X

Apple AirPods are nowhere near as ridiculous as they look

The internet is unanimous: nooooope. But the AirPods are worth a listen. Seriously.

Scott_Stein.jpg
Scott_Stein.jpg

Scott Stein

See full bio

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

audite-001.jpg
1 of 45 CNET

You may have heard: Apple wants you to go wireless with the iPhone 7. The wacky-looking AirPods are its house-brand effort to persuade you.

audite-002.jpg
2 of 45 CNET

The AirPods go on sale in October and will cost $159, £159 or AU$229.

audite-003.jpg
3 of 45 CNET

They come in this dinky case. Just flip the lid up...

audite-005.jpg
4 of 45 CNET

...and brilliantly, the AirPods automatically connect to all Apple devices running iOS 10 or Mac OS Sierra.

audite-004.jpg
5 of 45 CNET

AirPods look ridiculous. I get that. I knew that from the moment I put them on.

audite-006.jpg
6 of 45 CNET

Seriously, they're like hipster vape jewelry.

audite-007.jpg
7 of 45 CNET

But the simplicity of the connection is some impressive secret sauce -- no other Bluetooth headphones can do that, except Apple's new Beats.

audite-008.jpg
8 of 45 CNET

Just place the AirPod case next to the phone and it pairs.

audite-009.jpg
9 of 45 CNET

Even better, the headphones are then paired to all the compatible Apple devices you own via iCloud.

audite-010.jpg
10 of 45 CNET

The buds are no bigger than the Lightning ones you get with the iPhone 7.

audite-011.jpg
11 of 45 CNET

They're not just for iPhones either -- they'll work with any Bluetooth-enabled phone, tablet, computer or other wireless device.

audite-012.jpg
12 of 45 CNET

I paired them with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, and they worked fine for music and calls.

audite-013.jpg
13 of 45 CNET

But when used with Apple devices, you get some extra special features, such as auto-pairing and swapping ears.

audite-014.jpg
14 of 45 CNET

Many Android phones have a similar "tap to pair" function. We've rarely seen that work as well as the autopairing on the AirPods, but it's similar in concept.

audite-015.jpg
15 of 45 CNET

They fit just like Apple's free-in-box white earphones. It's one size fits all, and tough luck if they don't. They do at least come with different sizes of tips.

audite-016.jpg
16 of 45 CNET

I jumped around, hopped, tried jogging in place, and they stayed on.

audite-017.jpg
17 of 45 CNET

This really is all you need to do to pair them.

audite-018.jpg
18 of 45 CNET

They charge via this Lightning port in the case.

audite-019.jpg
19 of 45 CNET

You just need to get used to swapping the buds back into the case when you're not using them. And don't expect to listen straight through on, say, an intercontinental flight.

audite-020.jpg
20 of 45 CNET

Besides the AirPods, Apple is making three other headphones equipped with the W1 chip -- the hardware that enables that cool autopairing, and that also helps with low-power battery use.

audite-021.jpg
21 of 45 CNET

Those three Beats models Apple announced are larger and the earbuds aren't independently wireless. But BeatsX (which haven't arrived yet) is almost the same price, and has double the battery life (10 hours vs. 5). Those could be the better choice for workouts.

audite-022.jpg
22 of 45 CNET

This has been an emerging market over the past year, with at least a dozen announced or available wireless options from large manufacturers like Onkyo and Samsung, and smaller startups like Doppler Labs and Bragi.

audite-023.jpg
23 of 45 CNET

Like a little vape pipe. Caution: Do not give these to small children.

audite-024.jpg
24 of 45 CNET

Once paired with one device, the AirPods will work with all of them.

audite-025.jpg
25 of 45 CNET

The microphones in the AirPods don't connect to all apps. I was able to record a voice memo, but I couldn't wear one and shoot a video of myself. That might change by the time they go on sale.

audite-026.jpg
26 of 45 CNET

Five hours of battery life isn't much.

audite-027.jpg
27 of 45 CNET

But I didn't feel like they were about to run out -- they recharge quickly.

audite-028.jpg
28 of 45 CNET

Attempting to style it out. Hey -- if you don't think about what you look like, it's totally fine.

audite-029.jpg
29 of 45 CNET

Where they really come into their own is with the Apple Watch.

audite-030.jpg
30 of 45 CNET

Little. White. Different.

audite-031.jpg
31 of 45 CNET

Not to be confused with medication.

audite-032.jpg
32 of 45 CNET

They do sound good -- I can't yet say they're the best because we're still comparing them with rivals. But they're priced competitively, almost identical to the better "wired wireless" headphones like the BeatsX and Bose SoundSport Wireless.

audite-033.jpg
33 of 45 CNET

With AirPods and iOS 10, if a call comes through, you can answer on either the iPhone or Watch and just start talking. You can use them for running and listen to music. Whatever you need. With the Watch, they're seamless...or, almost seamless.

audite-034.jpg
34 of 45 CNET

Sometimes I would hear a bit of a click, and I realized the AirPods were now paired to my other device.

audite-035.jpg
35 of 45 CNET

Occasionally, I sometimes had to swipe up and pick AirPods like you would select Apple TV in AirPlay. So, not always magical and seamless. But they still felt like the buds Apple should have sold with the Watch all along.

audite-036.jpg
36 of 45 CNET

There aren't many remote controls. You can double-tap on an AirPod to activate Siri, or turn that control into play/pause in AirPod's settings.

audite-037.jpg
37 of 45 CNET

But you can't adjust volume, or do the variety of things you can do with the basic in-line Apple EarPod remote. I kept reaching for my phantom remote all day long, but it wasn't there to help me.

audite-038.jpg
38 of 45 CNET

I put one in my ear and one in someone else's and we listened to music. The earbuds turn on via proximity sensors, and off when you take them out.

audite-039.jpg
39 of 45 CNET

But you can't share a pair for phone calls. I tried, and it always defaulted to just one AirPod, whichever was put in someone's ear first.

audite-040.jpg
40 of 45 CNET

You can use just use one by itself, to take phone calls. Either bud will work the same way, and it'll switch seamlessly if you change earbuds. It's pretty clever. But you can't play music this way: both buds need to be in.

audite-041.jpg
41 of 45 CNET

With one bud -- either one -- you still have a perfectly functional monaural wireless headset for making calls. But that's about it, so don't lose them. This may be a problem.

audite-042.jpg
42 of 45 CNET

They mostly stayed connected, but I still heard audio pops from time to time. Not as many as I usually get with Bluetooth headphones, but they were still there.

audite-043.jpg
43 of 45 CNET

Apple doesn't make any water-resistance claims on these AirPods. They should be fine for workouts, but if it starts to rain, I'd pop them out in a hurry.

audite-044.jpg
44 of 45 CNET

They're on sale sometime in October -- we don't have a firm date yet.

audite-045.jpg
45 of 45 CNET

And they'll set you back $159, £159 or AU$229. Be sure to read our full Apple AirPods review here for all the good, bad and --let's be serious -- weird.

More Galleries

2022's Best TV Shows You Can't Miss on Netflix, HBO, Disney Plus and More

More Galleries

2022's Best TV Shows You Can't Miss on Netflix, HBO, Disney Plus and More

93 Photos
The 40 Best Games on Nintendo Switch

More Galleries

The 40 Best Games on Nintendo Switch

41 Photos
Movies Coming in 2022 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More

More Galleries

Movies Coming in 2022 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More

80 Photos
2023 Toyota BZ4X Is a Smooth, Comfortable Electric SUV

More Galleries

2023 Toyota BZ4X Is a Smooth, Comfortable Electric SUV

33 Photos
The 51 Best VR Games

More Galleries

The 51 Best VR Games

53 Photos
55 weird objects seen on Mars, explained

More Galleries

55 weird objects seen on Mars, explained

57 Photos
2022 Audi E-Tron GT Looks Super Cool In Tactical Green

More Galleries

2022 Audi E-Tron GT Looks Super Cool In Tactical Green

40 Photos