There's plenty to like about Apple AirPods: No wires to get tangled, automatic pairing with Apple devices, good battery life and solid audio performance. But there are two things not to like. There's the premium price tag and the fact that they can fall out of your ears so easily. While there's not much we can do about the price, there is a low-cost solution to help keep the AirPods ($129 at Amazon) snug in your ears.
Based on a recommendation from CNET's David Carnoy (see Carnoy's list of the best AirPod accessories), for the past couple months I've been using a set of silicone earbud tips that slip over the AirPods. They have worked like a charm in keeping the AirPods from falling out. In fact, they now stay in my ears better than most of the wired earbuds I use.
The silicone tips I got were the the AhaStyle AirPods Ear Hooks. They cost less than $15 on Amazon and they come in two sizes, large and small. Even though I'm not a large fellow, I found that the large ones fit better and stayed in my ears better. By default, the $15 will get you both a set of large and a set of small to try. But you can also choose to just get two small or two large pairs for the same price. And they come in white or black.
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The best part of earbud add-ons
The beauty of this solution is that it solves the main problem: Getting Apple's hard plastic earbuds to stay in your ears. For years, the wired headphones that Apple's included with the iPhone ($900 at Amazon) -- technically called EarPods -- have never fit well in my ears and would fall out at the slightest turn of my head or tension in the wires. I'm told that the problem has to do with the shape of the cartilage in my outer ear -- the tragus.
The AirPods stayed in a little better by themselves, since there was no wires to tug on them. But adding the AhaStyle tips fixed the problem entirely, and I found them comfortable to wear.
The surprising bonus was that the AhaStyle earbuds actually improved the sound of the AirPods. As Carnoy wrote in his list of the best AirPods accessories, these silicone tips "turn the 'open' AirPods into a noise-isolating design that helps keep ambient sound out and improves bass performance."
The worst part of earbud add-ons
The worst thing about using these add-on earbuds is that you have to take them off to charge the AirPods, which fit snugly into their charging chase. And then you have to slip the tips back on when you're ready to use the AirPods again. AhaStyle includes a small silicone pouch to carry the tips. I carry both the AirPods in their case and this silicone pouch in my pocket. I found it to be a pain at first. But in terms of inconvenience, it's about the same as pulling my wired headphones out of my pocket and untangling them before sticking them in my ears.
The other caveat is that I wouldn't recommend falling asleep with these in your ears if you're on a plane or a train or somewhere else in public. Even though the silicone tips keep the AirPods in your ears remarkably well, I've had times where I fell asleep during a flight and my head nodded toward my shoulder and an AirPod popped out. That left me looking through the folds of my clothes, my seat and on the floor for the missing AirPod. Since it costs $69 to replace a lost AirPod, you have to be extra careful with these things.
Alternatives to AhaStyle, and AirPods
While the AhaStyle EarHooks are the most popular option on Amazon, there are lots of alternatives -- different designs for keeping the AirPods in your ears and lots of different colors.
One of the more interesting alternatives is Insignia's "Accessories for Apple AirPods" that include three sets of earbud tips (small, medium and large), a set of silicone hooks that wrap around your ears to keep the AirPods in place and a silicone cord that you can use to attach to the AirPods and hang around your neck so you don't lose them. These have started getting popular. I recently saw several packages of the Insignia Accessories in a Best Buy Express kiosk in an airport.
There have occasionally been rumors that a future iteration of the AirPods will offer an in-ear version that's more like traditional earbuds. That would obviously make these silicone tips obsolete because that version of the AirPods would charge with the earbuds on. However, that seems increasingly unlikely as the AirPod design has become more and more iconic and Apple's Beats brand has released its own competitor, the Powerbeats Pro, which feature earbuds and earhooks and have many of the same seamless connectivity benefits of the AirPods. Of course, at $250, the Powerbeats Pro are even more expensive than the AirPods.
And, keep in mind that there are new solutions like the 1More Stylish True Wireless ($100) and Samsung Galaxy Buds ($130) that offer wireless versions of traditional earbuds. Both are a better bargain than AirPods, but they also aren't as small and elegant as the AirPods and don't offer the automatic connectivity features for iPhone users.