Working Out with Apple AirPods: Worth the Investment?

by Matt Weik

If you work out, either you listen to the music playing at the gym or you bring your own mix. If you bring your own, I’m sure you have your favorite pair of workout headphones. I was a huge fan of Beats over the ear headphones… that is until the Bluetooth craze hit and my head exploded while screaming “take my money!”

I went from a wired Beats over the ear, to a wireless Beats over the ear, and now most recently, I picked up a pair of the Apple AirPods. Full disclosure, I truly bought them for when I’m in the office doing work and taking calls more so than using them as workout headphones. However, I had them in the other day after work and decided to hit a workout right after I closed my office door and decided to just use them. Below are my thoughts on them and if I would recommend you invest in a pair. Prepare for the good, the bad, and the ugly!

The Good

If you own a pair of Bluetooth anything, you know that every once in a while, the dang thing doesn’t want to connect to your phone. You turn off Bluetooth, turn it back on, put your headphones into discovery mode, and finally everything is back to working as usual. I have yet to have a hiccup with the AirPods. They have been flawless. You open up the case, put the AirPods in your ears and you’re good to go without having to hit any buttons.

If you have an Apple iPhone and have used the standard wired version of their earbuds, you know how those fit—the AirPods are no different (they’re simply missing the cord that you are probably used to untangling or bumping and either sending your phone flying or having the earbuds pop out of your ears). So, if the earbuds fit, these will too. If they don’t, well, you can pretty much skip the rest of this article since you wouldn’t be interested in purchasing the AirPods.

The sound quality of the AirPods is crisp and the vocals are good in my opinion. The volume is able to be cranked up enough to pretty much drown out the noise around you and let you get after your workout in peace with your music.

The case for the AirPods is actually a charging station for the pods themselves. This comes in handy and ensures your AirPods are fully charged before your workouts (that is, unless the case is out of juice, which in that instance you’re screwed).

The AirPods stayed in my ears regardless of what exercise I was doing, whether I was standing, sitting, lying, or on a decline, there was no movement at all and they stayed in place. I even jumped around and did some sprints and they were good to go without any wiggling or feeling as if they were going to fall out.

Another thing I like about the AirPods is that when you take one of the pods out of your ear, the music stops until you put it back in. This is actually really cool and useful when someone comes up to you or you need to hear what your training partner is saying (as in “this bar is crushing my throat, lift it off”).

The Bad

If you compare the AirPods to something like Bose or Beats, you are going to be completely let down in my opinion. While I enjoyed the AirPods, they don’t give you quite the experience and sound quality that you get from a higher-end brand. The bass isn’t there, and the overall sound quality was lacking. Now mind you, we are talking about a small in-ear Bluetooth device, so I guess I can’t be too shocked that it fell behind the likes of Bose and Beats. After all, the AirPods are meant to be used primarily for taking phone calls as well as some light use via music, YouTube, podcasts, etc. Audiophiles would never even consider using the AirPods to listen to their music—they’d end up in the trash.

The small size of the AirPods is a positive as well as a negative. Due to their size, if they fall out, there’s the possibility that you’ll never find them. Sure, you could use one AirPod and be fine, but chances are if you’re spending the money on them, you’ll want to use both. The case they go in isn’t large either. In fact, if I were to describe it, I would say it looks like a dental floss dispenser.

The price is a little high in my opinion for what you’re getting. The technology on them isn’t anything great, and the fact that you can use Siri by double tapping one of the AirPods is actually quite annoying and it is much easier just using the “hey Siri” feature with your phone. You have to tap your AirPods fairly hard to actuate them too. I actually disabled Siri on my AirPods and changed it so when I would double tap an AirPod it would pause/play my music or whatever I was listening to. I found this much more useful than trying to speak to Siri when most of the time you’re going to be redirected to your phone anyway for the detailed answer of whatever question you asked.

The Ugly

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. The AirPods are hideous looking. I’m talking UGLY. Is there such thing as AirPod shaming? I’m sure someone on the internet will have an issue with my feelings on how the pods look. Sorry, but it looks like you have two antennas coming out of your ears and everyone looks at you strange when they see you with them in. Even better is when you are walking around outside or in the office with the AirPods in talking to someone on your phone as no one sees any cords or even your phone and it looks like you’re taking to yourself (awkward).

Something that I can’t seem to forgive Apple for is the lack of volume control. You spend over $160 on the AirPods to allow for handsfree use without your phone, and you’re left grabbing your phone or using your iWatch in order to change the volume? That’s frustrating. Sure, you can double tap an AirPod and tell Siri to turn the volume up or down, but honestly that’s a pain in the ass.

In addition to the missing volume controls would be a skip or forward button. We all know when using apps like iHeartRadio that you have the ability to skip songs. If you have your phone in your hand, you simply hit the button and move ahead to the next song. If you have something like Beats headphones, you hit the forward button to do the same thing without needing your phone. There’s nothing on the AirPods themselves that allow you to do anything other than stop and start music. Kind of disappointing to say the least when these have been hyped up on the internet as having crazy good technology.

Final Say

Would I recommend the Apple AirPods for workouts? No. If you enjoy music, you are going to be left disappointed with the AirPods. While they aren’t bad, I still prefer my Beats over the AirPods for workouts. Yet, on the flip side, I hate using my Bluetooth Beats for phone calls or when I’m in the office—go figure. So, if you want something that you can use in the office or while at home, the AirPods might be worth it for you. But if you’re looking for something to use when at the gym, save your money for a higher quality Bluetooth device such as a Bose or Beats.

Purchasing a higher quality pair of Bluetooth headphones will cost you quite a bit more, but in my opinion, it’s well worth it. If overall sound quality isn’t a huge factor for you, then you could most definitely get away with purchasing the Apple AirPods and wearing them in the office and then right into the gym (you’ll probably just need to charge them in between).