What are AirPods and why do we need them?

January 6, 2017
Reading time: 2 minutes

Listen up, everyone. The times, they really are a-changing. The iPhone 7 has been released and one of the most dramatic changes in the new design is that the headphone jack – the one that’s existed in every generation of iPhone up until now – is gone.

No matter how you feel about this, don’t let anyone convince you that drilling into your phone in an attempt to create a headphone jack is anything other than the worst idea you’ve ever had.

The headphone jack is obsolete on the new iPhone 7 because the Lightning port is now doing triple-duty, in charge of power, data and audio.

And in addition to the EarPods that come with each new iPhone 7, there’s a seriously snazzy new accessory in town (which may or may not have you looking slightly ridiculous): AirPods.

These wireless headphones connect to all of your Apple gadgets and other Bluetooth-connected devices (good news Samsung fans!) after an easy one-tap setup, so that getting tangled up in wires can now be a thing of the past.

AirPods look like EarPods but with more holes, no wires and a chunkier, sturdier base, which dangles down below your ear and contains a battery, Bluetooth antenna, microphone and metal charging pads.

AirPods come in a special case that looks like it might hold dental floss. Instead you’ll find a built-in battery pack which recharges the AirPods every time you put them inside. A 15-minute charge can give you up to three hours of listening time.

The AirPods aren’t just groundbreaking in terms of their sleek, wireless look. The technology powering them is pretty jaw-dropping, thanks to the custom-designed Apple W1 chip. You can get up to five hours of battery life with one charge and make it easier than ever to talk to Siri (Hey girl!).

Wait, so are AirPods like these tiny communication-improving geniuses who happen to want to hang out in your ear all day? Pretty much.

A built-in accelerometer knows when you’re speaking, so will filter out background noise when you’re making a call (with the help of beamforming microphones).

Optical sensors and motion accelerometers control the AAC audio and microphone, letting you use either one or both AirPods at a time and ensuring sound plays as soon as you’ve put them in your ears.

Did we mention you can hold an AirPod next to your iPhone and ask Siri how much battery life your phone has left? Pretty nifty.

Not everyone’s a fan – yet.

The biggest worry most people have (other than wondering if it looks like they’ve shoved a lollipop in each ear), is whether or not it’s easy to lose them. Let’s put it this way: you definitely don’t want to take them on your next rollercoaster ride.

At least the AirPod case has a magnetic closure and interior magnets to hold the headphones in place, so you can rest easy knowing they’re secure in their case. Just don’t accidentally mistake one of them for a Q-tip and you’ll be fine.

Remember back in 2010, following the launch of the iPad, Steve Jobs declared that, “if you see a stylus, they blew it?” and lots of people weren’t totally convinced fingers would replace the stylus?

Well, just fast forward to now, when we do everything on our phones and tablets with our fingers alone.

It’s kind of the same thing with AirPods… just give it a couple of months and everyone will have AirPods in their ears (or falling out of them). And wonder how we ever existed without them.