Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) wireless AirPods went on sale over two years ago, yet they still sold out at most stores this past holiday season. In fact, stores selling out of AirPods has been on an ongoing theme since they first came out in December 2016. Apple can't seem to make the headphones fast enough.
The AirPods come in a small plastic box, about the size of a package of dental floss. To charge the AirPods, you put them in the box and plug your charger into the box via a small portal in the bottom. Each charge gives you up to five hours of listening time. This might seem like an inconvenience, but charging them just 15 minutes gives you three hours of battery life. In addition, the charging box itself gives you a total of more than 24 hours of listening time so you don't have to keep plugging it into the wall.
I have to admit I scoffed at the design and price of the $160 AirPods up until a few months ago. At that point, I had heard so many rave reviews about the product that my curiosity got the better of me. A week later, the headphones I was using at the time broke, and I knew it was time. I was about to do something I never thought I would do: spend $160 on plastic headphones.
What I like about AirPods
Hands down the best thing about the AirPods is that you can move around with ease since they connect to your phone via Bluetooth. The first day I used my AirPods, it was a strange feeling to get up and walk around and still hear my phone's audio. It's so freeing to clean my room, fix my lunch, or workout without having to lug around my iPhone X or deal with a tangled mess of headphone wires.
If I leave my phone in the kitchen downstairs, my AirPods stay connected even if I walk outside or walk upstairs to my room. Apple didn't publish an official range for the AirPods, but I've even checked the mail without being disconnected, although the connection did get spotty briefly. For reference, the general consensus is the most Bluetooth headphones on the market right now have a range of about 33 feet before connection gets spotty.
The second best thing about AirPods is that they connect instantly and automatically to your device. When you put them in your ears, you will hear a tone that indicates they have connected with your phone. I've never had to wait for them to pair up to my iPhone. As soon as the pods are in your ears, they're ready to go.
Since they're headphones, I have to mention the sound quality, which is perfectly fine to me. I would say the sound quality is as good or better than the sound quality on past Apple headphones.
What I don't like about AirPods
The obvious thing to dislike about the AirPods is that you have to charge them. This was the main reason I was sure I would never like AirPods. As a writer, I listen to music, podcasts, or YouTube videos nearly all day because background noise helps me focus.
Five hours seems like a short lifespan when you're used to traditional wired headphones. However, while charging my headphones isn't ideal, it also has been less of a hassle than I originally imagined. When my headphones are charging, I simply use my phone's built-in speakers since I work from home. If I'm working from a coffee shop, it's typically not for more than a few hours, so my AirPods would last the full work session anyway.
I've found that I'm not typically in a situation where I need my headphones to last for more than five hours at a time. But it's important to remember that the AirPods' case holds 24 hours of charge in it -- meaning even if I were on a long flight or in the midst of an 8-hour work session in a library, I can charge the AirPods in their case for just 15 minutes and have three hours of charge back in them again. That means you could simply take a bathroom or coffee break and they'd be ready to go again when you got back.
Conclusion: Are AirPods worth the money?
This is a two-fold question. Are the AirPods worth $160? Absolutely not. I'd guess it costs Apple about $55 to make these simple wireless headphones. That's based on the estimates that it costs Apple about $370 to make the $1,000 iPhone X and $450 to make the new $1,250 iPhone XS Max.
However, would I pay this slightly outrageous price again for headphones that make my life easier and have glitched zero times since I opened them? Yes, I would. I've searched around on Amazon for a cheaper dupe for the AirPods but couldn't find one with decent reviews. Most of the dupes had issues, such as only one of the earpieces connecting to the device.
Since I use my headphones throughout the day while I write, these headphones have enhanced my life by giving me the freedom to move around my house. And I would rather pay $160 one time for Apple AirPods that work seamlessly 100% of the time, as opposed to $40 for copycat headphones that have annoying glitches and may need to be replaced.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Natalie Walters has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon and Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.