“I really thought you were going to go after it if it fell,” the stranger next to me scoffed.
Apple builds on a surprise hit product
The top-end AirPods feature the same H1 headphone chip used in the second version of AirPods, announced earlier this year, which enabled Siri capabilities to increase the volume, answer a call or pull up directions with voice commands. But now it allows more physical commands, although it’s tricky to remember what exactly a squeeze versus a tap will do.
The biggest draw to the Pro earbuds is noise cancellation — a feature that impressively drowned out sirens and traffic during my busy commute. The change is dramatic; it’s like shoving everyone at a party into a closet so you can better hear the DJ.
For those moments when you don’t want to block out the world, perhaps when waiting for an announcement at the airport or ordering a coffee at Starbucks, transparency mode lets you clearly hear background noise and other people’s voices without sacrificing what you’re listening to. At the same time, Apple says the internal software continuously adapts the sound based on the individual’s ear canal’s shape and length, and the surrounding noise levels.
The AirPods Pro box comes with three interchangeable silicone tips (small, medium and large) to enable noise cancellation. These tips are not new to earbuds, but they are new to Apple, which has until now only offered an all-hard-plastic earbud.
Like fingerprints, no two ears are the same. A new comfort test, conducted through the Control Center in iOS, revealed that my left ear requires a medium tip and my right ear requires a large tip. While this mix has proven comfortable and relatively secure, minus the time one escaped my ear, it’s still unclear what learning this new fun fact about myself has done to my self esteem.
Not perfect, but appealing for many
Although AirPods Pro are rich in sound quality and range when it comes to songs and videos, placing calls is another story: In a series of tests, I was told my voice through the device sounded grainy, like I was using speaker phone or a Bluetooth speaker in a car.
Getting a handle on the various touch modes takes some time, too. By pressing the side once, you can play, pause or answer a call. Touching it twice will let you skip a song. It took me a few minutes to teach myself what each action does. I still often get it wrong.
Buzz around the new Pro version will undoubtedly convince other Apple users to make a purchase, too. They’ll also soon know the pain and anguish of (almost) losing a fallen earpiece.