Last week, after realizing living the dongle life is not worth the effort anymore, I decided to finally invest in a pair of Bluetooth earphones. I have reviewed a handful of them in the past, hence I wasn’t completely new to the notion of going wireless. However, as soon as I began browsing for options, I found buying one for yourself is an entirely different experience. It’s not the good kind of experience either, it’s the one which inspires you to question the whole process and even motivate you to write a piece on it. So here we are.
Purchasing a new Bluetooth headphone or earphone can feel like a mess. The reason is quite simple — there are way too many factors to consider. Alright, take wired earphones, for instance. You have two things to check — the audio quality and how comfortably they sit in your ears. That’s it. Now let’s pan towards Bluetooth ones. There’s the audio quality, battery life, connectivity issues, how convenient the charging process is, and the fit. In addition to that, most of the good ones are expensive and start at roughly $100 which, as you’d guess, is out of the majority of the customers’ budget.
Those were only the most essential aspects. There’s more. Bluetooth earphones have a multitude of design templates — you can either go completely wireless like Apple’s Airpods or get neck buds which, as the name suggests, wrap around your neck or buy something like Google’s Pixel buds. All of them are designed to serve various kinds of users. For instance, neck buds will, in most cases, have an edge in the battery life department. AirPods, on the other hand, are for the people who’re looking to ditch as many as wires in their life as they can.
But wait, we’re not done yet. Now, comes the control part. You see, unlike wired headphones, these accessories offer all kinds of interfaces through which you can manipulate settings like the volume or switch tracks. Some of them have a touch-sensitive surface that relies on various gestures and taps. A couple of them like AirPods let you control the music only through voice. And lastly, there are the good ol’ buttons (boooo!).
Now, if you’re anyone like me, you’re also curious to know how a particular Bluetooth earphone integrates with the voice assistant on your phone. AirPods, of course, seamlessly syncs with the company’s own Siri. Google also has a program called “Made for Google” which adds a dedicated key for invoking the Assistant on headphones. The products which are not a part of any of these, simply rely on the operating system’s capabilities to let you speak to a voice assistant hands-free.
The thing about wireless earphones or headphones is that, in spite of being in existence for the last few years, they’re still one of those technologies which is in its nascent stages. That’s primarily due to the fact that companies are still trying to figure them out in a hope to make the transition as seamless as plugging in a wire. One of the more critical rationales behind this is that voice assistants are now being considered as the interface which will eventually replace touchscreens.
Apple seems to be at the forefront of both of these challenges with its AirPods. While they’re still a little on the expensive end of the spectrum for the majority of buyers, they do seem to be the closest candidate to the perfect Bluetooth earbuds. They can be instantly paired with any Apple device, come in a nifty compact case which also charges them and bring Siri just a tap away from your reach.
AirPods are obviously not perfect. They don’t produce the best sound and kinda look silly as well which is why Bluetooth headphones and earphones are still stuck in this preliminary phase as other audio companies continue to experiment with their form and function. Until then, I’ll be on the lookout for my next pair of earphones and try to make peace with the dongle life for now.