If there's one thing I feel I need to say about the new AirPods is that they would've been great for 2019.
And listen, this is not me trying to bash them. Love it or hate it, it's been 5 years since their original release, and they're still on top. Surely sales haven't remained as strong, but Apple still dominates 38% of the market. You might think that's not a lot, but the next competitor only owns 9%, and all you need to do is walk around New York city to notice it. Why did Apple take so long to launch this third generation is beyond me after so many leaks, but they're finally here, and they're late.
All you need to do is watch my review of the second AirPods, or even my thoughts on the AirPods Max to know that I struggle with some of Apple's decisions. Surely I adore their convenience in the Apple ecosystem, but I struggle with this mentality of form over function. My biggest problem with the second AirPods was this one-size fits all mentality because it seems All didn't include me. I couldn’t manage to keep them in my ears no matter how hard I tried, which only defeated their good audio experience. It wasn't until AirPods Pro came to town that I truly fell in love with this concept, as they didn't just fix the fit, but also the feel with their vent mechanism and both transparency mode and noise cancelling. These new AirPods 3 borrow on some of those design choices with stems that are now 33% shorter, so it doesn't look like Q-Tips are hanging out of your ears anymore.
The controls are also getting a revamp with the tap gestures now gone in favor of the Force Sensor controls you get on the Pros. I know some people prefer the tap, but I prefer the feedback of the new system. Single squeeze will pause the song, double or triple squeeze to change it and a long one to enable Siri, even if the Hey S command is also an option. Another great feature they bring from the Pros is that they're finally IPX4 sweat and water resistant, for all of you that have dared to work out with the originals without this rating before.
Now, the reason why I won't be one of those people using them at the gym is because the one thing I love most from the Pros is not here, and that's the fit. Instead of the variable ear tips, they bring a different attempt into the classic open-ear design we had before. I will admit these do fit my ears better than the previous ones did, but I just can't get around feeling paranoid doing any activity and dealing with this feel of them falling off. Again it's better a better fit, but not what I'd call ideal, even if I know a ton of people that prefer no tips at all.
Something to like is this new case. It resembles the Pros at a glance, but is actually much smaller. Think of the case of the old models just getting wider and shorter, but nearly taking up the same footprint. The box includes a lightning to USB-C cable for charging, but I'm just shocked Apple was able to fit magnets in this case to not just support wireless charging, but adopt the more reliable MagSafe approach to keep them in place.
That said, I think the only reason these AirPods are superior even to the Pro models is in their endurance. You get 6 hours of listening time instead of 4.5, which is pretty much enough for a cross country flight across the US. The case will get you a total of 30 hours, and charges them fast enough to get you an extra hour in just five minutes of a charge.
Now as for the most important reason why you'd ever buy these, sound quality is pretty great if you're not in a noisy environment. We get a new low distortion driver that provides more bass, and I like that it's now not trying to overcompensate for the noise by going hard on your ears like before. Highs also got a good increase, helping you notice a bit more detail. They also bring Dolby Atmos support and the same Adaptive EQ you get on the Pro models which adapts whatever you're listening to "the way it's supposed to sound" in Apple's wording. I do find it to do a far better job than before at serving you a better experience while in a crowded area, but I still feel the design gets in the way of it being truly excellent. Probably one of my favorite features here is the new implementation of Find My, that’ll even let you know if you’re leaving these behind somewhere, and you know you've done it just as much as I have.. Also, Spatial audio is here, but it's one of those features I actually disable. Like sure, it's cool the first time to notice that audio will shift based on you moving your head around, but since I'm always moving around, it can get unnerving at times.
As for what I see people using these for most, phone calls are still one thing AirPods do best. It's come to the point where callers find phone calls to sound better from these than if I were on speaker or using the ear peace. It's this plus little things like Apple's H1 chip, which enable so many things in addition to the auto switching between your Apple devices that make these great for anyone that needs their earbuds to become more like necessary tools in your everyday life.
If only they had Noise Cancelling at a time where we're permanently on Zoom Calls and need full concentration.
Apple AirPods 3
Better design, sound quality, and IP rating
Yes the AirPods 3 are a good pair of earbuds, and if this sort of fit plus the perks speak to you, then of course I have no problem in recommending them.
To conclude, I think my feelings this time around are far more positive than the last time Apple decided to release a new pair of AirPods. We get a better design, better sound quality, an IP rating, and most of the cool factor we get on the Pro variants, now downsized into a somewhat smaller package.
Here's the problem: We're no longer in 2016 or even 2019. Their price tag is really not something I'd call "in touch with reality." Back when these had no competition, the price made sense, but today we have devices like Amazon's Echo Buds 2, or the Galaxy Buds 2 or even the Nothing Ear One, all offering water resistance, and noise cancelling, and some sort of ambient mode, and a better fit, and a compact case, all for a price that's dramatically below what Apple is asking for here. Heck, even the AirPods Pro can be found for nearly the same starting price as these new AirPods on Amazon all the time.
Yes the AirPods 3 are a good pair of earbuds, and if this sort of fit plus the perks speak to you, then of course I have no problem in recommending them. I'm sadly on the boat of people that find them too expensive for what you get. Maybe it's because I've been using the Pro models so long that I have a hard time going back, and that's pretty much the case for me.