My Lopsided Listening

Listening to podcasts and audio books takes a toll on my AirPod batteries. They take a toll in stereo, that is, and most of the content benefits little by the extra channel.

This mono approach is nothing new. I would like Apple to take note, never the less.

AirPods have several deficiencies:

  • Microphone is poor to useless on calls in any space other than a perfectly silent room
  • No volume control on its/their own
  • Battery life is ok (they’re tiny, I know)
  • The case is a grime magnet, and the pods themselves are not much better (but surprisingly good depending on the user)
  • The charging case is too easy to lose

AirPods paired with an iPhone paired to an Apple Watch, and maybe when solely paired with the Apple Watch, the Watch can fix the volume control issue. If I could use the Watch on a “raise to speak” mode where otherwise the microphone is muted while the audio is piped through the AirPods, I would be happy. Maybe it’s possible and I haven’t discovered it, but I expect more news would have been made of the functionality.

For the battery life issue, juggling between ears one at a time is the best approach. I can easily get through a day with the pods and their charger case.

Apple clearly didn’t consider this use case. When I get the chime indicating that the battery will soon run out on the AirPod I’m using, then I put the other one in my other ear. I expect iOS will recognize this change and switch me to stereo. If it did, I would pull out the battery depleted unit and double tap the fresh one for my content to continue while I slip the dead one in for a charge.

It does not work that way, or at least for me. Maybe it’s a deficiency with the iPod Touch I use as my content hub. As mentioned, my work issued iPhone lacks the storage needed for my work content. Adding in podcasts and ebooks and audiobooks and music are far too much for it. The two in semi-concert make a workable and portable (both are small form factor) compromise. The iPod Touch also charges quickly and requires little of its power source.

Back to my initial story, swapping AirPods mostly works so long as I don’t want to listen to music. As soon as stereo is needed this model fails.

If some third party created a neck wearable battery pack that the AirPods could plug into for extended use, I would buy one.

As it is, my inexpensive fix for the stereo issue is to carry a set of lighting EarPods. They have the added benefit of not requiring any wireless tech, so my iPod Touch battery lasts that much longer and can move to my iPhone if a conference call is needed. Of course I hate this backup plan. I prefer the analog headphone jack. I still have it on my iPod Touch and my iPads, so maybe I permanently affix a lighting-headphone adaptor to my iPhone.

This can’t be the ideal Apple wants. I’m heartened by the lack of releases of new Beats hardware, which I always saw as a brand and content acquisition. Beats headphones always sounded muddy and heavy to me, like I was scuba diving with a drum section.

It would be good if Apple added location tracking to the charging case or alarm when the AirPods are in use and the case is about to leave the Bluetooth radius.

This is a long, rambling post. Enjoy.

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