Apple’s AirPods 3 Review: Not Worth the Money

Rating: 6/10 | Price: from £169 from Amazon | John Lewis | Apple


Spatial audio sustain; superior design and build; fine microphones; surprisingly good bass; IPX4


Overpriced, already compared to other Apple-made models; without of noise cancelling; sound leakage

Value for money. It’s an important factor in reviewing any product. Yes, it’s not as alluring as evaluating sleek design or new abilities, but it’s meaningful nonetheless. In a world where reviewers on the whole don’t pay for the products they are evaluating, the bearing of this vital aspect can sometimes be, not forgotten, but diluted. 

I’m often taken to task by readers asking how a high-end phone can now cost more than half the average £2,647 monthly income. The answer I give is usually along the lines of our phones these days are not just phones, they are our camera, music player, games console, television and mobile computer. In today’s money, the hulking Motorola 3200, the brick phone from the early 1980s, would cost a remarkably familiar sum of £1,651 modificated for inflation — but it was just a phone. It couldn’t already play Snake

Headphones are nevertheless just headphones, however. Yes, the wires have gone. Yes, mics have been additional. And, yes, they have tech advances such as noise cancelling and wireless charging. But chiefly they nevertheless serve the same purpose. And the cost of those tech advances has plummeted. Noise cancelling is now standard, already present in some budget buds. The same is true for wireless charging. 

All this has made Apple’s runaway successes AirPods look increasingly dated compared to a growing pool of excellent competition. Five long years have passed with the original AirPods being largely untouched. Well, AirPods 3 have finally landed to bring these ubiquitous buds up to date. But the snag is they cost considerably more than their rivals. Can the company justify what is possibly the most obvious “Apple tax” in addition? Not really. Here’s why.

Who’s it for

Apple stans, most clearly. And there are plenty of them. There is no doubt that the company will sell millions of these earbuds. Whether they deserve to is another matter. 

AirPods 3 are also for those who like to immerse themselves in the Apple ecosystem, using Siri as much as possible, sporting an Apple Watch, rejoicing every time docs and logins seamlessly sync from iMac to MacBook to iPhone. They’re all in already, and paying over the odds for some earphones won’t concern them (though, by rights these punters should already own AirPods Pros). 

The crucial and obvious difference here is that when AirPods first came out in 2016 they were for everyone. Five hours of battery life coupled with the fact that they were substantial and reliable and staunchly delivered on what they promised put them ahead of everyone else. This is no longer the case.


One of the big benefits of the new AirPods is the design. Borrowing heavily from the nevertheless excellent AirPods Pro, the updated look has a new contoured earbud, shorter stems with the AirPods Pro force sensor and a wireless charging case. They look more premium as a consequence. An IPX4 rating method they’re sweat and water resistant. Battery life is up by just an hour per charge to 6 hours, plus four complete charges in the case.

Inside has got an overhaul, too. A new custom-built driver and high dynamic range amplifier that genuinely delivers more powerful bass — in fact, a surprising amount of it — in addition as crisp high frequencies. An inset mic in each earbud designed to minimize wind noise when you’re on a call indeed works. Connection is nevertheless Lightning cable. 

Living with it

The new design is a double-edged sword. The clear improvement makes you feel like you’re about to get an audio experience akin to the Pros, but of course you don’t. The absence of silicone tips method there’s no noise cancelling here, and if you are used to ANC then it’s a shock to experience the bleed of noise coming in and going out of the new AirPods. Traffic noise spoils the listening experience if you are a podcast fan, while music obsessives will on event be wanting more quantity to conquer background commotion or Tube clatter. 

The new design also aims to address fit issues. But hard plastic can never compete with flexible silicone, so the quality of ear fit you get with these new AirPods depends on your own lugholes. For me, they fit fine, and aren’t inclined to falling out, already when running. But this won’t be the case for everyone. One size, in the case, will not fit all. 

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