Tech Shorts
The 2019 AirPods feature Apple’s new H1 chip as part of its hardware overhaul.

Lifestyle accessory or headphones? Most AirPods users will probably pick lifestyle accessory. In less than three years Apple’s AirPods have become ubiquitous, especially in spaces with a high concentration of iPhone users. It’s easy to forget that these wireless headphones were an easy target for meme creators when they first debuted. They’ve grown to become a ‘no brainer’ accessory for many iPhone owners and more than the occasional Android user.

The second gen AirPods just debuted in India and bring some key improvements. Upgrades that gradually became evident as I used these wireless ear buds over a few days. That’s the thing with the AirPods, it’s so intuitive that you barely notice how it all comes together very seamlessly.

First, let’s talk about the improvements. The 2019 AirPods feature Apple’s new H1 chip as part of its hardware overhaul. According to Apple, this makes switching between devices a breeze. While that’s not something most users will notice, I noticed a spike in the battery life in terms of talk time. Apple claims an additional hour of talk time. It certainly bridges the difference between music playback and talk time, an area where wireless headphones typically struggle with battery life. You can also access Siri hands-free with the new AirPods whether you need to make a call or play a song.

While Apple doesn’t claim any substantial improvement in sound quality, this is an area where I noticed a slight improvement over its predecessor. There are caveats though. The AirPods don’t come with great noise cancellation qualities. You will find yourself turning up the volume in loud environments. In terms of pure sound quality both Bose and Sennheiser have compelling options but they cost more than the AirPods.

Apple adds wireless charging to the AirPods feature list. Except you have to buy a version with a wireless charging case that will set you back by an additional Rs 4,000. Samsung’s Galaxy Buds offer that as part of the standard package but don’t offer the same sound quality or battery life as the AirPods. Battery life is one of the AirPods’ biggest strengths. With 24 hours of battery life, most average users (even those who have AirPods firmly planted in their ears for many hours a day) are sorted up to a week on a single charging cycle.

The upgrade question is quite similar to what most iPhone users face in the last quarter of every calendar year. If you already own a pair of AirPods, there’s no strong reason to step up. If you would like to add wireless charging functionality to your first-gen AirPods, you can buy the wireless charging case (sold separately for Rs 7,500). But if you’re in the market for a pair of wireless headphones and own an iPhone, these new AirPods are an obvious choice. They are extremely lightweight and slip into those tiny pockets in your jeans. The AirPods also work well for Android users who have quite a few options under Rs 15,000 (where the AirPods currently sit) like the Jabra Elite or Samsung Galaxy or premium options like the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless.

Apple AirPods (with standard charging case) cost Rs 14,900. The AirPods with Wireless Charging Case cost Rs 18,900.

(Ashwin Rajagopalan writes extensively on Gadgets & Trends, Travel & Lifestyle and Food & Drink. He owns and manages Brand Stories, a creative Content outfit and www.bytesize.in, a premier lifestyle blog with a focus on short-format content. Instagram: ‘ashwinpowers’