AirPods Versus PowerBeats Pro: Same Parent, Different Paths

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AirPods aren’t Apple’s only earbuds. The PowerBeats Pro buds, a product of the Apple-owned Beats by Dre brand, have features in common with their little white cousins yet differ in many ways. Which should you pick? Julio Ojeda-Zapata walks you through your options.

While AirPods have no noise cancelling capabilities, I find they easily fit inside the ear protectors I occasionally use when operating power equipment in the garden. When doing so, as a safety precaution and since I mainly listen to podcasts, I usually only wear one AirPod at a time.

What ear protectors do you use? The ones I use knock the AirPods out instantly, so I stick with a $15 Chinese earbud for mowing.

I believe they are made by 3M from an Ace Hardware store. A feature I like is that the earpieces are not in a fixed position on the headband. They can rotate 360°. That allows for the headband to, for example, sit back toward my neck if I am wearing a cap while the earpieces remain in a comfortable position on the ear.

There was a neat example, under “Portability,” of how “attraction” in subject matter can lead us into typos: after referring to their case as a “monster,” the next instance of PowerBeats was spelled “PowerBeast”! :joy:

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Hah! Good eye, and as much as I like the idea of a PowerBeast Pro, I’ve fixed it. That sort of thing really does happen in editing a lot. The main place I hit it is when I think I’ve come up with the perfect word for some sentence and then I realize the very same word is a line or two below. My brain must have picked it up without my realizing.

Suffice to say that I purchased three other pairs of TW earbuds trying to find something cheaper than Apple’s offerings. I finally ended up with the PowerBeats Pro and 100% feel they are worth the money. Airpods do NOT fit my ears even a little, so they were never really an option.

Upsides of PowerBeat Pro:

  • Just writing “9 hours per charge” does not fully express how freeing it is to have a wireless headphone that just lasts all day. I literally just do not have to worry about it, at all. This was a regular source of anxiety with other TWEB claiming 4 and 5 hour battery life. I basically had to keep wired headphones around as a backup with the others, but didn’t feel it necessary even on a 12-hour road trip.
  • The included tips are somehow significantly better than most pack-in tips. I NEVER use silcone tips, but I actually prefer these to the Complys I bought just assuming I’d need them. It’s not as good a seal as Complys for sure, but audio quality doesn’t seem to suffer for it. I just use the Complys to mow the yard now.
  • You can actually make phone calls with them. For some reason, almost all other TW earbuds completely fail at this pretty basic task. Jabra told me they believe it’s a fundmental limitation of any bud-style design. I don’t talk on the phone a lot, but it was so infuriating to start every phone call with “What? Can you hear me? Hold on…”
  • In general they just fatigue my ears far less. The buttons are really easy to press, meaning you never jam them into your ear pushing them. Since they don’t wedge into the ear canal to get a good seal, they don’t hurt after wearing them for hours. And I can’t even imagine how they’d fall out.

Downsides of the PowerBeat Pro:

  • As mentioned, these are a non-starter if you wear glasses. I put up with it when I wear sunglasses, but I can’t imagine having to deal with that all day.
  • Connection is very good, but not perfect. For all it’s other flaws, the Jabra Sport Elites where absolutely flawless in their connection (though both are in a different class than anything else I tried). These run into very occasional hiccups, which are always solved by disconnecting and reconnecting.
  • The case is hilariously large. This isn’t a huge problem with the aforementioned battery life, but it does mean that I leave the case at home most days and the earbud just hangs around loose in my pocket more than I’d like.
  • I thought for sure that they’d show up in Apple’s “Find My” app, but they don’t. All the other TW earbuds I tried had an app that would show you their last known location and make a whistling sound to help you find one if you lost it in the couch. The PBP have nothing to help you with that, and is a surprising omission frankly. Maybe when the start doing UWB things.
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