Apple AirPods unboxing and hands-on review: The EarPods, which arrived alongside 2012’s iPhone 5, were the last time we saw Apple actively re-engineer its signature white earphones, but the tail end of 2016 didn’t just bring with it the iPhone 7, but also the next logical step in the evolution of Apple’s signature buds, completely wireless AirPods.
They come in a compact white box, styled with the company’s typical minimalist aesthetic. On the front is an embossed picture of the buds themselves, whilst the top face features the product’s name and each side is adorned with a foiled Apple logo. On the back, you see the key contents of the box, a render of both AirPods in their charging case with a Lightning lead coming in from the bottom edge.
As with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, you’re not immediately presented with the product when you lift the lid, but instead, you’ll find a card pouch with both a quick-start guide and warranty information. Perhaps due to the nature of AirPods, this quick-start guide relies more heavily on diagrams to get up and running, but in truth, in practice there’s a strong chance you’ll be able to set them up without even glancing at this.
Under the paperwork are the actual AirPods, already housed in their charging case – a shiny white plastic capsule protected by a peel-off wraparound cover that pulls away with ease. On the front of the case is a small indentation designed to give you purchase when opening it up, whilst on the back is a chromed hinge and an almost imperceptible hardware button.
Once the capsule is removed you’ll see a paper tab poking out from the centre of the plastic holding tray, which, when lifted up reveals a Lightning to USB cable spooled to the edges of the box.
Moving over to the AirPods themselves, we were impressed by the seamless first-time setup experience. Lifting the lid whilst your iPhone is nearby (with Bluetooth switched on) will cause a card to automatically pop up with an animation of the AirPods in their case. A single tap is then all it takes to pair them. This process varies depending on the device you’re connecting to, including MacBooks and Android smartphones.
Unsurprisingly each AirPod adopts a similar aesthetic to Apple’s wired EarPods, with an asymmetrical shape and a two ‘vents’ designed to direct sound into the ear. Aside from losing the wires, other obvious differences appear in aspects like the stalks which house each ‘Pods battery, capped by a microphone with a metal surround that doubles as a charging contact when they’re being stored in the case.
Speaking of charging, Apple says that they’ll last five hours on a single charge, longer than most other truly wireless buds on the market, with up to 24-hours worth of music playback if recharging takes place through the case.
There are also two optical sensors that help them decipher whether they’re being worn or not and what appear to be secondary microphone holes for helping tune out external noise during calls.
The whole kit is available right now for £159 direct from Apple, with an individual replacement AirPod costing £65. We were assured by Apple that AirPods aren’t as difficult to lose or fall out as initial reports made out, but we’ll be able to confirm that notion come our full review, assuming we still have both of them. Stay tuned.