Beyond Airpods — What You Need To Know About Buying ‘True Wireless’ Earphones

Your ultimate guide to buying Airpods or the alternatives.

Ever since Apple launched the Airpods, several other companies have been getting onto the “true wireless” boat. While wireless headphones — where there’s a wire connecting the two earpieces — have been around for ages, true wireless earphones are still a new development, although the rapid adoption of Airpods may make that hard to believe.

But with multiple brands out there now, what do you need to keep in mind when choosing what to buy? Although buying these devices is pretty similar to buying other earphones, there are a couple of additional factors that you need to keep in mind.

These six points are things you should consider when you’re looking to buy true wireless earphones such as Airpods, or those from other brands like Bose, Jabra, Samsung, and others.

1. Design

Since this is a new category, there are a number of different designs available right now, which doesn’t just impact the look, but also how these earbuds fit in your ears. The iconic Airpods look a lot like the normal Apple headphones — EarPods — just sans wires.

Wireless earbuds from the likes of Bose, Sennheiser, Sony and Samsung look like bullet points or dots. Then there are the more affordable truly wireless earphones from Skullcandy, Toreto, Stuffcool and Boat that come in funky shapes and sizes.

Some, like AirPods, take a one-size fits all approach, while others come with replaceable tips for a better fit; or with wings to sit more securely in your ear, or a hinge to hook them around the ear.

When you’re looking at the design, aside from aesthetics, you need to consider the comfort, fit (a close fit blocks out outside noises) and also if you’ll be wearing them to the gym, are they waterproof?

2. Stability

While stability is one of the considerations we need to keep in mind when looking at design, with a fully wireless earbud, it’s important enough to be considered as a fresh point. That’s because if one of these falls out of your ear, it won’t just dangle at the end of a cord, it could potentially be lost forever.

All these earbuds tend to fall out, no matter how stable they are. Some will fall out more easily than others, but each of them will fall out at some point in time. So make sure you try out the earbuds before you buy them, and ensure that they are at least steady enough for day to day use in your ears, because one-size does not fit all, and if you lose even one of the buds, the experience goes for a toss.

3. Connectivity

You need to check how easy it is to pair the earphones with your phones, and also, how easy it is to switch them on and off. Here too, not all earbuds are born equal—with some, you need to do a long press, or a double tap, on tiny buttons, but others like AirPods will reconnect as soon as you bring them close to your phone.

Some buds also need to stay connected not just to your phone but also each other, in which case you need to turn them on one at a time. The bigger brands have done a generally good job in this regard, but if you’re buying a pair of true wireless earphones, make sure that they have a simple and reliable process to connect to your phone.

4. Carry case

When it comes to most earphones and headphones, the case in which they are carried isn’t very important. But when it comes to truly wireless earbuds, their carrying case if often crucial to the buds’ existence. This is because most carry cases of true wireless earphones are not only the home to the buds when not in use, but also double up as their charger.

That’s not true for some low-end ones, but in that situation too, it might be a good idea to invest in one simply so you don’t risk misplacing them. If the earphones come with a case, you should also look at the size and weight of the case, to see if the total experience is actually as portable and convenient as the earphones promised.

5. Battery and charging

Truly wireless earphones may look and feel all hep and trendy but that small form factor means that the batteries inside them are smaller, eating away crucial audio hours. Most of these buds can last up to 3-5 hours on a single charge. Anything below it is pretty much unacceptable and anything above that is a bonus.

Then comes the charging process. Most wireless earphones may be without any wires when it comes to the buds and but they still get charged through wired chargers, which as we pointed out earlier, are often through their cases (Apple’s second generation AirPods are one of the few that actually come with a wireless charging case, if you are willing to pay extra).

The battery life provided by these cases can vary from model to model. It is generally given in terms of the number of times the case can recharge the earbuds - which can be from a couple of recharges to half a dozen of them. They also tend to charge at different speeds - Apple’s case for instance, claims to deliver three hours of listening time when you place the AirPods in them for just fifteen minutes.

6. Ease of use

They might have a few connectivity blues and their battery life might not always be there greatest, but what can be really really (really) annoying in most true wireless earphones are the controls, be it for charging column, skipping tracks or making and rejecting calls. Most earbuds come with teeny-tiny buttons that are almost impossible to press and operate and the placement of these buttons generally is another problem.

The buds themselves are so small that finding buttons on them becomes a headache in itself. Some buds have tried to address this by adding touch and tap control options instead of buttons, like the AirPods and the Bragi Dash Pro, but even those can be slightly complicated simply because there are times when you do not know whether your touch has registered or not - a double tap might be mistaken for a single one, a swipe for a tap and so on. The control systems are not quite perfect yet, so try out a few different ones to see what works for you.

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