Back in September 2016, at the launch of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, Apple took the courageous step of removing the 3.5mm headphone jack from its flagship iPhone models. The company also unveiled its first-ever truly wireless earphones, the AirPods. Due to the unusual design, AirPods weren't initially received well in the aesthetic department.
But soon enough, users realised the potential of the Apple W1 chip, and once they did, the pair seldom remained in stock anywhere. Apple had a task, to follow up on the most popular wireless earphones on Earth, and they did just that with the AirPods (2nd Gen) in March this year.
Apple sent out a unit to the KillerFeatures office, and we decided to extensively test them out. Before we jump into the review, we must let you know that the reviewer has been an Apple iPhone and MacBook user since 2015, and has also previously used the AirPods 1st Gen for over a year.
Much like every other Apple product, unboxing the AirPods (2nd Gen) is a delight, not that it is any different from the predecessor. You get a minimal package that has the earbuds drawn on top, AirPods written on one side, and an Apple logo on another. The only thing different is that the box now mentions "Wireless Charging Case", an accessory not available previously with the first-gen model.
You open the box to find the leaflets and the AirPods case lying under them. Having used the AirPods (1st Gen) extensively, we immediately felt that the AirPods were placed more snugly in this new case. Perhaps, Apple has made the magnets slightly stronger.
There's literally nothing different about the design of the AirPods this time around. They still look like EarPods, stick out of your ears, and are a mixed bag in terms of fit. But, what's improved is what's inside. They get a new H1 connectivity chip, claimed better battery life, and support for hands-free 'Hey Siri' commands.
So, let's talk just about the new features that AirPods (2nd Gen) have to offer. We will avoid getting into audio quality too much, considering it is mostly identical to that on the predecessor. However, stick till the end for a brief description of that.
Connectivity is one of the big focus areas that Apple is advertising with the new AirPods. It has fitted in the new Apple H1 chip, designed especially for the 2019 AirPods. This chip supports the latest Bluetooth v5.0 standar, and also claims a 30% lower latency compared to the W1 chip.
Having used the AirPods (2nd Gen) for over a month, I can safely say that connectivity and latency have received a big boost with this model. I'll give you an example for real-world usage. I usually go to the gym with my AirPods in (yes, they fit in my ears comfortably) and have to sometimes remove both earbuds at the same time.
With the AirPods (1st Gen), the earbuds used to naturally disconnect and began playing music only a good 10 seconds after I put both back on. The first time I did this with the 2nd Gen model, music started playing in less than a couple of seconds, proving right the claim of faster connectivity.
As for latency, I also noticed a slight improvement while playing online multiplayer games like PUBG Mobile and Fortnite on an iPhone.
Another advantage that the AirPods (2nd Gen) offer over the previous model is of battery life, which probably has something to do with the refined H1 chip. Yes, battery life has seen a significant improvement over the first-gen AirPods I was using before this, but that's mostly because the ones I had were over a year old.
However, comparing them to a relatively new pair of first-gen AirPods showed that the new model packs in a slightly longer battery life. Our usage involved a couple of hours of video streaming, about an hour of audio streaming, and about 40-45 minutes of voice calls (microphone consumes more battery). The AirPods did all that, each day, and with the combined battery of the earbuds and the case, lasted about 3-4 days on a single full charge. Not bad for a pair that weighs just a few dozen grams.
As for functionality, there's really not much to write about. Essentially, the pair just adds the ability to command virtual assistant Siri without having to touch the AirPods or the iPhone. And, saying 'Hey Siri' gives you a realistic "uh-huh" from the assistant, which is indeed a nice touch. Apart from that, Siri is just like it was, a mediocre AI bot that can only dream of ever competing with Google Assistant.
As for sound output, the bass appears to have received a slight boost on the new AirPods. Audio quality has a lot of limitations on truly wireless earphones, and AirPods is no exception. That said, convenience triumphs over sound quality on this pair, which is the major reason Apple users bought the first-gen model.
With a revised pricing of Rs 14,900 for the base model and Rs 18,900 for the model with wireless charging case, the AirPods (2nd Gen) are an expensive affair. If you have the first-gen model, there's probably no reason to upgrade. If they are getting dirty, you can find solutions all over the Internet to get back their original audio quality.
If you don't own a pair yet, and use Apple products as your primary gadgets, you should contemplate saving up to get yourself one. They are pricey, but the product benefits are so good, you won't regret paying almost 20 grand for the Apple AirPods (2nd Gen).