Yes, the AirPods, now in its second generation. You already know about the improved features. New H1 chip with Bluetooth 5.0, better connectivity and better battery performance. New Wireless Charging Case without any AirPower charging mat to go with it. Perpetual “Hey, Siri” assistant trigger.
I’ve used and loved the original AirPods. Despite the initial ridicule regarding its design, it’s easy to see why they’ve grown to be one of the world’s most popular wireless headphones. Like every user, I’ve grown to love the fact that it just works. The updates to the AirPods leave little to be desired, and every reviewer has sung largely the same tune: that they’re the same, with minute (but distinct) improvements.
Here are 3 main things every one of them missed.
1. “Hey, Siri” is much faster, but is still limited
Perpetual “Hey, Siri” support on the AirPods Generation 2 means that navigating between songs, checking your schedule or sending a text message is an entirely hands-free affair. More impressively, it seems faster than the generation 1 ‘Pods in responding to queries. That could mean more natural “conversations” with your carry-everywhere virtual assitant, a UX improvement that means the world to customer experience-centric Apple.
Yes, there are a few of the limitations you would associate with Apple’s Siri assistant, including limited app support. Siri can launch the Spotify app, and navigate between tracks, but refuses to respond to “play music from Spotify”, amongst other limitations.
2. Re-connection speeds are much faster, but require manual switching between devices.
With the AirPods moving to Bluetooth 5.0, and with the new purpose-built H1 chip on board, they, like its predecessor, impressively instantly pair to your iOS devices. It also retains its ability to instantly pair across all your Apple devices through your Apple ID.
However, as someone who switches from my desktop Mac Pro to my iPhone and then to my iPad and MacBook several times a day, it has been a frustrating experience to manually re-connect my AirPods through some menu-diving on the device at hand.
Bad news: AirPods Gen 2 doesn’t fix that – but good news – it sure does cut down the 10-second delay to a more manageable 5 seconds (or under).
3. Wireless charging isn’t for everyone
With the Gen 2 AirPods and new Wireless Charging Case coming in at SGD 299, the ~S$60 premium (SGD 119 case-only) on the case really isn’t something everyone needs.
Even if you already own wireless chargers, they really won’t work (well) with the AirPods unless a) they are flat, “mat” or “pad”-style chargers b) there is some visual indication as to the location of the charging coil.
The AirPods Wireless Charging Case is exactly the same dimensions as its predecessor, which means it, and the receiving charging coil within, are tiny and require quite a precise positioning for effective charging. In about two weeks of my use of the AirPods Gen 2, I’ve charged it with the provided Lighting cable a grand total of zero times. Wireless, baby.
Should I get the AirPods Gen 2?
Prospective first time AirPods buyers: if you’re an Apple (especially iOS) user, yes. You don’t need the wireless charging case unless you’ve got plenty of mat- or pad-style chargers, or intend to get some.
Like its predecessor, the earbuds form-factor is divisive. Try out a few, cheap, wired earbuds to see if it is tolerable. I had been a life-long in-ear-earphones-only user, with a stash of pretty premium in-ear monitors before I got the AirPods and never looked back.
Gen 1 AirPods owners: if you’re plagued by terrible battery issues after years of use, or are frustrated with the slow switching between your multiple Apple devices, the AirPods Gen 2 are a great option.
Bonus if you’ve got the requisite charging mats and love to use Siri.
The AirPods 2nd Generation retails at SGD 299 with the Wireless Charging Case, and at SGD 239 with the regular wired-only case. For those keen on going (more) wire-free, the Wireless Charging Case goes for SGD 119.