AirPods are a technical marvel. But they’re also a fickle beast that at times seem to have a life of their own. That’s perhaps true for most wireless earbuds, but maybe more so for Apple’s given their close relationship to Apple’s hardware and software.
In other words, mine have been driving me nuts this week. The problem isn’t necessarily a new one. It’s definitely not unheard of for my AirPods Pro to go a little wonky from time to time, to the point where I’ve made a habit of making sure they actually, ya know, work, before leaving my case in the car and heading into the gym in the morning.
I’m willing to chalk up the occasional connection problem — or even a relatively consistent problem — to the fact that these are tiny, low-powered devices in a world of tiny, low-powered devices. Things happen. If I pop in my buds and discover that Righty isn’t working, I’ll just pop it back in the case to try to get things going. I might have to do it twice. It’s annoying, but at least it’s obvious when one of the buds simply hasn’t turned on. (Did I hold it funny? Did I cram it in my ear wrong?)
But that’s not the one that really gets me.
It’s when you’re halfway through a workout, drenched with sweat, and you hear the little descending bloop-bloop-bloop sound that indicates one of your AirPods is soon going to die. That should be impossible, right? They’d been in the case all night. And the case was on the charger. And I’d had plenty of time in which to properly charge said dead bud on the 15-minute drive downtown to the gym.
If only I’d known something was wrong. And to be clear, my iPhone knows darn well the charge state of my AirPods — it says so right in the widget. It just couldn’t be bothered to tell me.
It’s not like iOS has a dearth of notifications. It’s quick to tell me when there’s something new on Apple TV+. Or when an MLS match is close. (Someone really needs to tell Apple that most soccer games are close.) But when it comes to something actually important — like an AirPod being precariously close to perishing — there’s nary a word.
It’s not like this sort of warning is unprecedented, either. My Apple Watch tells me to charge it each evening after around 12 hours of wear. The iPhone, of course, will tell you when it’s close to the end and offer up its low-power mode. Or, if the total battery capacity is down to an unfun level, and it might be time to consider a replacement.
That’s all table stakes, though. That’s exactly what you’d expect from devices that cost this much when they run into a completely predictable problem. Why, then, does Apple’s iPhone not tell you when Apple’s AirPods are in some sort of sub-optimal state?
Who knows. Maybe I’m charging it wrong.