Apple AirPods 2

Review – Apple AirPods 2 are a Positive Step Forward

Review of Apple AirPods 2
  • External Design
  • Apple H1 Chip
  • Hey Siri Functionality (Ease of Use)
  • Battery Life
  • Sound Quality
4.8

Summary

Without question, I highly recommend the Apple AirPods 2. They are some of the best wireless earbuds you can buy and while they are on the expensive side, the ease-of-use and performance make them worth the price of admission.

When Apple released the Apple AirPods 2, the second generation of their wireless earbuds, the main focus was on the wireless charging. It seemed everyone was hyped about the release as it was a sure lock that we would see the unicorn that was the Apple AirPower wireless charging mat.

But now we know that isn’t the case. AirPower was cancelled about two weeks after AirPods 2 were released and if you want to do wireless charging of them, you have to look elsewhere. So with that, did it kill the only reason to get the second generation AirPods? Especially if you have the first generation?

In my view, no. There is enough of a difference in features, performance, and battery life to justify the purchase or upgrade to this generation. It is admittedly harder for those looking to upgrade from gen-one to gen-two but it isn’t an over stretch, particularly if you can get a pair without the wireless charging case. Those are $159 while the wireless charging case adds $40.

I’ve had the chance over these past couple of weeks to use the Apple AirPods 2 and I’ve collected my thoughts on them. In a nutshell, I think they are worth the price of admission and a solid upgrade to what has proven to be a solid product for Apple.

External Design

The first thing that will strike most readers is that the second generation AirPods look identical to the first generation. And you would be right. The earbuds themselves are identical in either generation and only minor changes have happened to the appearance of the AirPods case. This is actually a good thing as it speaks to just how right Apple got the design on these earbuds. I never was a fan of the wired earbuds Apple provided for ages with the iPhone. They were too light in my ears. I’ve never had a problem with either generation of AirPods doing this so they work for me.

The changes to the case that comes with AirPods are subtle but important. First, there is a slightly improved hinge on the case but it still has a smooth feel and hard “snap” when you close them. It’s a minor change really and most people won’t be fussed with it. The second change is that the charging indicator has moved from the interior of the case to the exterior. That’s a big deal because now you can see if you are AirPods are charging at a glance without having to actually open the case.

Wireless Charging

As I said in my opening comments, the biggest feature most people were anticipating about the second generation of Apple AirPods was wireless charging. It is here even if AirPower is not. With the new AirPods, you have Qi charging built into the case. Qi is the standard that is used for iPhones already and dozens of Android devices. As I mentioned, the ability to wirelessly charge your AirPods costs you an extra $40. Is it worth it? In my opinion, not really.

First, wireless charging of the new AirPods is slow. Really slow. It charges at 5W, less than the 7.5W of the iPhone and it takes a full three-and-one-half hours to fully charge the case. That’s a long time when you compare it to the two hours it takes if you charge them via a Lightning cable (Yes, the wireless case still has a Lightning connector). If you really like wireless charging and have a few charging pads around your home or office, then go for it. If not, I’d save the $40 and get the second-gen with the non-wireless charging case.

Apple H1 Chip

The biggest change on the internals of the Apple AirPods is the introduction of the new H1 chip. The first generation AirPods ran on the W1 which is the line that eventually ended up powering the Apple Watch (the W2). Apple, being Apple, went back to the drawing board and developed a chip specifically for the headphones and we now get that in the H1. So what does it do for you?

First, has much lower latency so delays when playing games or even on calls should be much less of an issue. To be fair, I never had much of an issue on the first generation in this regard but some did. Your mileage may vary.

Second, faster switching between devices is now possible thanks to the H1. Apple claims that it is 50% faster from switching from your iPhone to say your Macbook. While it may be faster, you still have to go through a few gyrations to get everything going like opening up Bluetooth settings and selecting AirPods on the device you want to connect. It doesn’t really feel any faster to be honest because of these extra steps.

Third, you now have Siri at the sound of your voice. No more double-tapping of an AirPod! When you have your AirPods connects to your iPhone, all you have to do is say “Hey, Siri” and say your command. You will know that she heard you when you get a “uh-huh?” reply back in your ear. It is handy for sure and now allows you to customize both earbuds to focus only on music for example, by having play/pause with a double-tap of the left AirPod and a move to the next track by double-tapping the right.

Apple AirPods Settings
Apple AirPods Settings

Fourth, battery life improvements. The H1 gives users a full extra hour of talk time – 3 hours versus 2 in the first generation. This is a big deal for those who do distance running wearing their AirPods or for those like me who are constantly using them on phone calls.

Finally, the H1 chip improves sound quality, particularly in windy environments. Personally I never had any sound quality issues with the first generation and always found them to be excellent so there really isn’t much new, for me at least, on the second-gen product. That said, I do find the audio quality when listening to music slightly improved.

Pairing and Using

Fundamentally, nothing has changed in the way you pair your Apple AirPods to your iPhone. If you have never setup a pair, it is quintessential Apple ease-of-use. First, make sure you have Bluetooth enabled on your iPhone. Next, open up your AirPods case and you will get a pop-up on your iPhone asking if you want to connect the discovered AirPods to your iPhone.

Apple AirPods Pairing
Apple AirPods Pairing

From here, tap the Connect button and the magic happens. Your AirPods will be paired to your iPhone and they will be ready to use. You will then see – and subsequently will see each time you open the AirPods case – the power level of the earbuds as well as the case.

Apple AirPods Connected
Apple AirPods Connected

Conclusion & Recommendation

Without question, I highly recommend the Apple AirPods 2. They are some of the best wireless earbuds you can buy and while they are on the expensive side, the ease-of-use and performance make them worth the price of admission. But I will caveat this, specifically for those who have the first generation of AirPods. There may not be enough here to push you over the edge to buy them. Personally, I love the voice enabled “Hey, Siri” and the extra battery life. For me, that is enough of a deal maker for me. If that isn’t you, then it may be worth waiting unless you are not getting enough battery life out of your first-gen models.

The Apple AirPods 2 are $199 with the wireless charging case and $159 without it. You can get them at your local Apple Store or at the Apple Store online. If you prefer Amazon, they are the same $159 and $199 and are available with free Prime shipping.

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