All the answers you need about Apple’s budding hearables

It’s perfectly natural to have a couple questions about a new product you’re looking to buy, and it’s especially natural when that product is Apple’s AirPods.

The wireless earbuds are Apple’s toe in the water in the world of hearables, and they’ve turned out to be a massive seller. In fact, they’ve sold so well that Apple itself is still struggling to stock them over a year after release.

AirPods aren’t the smartest hearables out there. They can do cool things like pair instantly with your devices, and when you take one out of your ear they’ll automatically stop. They can also easily pick up Siri from your phone, but that’s about it.

Read this: Living with Apple AirPods

Regardless, Apple’s hottest product right now (apologies to Apple Watch Series 3 and iPhone X) may see you wanting some things clarified before you splash down $159. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide to answer your most burning questions.

Why are AirPods always out of stock?

Before you say artificial demand, consider this: Apple had to originally delay the AirPods because of a technical problem, missing holiday 2016 and potentially lucrative sales. According to The Wall Street Journal, the trouble was that the two headphones had problems receiving and syncing audio. In most wireless earbuds, one bud receives the music signal and then broadcasts it to the other bud; AirPod buds receive the music at the same time and have to keep it in sync.

Missing the holiday season, Apple likely assumed it wouldn’t sell as many AirPods as it might have. It was completely wrong, however, as AirPods quickly had an estimated ship time of six weeks. Recently that wait time was easing off, but it ratcheted up again in Christmas 2017 for obvious reasons: People have them, word of mouth is good and AirPods are now available for the first time during the holiday rush.

All of this adds up to a high level of demand, so high that Apple’s AirPods manufacturer can’t keep up. Or at least, so says KGI Securities analyst Ming Chi-Kuo.

How do AirPods charge?

There are no obvious charging ports or anything like that for the AirPods. They just look like regular EarPods with the cables snipped off.

The way it works is like this: on the end of the “stalk” of the AirPods, there’s a little silver ring with two slits in it. When you insert the AirPods into the charging case, those slits align with charging nodes at the bottom of the case. That’s how they charge. And, of course, to charge up the AirPods case you simply plug it into a Lightning cable.

How do AirPods switch between devices?

If you’ve used an Apple device in the past five years, you know that the number one thing the company pushes you to sign up for is an Apple ID. This allows you to download things on both the App Store and iTunes Store, but it also allows you to tap into the powers of iCloud.

At first blush, iCloud lets you sync over things like photos, notes, contacts, movies, music, podcast and apps. However, it can also sync over pairing information with Bluetooth devices that use Apple’s proprietary W1 wireless chip, like AirPods.

When you sync your AirPods to your iPhone, iCloud automatically takes that information and shoots it to all your other Apple devices. Your Mac, your Apple Watch and your iPad all know you have a pair of AirPods and instantly store the required pairing information.

To actually pair the AirPods to these devices, you have to do some manual work. With Apple Watch, you can just leave your iPhone at home, take your AirPods and Apple Watch out and enjoy the music. The same goes for the iPad, with the added benefit of simply popping open the AirPods case when you’re using your iPad. You can also just swipe open Control Center and click your AirPods from the music broadcast section.

However, your Mac is where things require a little more effort. Macs don’t support instant pairing, so you’ll need to click on the Bluetooth drop down menu on your Mac, then select your AirPods and click ‘connect’.

Do AirPods work with non-Apple devices?

Yes. You won’t get the cool, instant pairing that Apple devices get with AirPods, but you’ll still be able to use them. All you have to do is pop open the case and press the little circle button on the back.

From there, your AirPods will enter pairing mode. You’ll then have to navigate to the Bluetooth settings menu of your device and chose your AirPods, pairing them as you would with any other pair of Bluetooth headphones. Not so magical.

Do AirPods fall out?

This seems to be one of the primary fears of people before purchasing AirPods. And, well, it turns out to be mostly unfounded. We here at Wareable have used AirPods from the jump, and they haven’t really fallen out of our ears during normal, everyday use.

This may surprise folks who have used Apple’s wired headphones, like the EarPods, but it turns out this is a simple physics problem. Wired headphones have a cable that’s constantly tugging at something lodged in your ear; the constant pulling makes them more susceptible to coming out of your ears.

AirPods lack a wire, and don’t have that same force pulling them out of your ear. In fact, AirPods have a slightly longer stalk, so that they can balance against your ear a little better. If you’re looking to use AirPods for your daily commute or casual gym sessions, you’re not going to have much trouble.

However, there are times when AirPods might not be ideal – see below.

Are AirPods good for running?

AirPods are great when you’re stationary, or when you’re dancing, or even when you’re rushing through people and streets to make your train. However, they’re not always the best for running.

This isn’t because they fly out of your ears as you’re bobbing up and down trails in the Hollywood Hills, but because of sweat. We’ve found that if you sweat from your ears then the AirPods, in all of their plastic and smooth glory, will get a bit slippery and dislodge.

So if you sweat near your ears a lot, you’ll maybe want to avoid the AirPods for your run and go with something that hooks in a little better.

Are AirPods easy to lose?

Yes and no. In theory, AirPods are absolutely easy to lose. They’re small, and if you drop them they could easily bounce under a bed or, worse, somewhere you can’t get them back from. However, for the most part, if they’re not in your ear they’re probably going to be in the charging case.

If you do drop them, or fall asleep with them on and they fall off into a nook or cranny, you can always use the Find my iPhone app to locate them. Once you do find them, you can also make them emit a sound to help you locate where they are.

Why do AirPods keep disconnecting?

For the most part, AirPods will keep a pretty solid connection to your phone – iPhone specifically. However, we’ve found that when we’re outside and slip our phone into our back pocket, the connection is sometimes choppy.

In fact, it’s not a problem exclusive to AirPods. One of the weaknesses of Bluetooth is its connection quality when more exposed. When you’re indoors, the Bluetooth signal has a lot of walls and ceilings it can use to bounce the signal from your headphones to phone, ensuring a steady connection. That goes away in the open air, so when your phone leaves direct contact with your headphones, like when it’s interrupted by the material of a pocket or a purse, which sometimes have metal rivets or leather belts in the way, a problem arises.

There isn’t really a solution here, other than to wait until it subsides, stand closer to walls as you walk or to just hold your phone in your hand.

When are we getting AirPods 2?

AirPods have been a massive success for Apple, and it’s only a matter of time until it starts building in more and more features for the budding hearables. We’ve seen Apple patent several ideas for more health-focused AirPods, but it’s unclear when we’re going to see those come to light – we do think we could see them in 2018.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, perhaps the best reader of Apple tea leaves in the business, says Apple will debut a second-generation pair of AirPods in the second half of 2018, likely alongside the new iPhones. It’s unclear what upgrades the AirPods could have. We’re hoping for some basic health tracking, and a customizable fit.

There’s also Bloomberg’s latest report, which indicates that a pair of water resistant AirPods will be dropping in early 2019. You won’t be able to swim in them, but they will be more resistant to splashes and rain, which should help out on those sweaty runs.

Like with all matters concerning Apple, we won’t know until we know. But, over the coming months, as whispers and rumours continue to swirl, we should have a better idea regarding the release date of the second generation of AirPods.

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