Okay, it’s been a hell of a weekend and you know that when I write two rantitorial’s in one weekend. Listen, I know we’re a smaller website and we don’t have as many resources as The Wall Street Journal, MacRumors, Business Insider, Apple Insider or ZDNet, but every once in awhile we do get some things before the big boys (but never even get a nod). In this case, we’re talking Apple AirPods again. Back on November 26th, I was sitting around wondering why Apple hadn’t gone to market with their AirPods yet. Having already tested two pairs of (competing) wire-free earbuds and finding they exhibited connectivity issues, I speculated Apple must be having the same problems.
I’m no engineer or designer but it makes sense. Wire-free earbuds work by connecting your device to one of the earbuds while the other connects to the first. Here’s how I explained it in my piece written back in November:
Could Apple’s issue come down to an unreliable Bluetooth connection? I’ve had the chance to review two sets of wire-free headphones, one from Rowkin and the other from SmartOmi. Both of these wire-free offerings had great sound, but they both suffered from one issue, connectivity. The way wire-free headphones work is a bit different than a regular pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones. First, you must pair one of the buds to your phone, then you pair the other bud to the “master” bud. This means the Bluetooth signal goes from your device to the master bud which then goes to the second paired bud.
Since my reviews of both the Rowkin and SmartOmi, I have found that the connection between the master and second bud drops out. Rowkin did offer a fix that does help but doesn’t solve the issue. With the Rowkins, you can rotate one bud until the connection comes back, but it’s a pain to have to deal with. This could be the very issue that Apple is facing with its own AirPods and why the company hasn’t released them just yet.
We called it back then and now the websites with big pockets are jumping on the same story, though with no credit to us. What still baffles me are the reviews that came out from sites who scored a pair from Apple. Some of the reviews from Macworld, Techradar,and The Verge never mention a problem with connectivity and I speculated that they were probably under an Apple NDA prohibiting them from speaking of it since their AirPods were not official.
The bottom line is, Apple has a lot of work to do in figuring out the connectivity issue here. I’ve been in contact with several companies regarding wire-free earbuds for review and have yet to see them come into my office. I’m speculating that most of the industry is now aware of this issue, something you would think everyone would have tested in R&D, and are holding off until it gets ironed out.