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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Four months using AirPods everywhere… almost

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.


In the four months since I got a set of AirPods, they have colonized my life in ways both surprising and unsurprising. As someone who would never have been caught dead using a pair of Apple’s wired earbuds—either originals or EarPods—I’m a little surprised about this myself.

Yes, the AirPods sound better than I expected (and to be fair, I generally use them for podcasts, not music), and after a period of adjustment I’ve figured out how to get them to stay in my ears and not cause me discomfort. But honestly, it’s the fact that they’re entirely wireless that is the biggest appeal. My older set of wireless Bluetooth earbuds—with a cord running between them—haven’t been turned on a single time since I got the AirPods.

So yes, four months with the AirPods and I’m a believer. Except for all the times when I don’t use them.

First is, of course, when I’m recording and editing podcasts. I have a dedicated set of wired in-ear headphones that I use for podcast purposes. A wired connection has zero latency—Bluetooth can still have a noticeable delay—and the in-ear nature of those headphones ensure that my microphone can’t pick up any of the sound I’m receiving, which eliminates unpleasant echoes on the final recording.

Next up is when I’m mowing the lawn: As frustrated as I get by my headphone cord being snagged on various parts of the mower as I’m working, I can’t use the AirPods. The reason is noise: The AirPods let in a lot of ambient noise. That’s great if I’m walking or even riding a bike, because I can hear my iPhone audio and ambient sound equally. But when you’re a foot away from a loud lawnmower, it’s no good. I have to turn the volume up so loud that it hurts my ears, and even then, my podcasts are largely inaudible. I’ve returned to the wired in-ear headphones—and the occasional snag.

For the same reasons, AirPods are no good for me on airplanes. The ambient noise of the airplane is loud enough that it greatly decreases my appreciation of the music or podcasts I’m listening to. Many people use noise-cancelling headphones when they’re on a plane; my solution isn’t to cancel the noise but to block it entirely—the custom silicone tips of my in-ear headphones seal me off almost completely from the outside world. The result is good listening on planes, and no intrusive noise. (I’ve actually stuck my headphones in, sans cord, at loud rock concerts for the same effect.)

And… that’s it. Seriously, when I’m around loud noises or recording podcasts are the only times I don’t break out the AirPods. In every other scenario—doing the dishes, walking the dog, running, walking through an airport to get to my gate, waiting in passport control, riding the train—they are my constant companion. But when I traveled to Europe last week, I brought both my AirPods and my wired in-ear headphones, and used both of them a lot. I love these AirPods, but I just can’t commit to them exclusively.

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