Bluetooth headphones have improved a lot over the years, to the point that the traditional complaint over sound quality is no longer applicable. But it’s still been a bit of a hassle to use them regularly. You have to keep them charged up, and when you want to switch devices, you have to disconnect the first, and then connect with the other. It always takes a bit of juggling around.
With the new technology being introduced in the new AirPods as well as several new Beats models, Apple are changing all that. Instant connection and switching between devices, excellent battery life and an elegant storage / charging solution raise the bar.
Whether the AirPods are as practical as they are stylish remains to be seen. For me, I wouldn’t be comfortable walking around with them because they are likely to fall out of my ears. And if they do, there’s no tether to stop them falling straight to the ground. But for use in sedentary situations, they should be ideal.
The other great benefit of these devices is the rapid charging facility. 5 minutes of charging for 3 hours of listening almost entirely eliminates the penalty of forgetting to charge them the night before.
One issue may be the fact that Apple appear to be going even further down the proprietary rabbit hole, firstly by introducing lightning for wired headphones, and then also introducing a Bluetooth quick connection protocol which uses iCloud as an integral part.
The lightning issue sounds bad, but when you consider that many headphones now come with completely user replaceable cables, we could just see manufacturers selling headphones with whichever cable you wish to use, whether that be lightning, USB-C or an old school 3.5mm jack. And then if you want to buy additional cables for other devices, you could. It’s not ideal, but we already have a similar situation when it comes to different inline remotes for android and iOS devices. Bose for example does this.
As far as the quick connection method, Apple should work with others to enable these products to function in a similar way across all devices. At a bare minimum, we should see the bulk of the smart features as possible transfer over when paired with android devices. It would be a disappointment if they just acted like current Bluetooth headphones.
Proprietary systems are fine for the most part, but in some things, you need to have open standards. Wireless headphone technology is one of these areas. Just like Electric Car Charging, which I’ll get into in another post.
One thing we can definitively say following the Apple Event, is that the 3.5mm Jack is done and dusted, and the stage is now set for Bluetooth headphones to dominate the market in the years to come.