Review of the 2nd Generation AirPods

I love my AirPods. In fact, I just about loved them to death. By the time they were about two years old, I had used them so much their battery life had declined to the point where I was only getting about 90 minutes of listening time out of them. One of my uses for them is going on 2-hour walks, so this was a problem.

I use my AirPods every day: walking to and from work, exercising, taking longer walks on the weekends. They’re one of my most used devices. I use them enough and find the advantages over wired headphones big enough that replacing them if they were lost or broken would be a top priority.

Given how much I use them and the state of my original AirPods I was definitely in the market for some new ones. I hoped that I could nurse my existing pair along until Apple announced an updated version, but if it got to the point where my original pair became truly unusable, I would have bought an identical set of replacements.

So when Apple released the 2nd generation AirPods I hardly even bothered looking at the spec sheet. I just went straight to the Apple website and ordered a pair. The only real decision was whether to splurge on the new wireless charging case (they’re available both with a Qi-compatible wireless charging case and a regular case). I was a bit uncertain about whether the extra $40 would be worth it, but I decided to give it a go.

The new AirPods look identical to the old ones. The wireless charging case is slightly different, with the LED indicator migrating from inside the case to the front of the case and the hinge now being made out of aluminum rather than stainless steel.

On the inside, the new AirPods support “Hey Siri” to activate the Apple voice assistant. They’re also advertised as having longer talk time, but I hardly ever use mine for phone calls.

Qi charger in my mud room
Qi charger in my mud room

I’m glad I got the wireless charging case. I bought another Qi charger and set it up in the hallway/mud room where I leave my stuff when I come home. It’s much easier to just drop the AirPods case on the charger every day than it is to try to keep track of how much battery life the case has left and remember to plug it into a lighting cable every couple of days (with my old AirPods I’d been caught out by forgetting to charge the case a couple of times).

When you put it on the charger, the LED comes on momentarily, but it doesn’t stay on. It would be nice if that would display colors indicating “charging” and “charged” like the old MagSafe connectors on Mac laptops.

The “Hey Siri” functionality works well. While I still feel self-conscious about it, I may be more apt to use “Hey Siri” in public than I was to activate Siri manually. The activation phrase makes it obvious what I’m doing in a way that tapping an AirPod did not.

On my old AirPods I set it up so tapping the right AirPod brought up Siri while tapping the left one skipped forward (which was set to skip ahead 30 seconds when listening to a podcast in Overcast). Now that I can rely on voice activation for Siri, I have tapping the right AirPod skip forward and tapping the left one skip back. Having both forward and back is useful for navigating podcasts.

Given the state of my old AirPods, perhaps the biggest feature of the new ones is their battery life. The advertised listening time isn’t any different on the new models, but by merely being fresh out of the box their battery life is much greater. On my old ones, 90 minutes of listening to podcasts was enough to give me a low battery warning. The new AirPods are still above 65% after an hour and a half.

I’m very happy with my new AirPods. Of course, aside from battery life, I was happy with the old ones. Features like “Hey Siri” and Qi charging are just gravy.