The third-gen AirPods officially arrived in India in October. Yes, we are a bit late in sharing our opinion about the refreshed audio product from the sophisticated brand. But if Apple could take more than a year to bring the new AirPods, why not make parallel moves? Excuse the pun, let’s get into some serious business. Also Read - Apple Spring event 2022 expectations: iPhone SE+, new Mac and iPad Air coming soon
Apple has tweaked the AirPods third-gen inside out. The company has integrated new drivers, tweaked the design to look more like the AirPods Pro but without the ear tips. Moreover, the true wireless earbuds now have sweat and water resistance, which means you can take a tour to the gym wearing it or sprinkle some water in case you want to check if the earphones can handle little splash, but don’t be off deep end. Also Read - Apple announces Shot on iPhone challenge for iPhone 13 Pro users
The AirPods 3 includes a bunch of new features, but it has missed one aspect- ANC, which can be found in many budget earbuds these days. The comfortable fit, improved audio is appreciated, but are they any better than the alternatives under a similar price range? Or should one opt for AirPods Pro which costs around the same? Also Read - New leak shows MediaTek Dimensity 9000 is more powerful than Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, Exynos 2200
The new AirPods 3 gets a refreshed design, although the signature look of the original AirPods is still visible. However, Apple has bobbed the earbuds’ stem and height of the charging case. The stems are short like the AirPods Pro, but just not to make it confused with the one, Apple skipped the silicon ear tips and brought a rounder earpiece which is slightly bigger than the previous iteration. The contoured design offers a comfortable fit, and we could use it for long hours. However, the fit is personal, and it can differ depending on the ear shape.
Moving on, the new AirPods now have a skin-detector sensor instead of an optical sensor, which means it can now detect whether the bud is stuck to your ear or lying on the bed (that’s progressive, Apple!). Further, the company has swapped tap control gestures with touch-enabled force sensors. The short stems now play/pause, accept/reject calls or change soundtracks when you squeeze the lower part of the stem. That’s a unique approach, but we ended up disrespecting it almost every time accidentally holding the stem while taking off the earbuds. The new earbuds from Apple are sweat and splash resistant and can withstand workouts, but better not go for a swim wearing them.
Pairing the AirPods third-gen to iPhone 13 was a cakewalk. All we had to do is open the lid and select ‘Connect,’ on the device home screen. The earbuds are equipped with an H1 chip offering seamless auto-switching between Apple devices syncing to the iCloud account.
If squeezing the stem to control music playback or taking calls is an uphill task for you, then you can take advantage of Siri to do all the tasks. Pairing it with an Android phone isn’t the same, and you have to manually do it by pressing the button on the base of the case, opening the Bluetooth settings on the device, and pairing it when the AirPods pop-up on the screen.
Audio and microphone
Apple AirPods takes the crown when it comes to TWS, and the next-gen earbuds are no different, the majority of credit goes to the latest software. The earbuds offer that thump that many users prefer these days. The custom drivers deliver sound with less distortion, and clarity even at high frequency. Tuning to The Police Don’t Stand So Close to Me the sound of the bass guitar, thump of the drum could be felt playing up front, while Sting singing behind. It was a pleasing experience listening to Dave Bruebeck’s Take Five or Siddharth Pandit’s Mazhab, with the clear tone of each instrument, and variation of melody. The Adaptive EQ is said to adjust the sound in real-time and we felt it to be quite about right. As for the microphones, it manages to suppress the background noise and render clear audio while taking phone calls.
AirPods 3 have a few bonus features up its sleeves like Spatial Audio, Dolby Atmos support, enhanced Find My feature. Spatial audio that has dynamic head tracking works with various products in the Apple ecosystem. The feature amplifies the audio experience with head tracking that yields 3D surround sound. Simply to say, it follows your head motion, and the audio shifts around the direction you turn your head. It feels more immersive like sitting on a virtual sound stage while watching movies, TV series. The Dolby Atmos also adds to the flavour.
As for the battery life, with minor breaks in between, we could get a typical 6-hour usage on a single charge. The charging case has MagSafe and wireless charging support and offers an extra four charges to the earphones. In case you have none of these ultra-modern gadgets, you can stick to UBS-C to lightning cable wired charging.
Verdict: Who should buy and who should skip
Let us start with the elephant in the room- ANC. Unlike the AirPods Pro, it doesn’t have transparency mode, even though the earpiece is bigger and has a semi-open design, sound leakage was prominent in the crowded space. While using the earbuds at the office, playing songs at mid-volume, we could hear what’s happening around us- loud cheers on TV, colleagues discussing food. Although increasing the volume didn’t cause any stress on our ears, it still isn’t a feasible solution. Another disappointing fact is the Bluetooth codec support. AirPods 3 only has AAC, and SBC codec support which may not trammel the experience for iOS users but could be a bummer for those using Android devices. Moreover, the open design may not be a secure fit for everyone.
The Airpods third-gen are no doubt a significant upgrade over the older iteration, but most of the benefits are only meant to envelope around the Apple ecosystem, for instance, Spatial Audio is a brilliant add-on yet with restricted access. Decent battery life, refreshed design, good audio quality with added features makes the new AirPods an ideal go-to TWS pair. Compared to previous models, these AirPods are slightly cheap, but if you are a commuter, we would advise having noise-isolating earbuds. Bottom line, if you want to enjoy Spatial Audio content and have an Apple device that runs the latest software, these can be the perfect audio companion for you. However, Android users should look elsewhere, maybe Sony, Sennheiser, or Jabra (if good noise-cancelling earphones are the priority).