Apple’s new AirPods are some of the coolest audio accessories you can buy today. Just insert the buds into your ears and they work instantly and seamlessly with your iPhone. When you are done using them, pop them into a white case that replenishes their power. They are sleek, innovative and convenient.
I could go on, but this is where the gushing stops. That is because AirPods have a finite life. That means you will probably have to buy new ones every few years.
Here’s how I know: After I bought Apple’s first-generation AirPods in late 2016, they became my favourite headset for taking phone calls and listening to podcasts. Their lack of wires made moving around easier and I haven’t once considered reverting to wired headphones.
But about a month ago, my AirPods started dying. Their batteries, which are not replaceable by users, no longer last more than 30 minutes when I am on a phone call; they used to have enough juice for two hours of talk time. Other AirPod owners have recently shared similar complaints.
The second-generation AirPods, released recently, may face a similar fate. That’s because their minimalist design involves embedding the batteries, circuit boards, microphones and antennas directly into the tiny earpieces. Then they are sealed up, making it impossible to open them to replace the batteries.
The new AirPods have slightly longer battery life and give you the ability to pick songs from an iPhone hands-free by speaking the command “Hey, Siri.”
Yet this is a tough product to recommend for people who are slow to adopt new technology or who are environmentally conscious. While you can spend about $160 (Rs 11,100) for the new AirPods, you have to be prepared to shell out that amount again when their batteries inevitably wear out. Good wired earphones — which can cost less than $50 (Rs 3,470) — last as long as you don’t rip the cords.
So what’s right for you? Take a look below to decide.
Like the first-generation AirPods, the new ones last about five hours when you listen to music. But for phone calls, they can now go about three hours, up from two hours previously. When you return the earbuds to the case, it has enough juice to recharge them multiple times; you will get about 24 hours of listening time before having to replenish the case.
Music sounds OK through them, good enough for playing podcasts and songs on your commute. The AirPods also include a new chip that lets people use them to interact with Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant. To summon the assistant, you say, “Hey, Siri,” followed by a command like “Play some music”.
Apple’s AirPods create a moral conundrum. Should you buy these earphones knowing that you will have to buy new ones every few years? In the process, you would essentially be using up energy, metals, plastics and human labour invested in creating the product.
The upshot: As someone who enjoys maintaining electronics for as long as possible before upgrading, I’m on the fence about springing for the latest AirPods. The fact that my first-generation ones have such shortened battery life after two years gives me pause.
But there are people who enthusiastically buy a new smartphone, tablet or computer as soon as they come out, year after year. The AirPods are perfect for them.