Apple AirPods make life without a headphone jack easier

— 8:58 AM on September 8, 2016

As TR readers are no doubt already aware, the newest iPhones do not have 3.5mm headphone jacks. Regular old analog headphones can still be connected to Apple's latest phones through the use of an included adapter, but wireless headphones might be a more elegant solution. Apple certainly thinks so, and alongside its new flagship phones, the company introduced a pair of wireless earbuds that it calls AirPods.

The concept of  is hardly new. The Bragi Dash is probably the most well-known product in the category, but Earin, Jabra, Kanoa, and even Apple's biggest rival Samsung all have similar products. Apple sets the AirPods apart from the competition through tight integration with its other products, including the iPhone and Apple Watch. A double-tap on the AirPods alerts Siri to listen for voice commands. That's a good thing, because the AirPods have no buttons.

Optical sensors in the AirPods can detect when they are in your ears and when they aren't, allowing them to pause music when they're removed from the ear. The AirPods are also equipped with accelerometers that allow them to detect when the user is speaking, which Apple says will improve voice clarity for commands and phone calls. All this gadgetry and automation comes courtesy of a specialized processor that Apple calls W1. The company credits the W1 chip with the AirPods' exceptional power efficiency, and says that the AirPods can play for up to 5 hours on a full charge.

The AirPods come with a dedicated hard-shell charging case. This case not only protects the AirPods when they're not in use—it's also a charging station. Apple says that 15 minutes of charging in the case can provide the AirPods with three hours of listening, and that the case can provide five full charges to the AirPods for about 24 hours of listening. When placed in the case, the AirPods will automatically turn off, and after being connected the first time—simply a matter of opening the case near the iPhone or Watch and pressing a "Connect" button—the AirPods will automatically reconnect when removed from the case. Apple uses its iCloud service to automatically connect the AirPods to any compatible Mac or iDevice the user owns, as well.

Apple says the AirPods will be available in late October for $159. That price might seem high compared to conventional earbuds, but it's actually quite reasonable compared to most of the competition's wireless headphones. Samsung's Gear IconX wireless earbuds start at $199, for example.

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