In Depth

Apple AirPods: Everything you need to know

Consumers are divided over Apple's new wireless headphones

Last week, Apple revealed its latest smartphone at a keynote event in San Francisco. The iPhone 7 and its larger 7 Plus variant don't look particularly different to the outgoing iPhone 6S, but Apple hopes that upgraded cameras, vastly improved water resistance and promises of a big step up in performance will convince fans to upgrade. 

One change that the tech giant has had to confront, rather than enthusiastically reveal, is the removal of the headphone jack – the change that's making the iPhone 7 a controversial phone.

Buyers will be presented with two options. The Lightning port you use to charge your iPhone is now the only external port on the device, so naturally wired headphones and adaptors will be attaching there from now on. Or you could choose to go wireless which is something Apple is keen to accommodate.

Alongside the iPhone 7, Apple unveiled its new AirPods – a wireless pair of the ubiquitous white headphones anyone who has ever bought an iPhone or iPod will be familiar with.

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Do they come with the iPhone 7?

Apple was very keen to show off its new wireless headphones at its event on Wednesday evening, but if you buy the iPhone 7 you won't be getting them thrown in.

Instead, Apple's new smartphone comes with a wired set of EarPods with a Lightning connector, as well as a Lightning to 3.5mm headphone socket adaptor so you can continue using your current headphones should you wish.

The phone arrives next Friday but AirPods won't be available until late October. The £159.99 outlay means they aren't eye-wateringly expensive compared to other wireless headphones says Trusted Reviews, but it's still a big enough chunk of cash to make you think twice.

How do they work?

Apple is selling its AirPods on the basis of seamless connectivity. Unlike most other wireless headphone sets, which use Bluetooth to pair with your device – and are sometimes a bit fiddly – Apple's solution is user friendly and intuitive.

TechRadar says it's sold on the approach. Take the AirPods out of their pouch and they instantly turn on and connect to your iPhone when placed near it. A notification will pop up on your screen – tap it and the headphones are ready to go.

You can then sync them up with newer iPads, iPods, Macs or the Apple Watch through just one tap in the Control Centre dock.

What can they do?

Aside from just audio output, the AirPods have one or two tricks up their sleeve that are exclusive to Apple. They're compatible with Siri – tap twice on one of the pods while it's in your ear and the virtual assistant will listen in. The AirPods can also detect when you're speaking through vibration and filter noise. This means you come through loud and clear, whether you're on the phone or talking to Siri.

The AirPods can also detect when to play music – take one out and it knows that it's not plugged into your ear so whatever you're listening to stops. Pop it back in and playback resumes.

Business Insider notes one potential pitfall in the new design – controlling volume or changing tracks through the headphones could be a little awkward. 

Unlike wired headphones which come with a dongle for adjusting the volume or skipping songs attached to them, you'll have to pluck your phone out of your pocket or worse stop the music and ask Siri. It's not a big deal, but not ideal while exercising. 

How long do they last?

Apple claims you'll get five hours playback with the wireless buds, which is a decent lifespan. However, BGR says the way you'll re-charge them means battery life "shouldn't really be a concern for prospective AirPod users".

The pods come in a small white case which doubles as a wireless charging pouch. The case carries an additional 24 hours' worth of power for the headphones. As long as you keep it charged, you'll always have extra battery to hand and you can load the AirPods with enough power for three hours playback in just 15 minutes.

Will they be worth buying?

Reaction to the AirPods has been mixed. They make using wireless headphones on Apple devices easier to manage, but The Verge says that the AirPods "come across as a total swing and miss for Apple".

The site says that they're competitively priced given that most top end wireless sets start at the same price that Apple is asking for and many cost more. However, keeping the design almost identical to Apple's wired sets that come free with iPods and iPhones is a mistake – it doesn't single the AirPods out as special. For many, Apple's own brand headphones fall out too easily.

Inevitably, the lack of wires means AirPods will be easier to lose.

And not everyone is convinced by how they'll look in your ears.

Initial impressions suggest that the headphones do what Apple says on the tin, but we'll only know how well they work on a day-to-day basis when in-depth reviews arrive closer to their launch.

Alternatively, you could wait for other headphones and use the W1 chipset fitted inside the AirPods. The W1 chip is what powers many of the AirPods' exclusive functions and is also what makes them easy to pair with iPhones, iPads and iPods. If you prefer large over-ear headphones compared to in-ear pods, you can expect Beats headphones powered by the W1 chip to arrive soon. 

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