the device
  2. Open the lid of the case.
  3. Wait a few seconds, a popup will appear. The AirPods are now paired

The pairing is really that simple. The pairing information for the AirPods is synchronized to all iOS 10 and macOS Sierra devices that are attached to the original paired device.

There is one thing to note, the case itself is not enough to be able to check the charge of the AirPods. At least one AirPod must be in the case for the charge of the battery case to be visible. This is true whether the AirPods are connected to an iOS device or a macOS device.

The AirPods case has a few magnets inside of it. Two of them are to pull the individual AirPods into the case to allow for charging of the AirPods. The second magnet is on the front of the case and is used to close the case, and doubly secure the AirPods inside of it. When you snap shut the case, it makes a satisfying click.

Battery Life

Besides being the pairing mechanism, the case is also how you recharge the AirPods. The headphones have up to five hours of charge. The headphones can be used independently. Once the AirPods reach 10% of battery power left, they will chime to indicate that they are low on power. When they are low on power, you can put the headphones in their case for fifteen minutes. When this is done, the AirPods will get another three hours of charge time.

During my usage, I was able to get about four and half hours of listening time out of the AirPods before needing to recharge. Since I keep the charging case with me at all times, it is not an issue to be able to quickly charge them up.

The total time need to fully charge the AirPods is approximately an hour. The case is capable of charging the AirPods for a full 24-hours of listening time on a single charge of the case. If the AirPods are inside the case when charging the case, the AirPods will also be charged at the same time.

At any point, you can check the charge of your AirPods. On your iOS device, simply use the battery widget to see the current charge. On a device running macOS, you go to the Bluetooth settings in System Preferences, or the menu bar if you have Bluetooth in the menu bar, and the charge should be visible.

Alternatively, if you have an Apple Watch, you can also check the battery levels of the AirPods with your Apple Watch. If you have the Battery complication and if the AirPods are connected to a paired iPhone, you can tap on the Battery complication and the AirPod battery life should be shown.

Switching Devices

In order to switch devices with the AirPods, you simply go to the Bluetooth menu, and select the AirPods, they should connect. During all of my usage, there were a few times that the AirPods did switch between devices. This includes going between an iPhone 7 Plus, 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 2016 MacBook Pro, and 2011 iMac. The only time that the AirPods did not switch was trying to connect to my Apple Watch Series 2.

It should be noted that you do not have to pair the AirPods to other iOS and macOS Sierra devices, provided all of the devices are on the same iCloud account. Once they are paired, the AirPods should be available on your devices.

Controls

One of the aspects of the AirPods is that they have no wires. The lack of wires means that you have limited control. There is actually only one function; double-tapping on one of the individual AirPods. With an iOS 10-enabled device, you can set what action the double-tap gesture performs. To select which action the gesture initiates perform the following:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap on to Bluetooth.
  3. Click the information button next to the paired set of AirPods to open the settings.

Here you have a few options that you can set.
You can set the name, the double-tap gesture, enable or disable the automatic ear detection, and you can set some microphone options.

For the double-tap gesture you have three options:

  • Siri
  • Play/Pause
  • Off

The default action is to use Siri, but if you want to change the double-tap gesture, simply tap on the one that you want to use.

The Automatic Ear Detection is an option that allows the AirPods to automatically pause when they are removed and resume playing when they are put back into your ears. The play/pause functionality of ear detection can be triggered by removing just one AirPod. The microphone settings are the last option. On this screen you can choose which AirPod is used for the microphone. The default option is “Automatically Switch AirPods”. You can also choose to always use the left or right AirPod, depending on your preference.

Issues

As mentioned above, my experiences with the AirPods has not been 100% perfect. I have experienced a few issues with them. The biggest has been that they will not, no matter what I do, pair with the AirPods. After messing around with the AirPods for a while, I was able to the AirPods to Connect. The only way I was be able to do this was by disconnecting the AirPods from every device and then pairing with the Apple Watch Series 2. At this point, they were finally able to connect.

The most common issue that I have experienced has been the few times that the sound has cut out entirely. This happens for no explicable reason. I was listening to some music when out of the blue, the AirPods disconnected. They were not low on power, they had plenty of charge left.

While listening to a variety of audio, I sometimes get distortions in the audio. During these times, I am not more than a few feet away from my iPhone when this happens.

Feature Requests

There are a couple of things that I would like to see for a future software or hardware upgrade of the AirPods.

Additional gestures. Besides the current double-tap, a triple-tap gesture could be implemented. The only possible downside is that sometimes the current double-tap gesture is not always recognized.

This request is one that could be implemented a bit more easily; Next track. This could be added as an additional option, even with the existing double-tap gesture. Some might wonder what would happen with the Play/Pause option. Well, the Play/Pause function is already taken care of by removing an AirPod. This option could be easily added with just a software update.

Final Thoughts

The AirPods have actually made listening to audio much easier. Instead of having to worry about getting wires tangled wherever I am, I am able to leave my iPhone in one place, and walk all over the house without needing to have my iPhone on me.

Overall, the AirPods are the best earbuds that I have ever used and easily the best Bluetooth-enabled earbuds as well. I have not compared them to the Beats Solo 3 Wireless headphones yet; that may be another comparison post in the future. If you have any mobile device that can support Bluetooth, the AirPods will work. You will not get some of the benefits, but they are still some of the best wireless headphones that you can buy.