Apple got a lot right with AirPods, the company’s first crack at truly wireless earbuds. I was impressed by the price, the robust wireless connection, and some of the simple (but smart) features that Apple has always been so good at delivering. You can read more of my thoughts in my full review, but there’s a lot I’d still like to see in the next generation — whenever that might come.
Siri is 40 percent asking about the weather, 50 percent frustration, and 10 percent pleasant surprise. But my biggest beef with Siri on AirPods is that the assistant can’t handle back-and-forth conversation as well as services like Google Assistant.
An example: after I came up from the subway on one of my first days with AirPods, I tapped and asked Siri to locate a restaurant. Siri was only able to tell me the address — I couldn’t follow up and ask which way to go, or for it to give me directions. I had to either start the whole conversation tree over or pull out my phone.
AirPods don’t deliver on the futuristic idea of a smart assistant in your ears — yet
This is all hopefully changing — Siri is getting smarter, and third party apps can now plug into Apple’s assistant. I actually enjoy using Siri when I need to use Venmo, for example. Shouting a few words at my phone feels quicker and more fun than tapping into and around the app. Fun! When giving away my money!
Siri is one of the clearest paths to a technology like the one we saw in the movie Her. You can debate the merits of a technology like that, but Apple now has all the pieces in place to get us there. Siri’s limitations are the company’s last big hurdle.
A new design
I struggled with the way AirPods fit, but my review focused heavily on this problem so I won’t dive into it again here. That said, I hope Apple finds a way around the current design sooner than later. I want a closed design with options for different tips, and I also want them to get rid of the awkward-looking stems. Sure, those stalks help pick up your voice, and the design adds to the robustness of the Bluetooth connection. But I’ll wait for something more discreet.
Separating headphones from your phone makes things like running much easier. The problem here is iTunes. It’s almost 2017 and you still can’t drag and drop songs from iTunes onto your iPhone, so it’s hard to hold out hope for a better experience on AirPods. (Update: you can drag and drop! Just not in every situation. If you have iCloud Music Library enabled, which you need to sync Apple Music playlists across devices, among other things. It took this 40-minute Twitter thread to figure this out, so I think my larger point about iTunes stands.)
Better volume control
You can double tap AirPods to activate Siri or play and pause your music, but that’s it. The only way to control the volume from AirPods is to ask Siri, which is a process. Buttons on earbuds are a tough proposition — you don’t want people pushing earbuds deeper into their ear. But I’ve really come to love volume control on wireless earbuds that have it, and I hate when it’s missing.
AirPods are going to be a lot of people’s first pair of wireless earbuds, so some of these might sound like small quibbles in light of the impressive technological accomplishment that made them possible in the first place. It’s also a pretty short list! But it’s a sign of how close Apple came to making something truly revolutionary. Instead, Apple’s wireless earbuds are just another (good!) option in this new part of the market.