Best daily deals

Links on Android Authority may earn us a commission. Learn more.

A hand holds a Apple AirPods (3rd generation) earbud by the stem to reveal the open-type fit and embedded sensors.
Zak Khan / Android Authority

Apple AirPods (3rd generation) review: Still unsealed, still not the best

Apple's classic true wireless earbuds get more advanced features in this new model, but still fall behind on sound quality.
November 16, 2022

Apple AirPods (3rd generation)

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) improve on the 2019 model with a more ergonomic (but still unsealed) fit, IPX4 water resistance, a MagSafe charging case, and advanced software features. If you loved the previous generation of AirPods, you will likely like these. But there are plenty of cheaper and better options out there that don't suffer from the same drawbacks, especially if you've got an Android phone.

Retail price: $179.99

$179.99 at Amazon

What we like

H1 chip
Adaptive EQ (iOS, Android, Windows)
Spatial Audio with head tracking
MagSafe case with wireless charging
IPX4 rating

What we don't like

Poor fit, no isolation
Sound quality
Features limited to iOS

Apple AirPods (3rd generation)

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) improve on the 2019 model with a more ergonomic (but still unsealed) fit, IPX4 water resistance, a MagSafe charging case, and advanced software features. If you loved the previous generation of AirPods, you will likely like these. But there are plenty of cheaper and better options out there that don't suffer from the same drawbacks, especially if you've got an Android phone.

Apple AirPods are often what comes to mind when you think of true wireless earbuds. While these are the best-selling earbuds in the last 20 years, popularity doesn’t necessarily equate to quality. Should you give this new model a chance or consider other options first? It’s complicated. Let’s talk about why in this Apple AirPods (3rd generation) review.

This Apple AirPods (3rd generation) review comes from the audio experts at our sister site SoundGuys. Check out their in-depth take on the Apple AirPods (3rd generation).
Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
See review
See review

Update, October 2022: This review was updated to address the release of the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and the launch of Personalized Spatial Audio.

Who should buy the Apple AirPods (3rd generation)?

iPhone and iPad owners will get a better experience with the third-generation AirPods than others. The Apple H1 chip’s advanced features only work with Apple hardware, so you’ll need an iPhone or iPad to take full advantage of those features.

What’s it like to use the Apple AirPods (3rd generation)?

Headdie with the AirPods 3rd Gen.
Sam Smart / Android Authority

The AirPods (3rd generation) look a bit like the AirPods (2019) and AirPods Pro (1st generation) blended together. They have a shorter stem than the previous generation, and still don’t have a sealing ear tip. They’re still only available in a glossy white color.

The charging case is also similar to a blend between previous models, as it’s wider but still small and very portable. The earbuds stay in the case with magnets, and the case snaps shut with a satisfying click.

See also: Apple AirPods (2nd generation) vs AirPods (3rd generation)

One nice design addition to the new AirPods is a skin-detect sensor, which replaces the optical sensor found in older AirPods models. It handles auto-pause/play the same, but now you can put your earbuds in your pocket without resuming playback.

AirPods 3rd Generation in the case.
Sam Smart / Android Authority

Due to the lack of ear tips, many people will fail to find a secure fit, and find these earbuds uncomfortable. They also completely lack isolation from this unsealed fit.

The AirPods (3rd generation) are IPX4 water-resistant, meaning they can handle light splashes of water, but there’s no water submersion or dust protection. That means these buds are suitable for taking to the gym, but maybe not a hike.

See also: The best workout earbuds

The AirPods (3rd generation) connect to your Apple device as soon as you open the lid of the case. You should get a pop-up widget on your screen, and once you tap Connect you’re done. If you’re using the AirPods with an Android device, you’ll have to manually pair them in your Bluetooth settings.

How do you control the Apple AirPods (3rd generation)?

One third-generation AirPod inside an ear.
Sam Smart / Android Authority

Controls for the AirPods (3rd generation) are on the stem of either earbud. There’s a divot marking where the sensor is, so you’ll be able to feel where it is without looking or randomly tapping. Here’s a table of the tap actions available:

Action (stems)Either earbud
One tap
Two taps
Skip forward
Three taps
Previous track
Press and  hold
"Hey Siri"
Change volume, request directions, playback control, receive messages, and more

Unlike the Apple AirPods Pro, the AirPods (3rd generation) lack a transparency mode to amplify external noise through the earbuds. You can use the Settings app to choose which stem you’d like to use for Siri.

Is there an app for the Apple AirPods (3rd generation)?

AirPods of any variant are only officially controlled through the iOS and iPadOS Settings app. That means only Apple users can access things like firmware updates, hands-free Siri access, and Spatial Audio.

Through the Settings app, you can name your AirPods, choose what happens when you press the force sensor on either earbud stem, and toggle automatic ear detection. You can also choose which microphone the AirPods use during phone calls and to address Siri, and use Find My Airpods to find your lost buds.

How does Spatial Audio work on the Apple AirPods (3rd generation)?

With iOS 15.1, Spatial Audio has many uses on the AirPods (3rd generation). You can listen to tracks mixed in Dolby Atmos in Apple Music with surround sound, convert any audio source to surround sound via Spatialize Stereo, and turn music that was mixed in mono to stereo. This last feature isn’t perfect, but it’s an interesting way to enjoy tracks that were previously only available in mono.

There’s also a feature called Head Tracked, which uses accelerometers to track your head motions. If you turn your head to the left, audio will be panned to your right earbud, as if the music is staying in one place. It essentially creates a virtual stage, making your listening experience more like being at a live performance.

If you have iOS 16 or above, you can also take advantage of Personalized Spatial Audio. This is an ear-scanning function that works a bit like Sony 360 Reality Audio. Basically, you take photos of your ears, and your earbuds can then individualize the spatial audio experience to you.

How long does the battery last?

AirPods 3rd Gen case.
Sam Smart / Android Authority

Battery life is better with this newer model. In our testing, the earbuds lasted six hours, 21 minutes on a single charge. This is a big improvement from the four hours, seven minutes of the previous generation of AirPods, as well as the five hours the AirPods Pro lasted.

Do the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) block out noise?

Apple AirPods 3rd generation isolation chart.
Sam Smart / Android Authority

The AirPods (3rd generation) block out virtually no noise at all. The fit of these earbuds is still unsealed like the previous generations, meaning you will hear almost everything around you due to a lack of isolation. This also means your listening experience will suffer, since outside noise will likely mask the audio coming from the earbuds. This is not only bad for audio quality, but it might also lead you to increase your volume, which can cause noise-induced hearing loss.

Do the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) sound good?

Apple AirPods 3rd generation frequency response chart.
Sam Smart / Android Authority

This frequency response chart looks bad, and in some ways it is. Because of the earbuds’ poor fit, the lowest and highest frequencies suffer. However, despite the fit, this sound quality is impressive compared to other earbuds of a similar design. Apart from the highest and lowest frequencies, the AirPods (3rd generation) (cyan) stick to the SoundGuys in-house target (pink) pretty well. You also might not even notice the way the sound drops off on the low end, because you’d need better quality equipment to handle those sounds in any case at all.

The AirPods Pro is the best option for sound quality.

Remember, pressing the AirPods (3rd generation) into your ear canal if you’re not hearing the bass frequencies enough will actually make the sound worse. Bass comes from the rear port on the top edge of the earbuds, so you’ll be blocking that out when the earbuds are pressed into your ear.

AirPods 3rd Gen in its case.
Sam Smart / Android Authority

Higher frequencies are more emphasized in the AirPods (3rd generation), which can be good for sounds like harmonics or higher voices. And if you don’t like the sound, you can also equalize the earbuds a bit in Apple Music EQ settings. On iOS, this alters the sound of all audio from your device, though Android users are left with their system-level EQ.

The AirPods (3rd generation) also have Adaptive EQ built in, which according to Apple measures how the sound signal is delivered to your ear and adjusts the low and midrange frequencies to compensate for fit.

When compared to other models of AirPods, the AirPods Pro is the best option for sound quality, due to its sealed design and ANC. They have to do less work to make your music sound good.

How good is the microphone on the Apple AirPods (3rd generation)?

True wireless earbuds usually don’t have remarkable microphones. The quality of the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) microphone is about what you would expect, with noise suppression and decent quality for phone calls.

Apple AirPods (3rd generation) microphone demo (Ideal):

Apple AirPods (3rd generation) microphone demo (Street):

Apple AirPods (3rd generation) review: The verdict

AirPods 3rd Gen being worn.
Sam Smart / Android Authority

Unless you hate having ear tips inside your ears, we don’t recommend buying these over the comparable Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation) or the AirPods Pro (2nd generation), along with any other sealing earbuds. Unsealed earbuds have major disadvantages that aren’t just limited to sound quality.

Check out: The best AirPods alternatives

Overall, if you loved the previous generation of AirPods, you will likely like these. But there are plenty of cheaper and better options out there that don’t suffer from the same drawbacks as AirPods, especially if you’re an Android user.

Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
Converts to Spatial Audio • 6-hour battery life • Adaptive EQ
Apple's ubiquitous true wireless earphones get an update.
The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) improve upon their predecessors with better battery life and a more ergonomic design. These earbuds can convert any audio to surround sound, taking Spatial Audio to new levels.

The best AirPods (3rd generation) alternatives

Apple AirPods Pro 11 in hand

If you really want to get AirPods of some kind, the only pair we can really recommend are the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) ($249). They have all the same features as the AirPods (3rd generation), but have a better fit and ANC. If you can find the AirPods Pro (1st generation) ($169.99), they’re still a great alternative to the unsealed AirPods (3rd generation) and are now likely to be cheaper than the second-generation AirPods Pro.

If you want to be AirPods adjacent, the Beats Studio Buds ($89.95) could be a good alternative. Apple owns Beats, so there’s some overlap in features, like saying “Hey Siri” when paired to an iPhone. The Studio Buds have better bass sound than the AirPods (3rd generation), have an IPX4 rating, and work great on Android too. The Beats Powerbeats Pro ($149.95) are also a great choice for its ear hooks and long, 10-hour battery life.

Bose Sport earbuds 6 scaled 1
Sam Smart / Android Authority

If you want to stay OS-agnostic, the Bose Sport Earbuds ($129) could be a good option for you. They work with the Bose Music App, which is available on any platform, and fit securely into the ear.

If you really hate having your earbuds inside your ears, you might want to consider the Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 ($178). They’re unsealed like the AirPods (3rd generation), but they’re ring-shaped tips that nestle into your ear. They’re surprisingly comfortable, and the sound is okay, considering the buds are unsealed.

Frequently asked questions about the Apple AirPods (3rd generation)

No. No model of AirPods supports Bluetooth multipoint. But if you have multiple Apple devices signed up to the same iCloud account, you can automatically switch between them. That means if you listen to something n your iPhone and then start something else on your Mac, your AirPods (3rd generation) will stop playback on your phone and start piping audio from your Mac.

No, the AirPods (3rd generation) have no ANC and not much isolation, either.

Yes. Even though Apple announced Personalized Spatial Audio with the launch of the AirPods (2nd generation), it is available on the AirPods (3rd generation) as well after you upgrade to iOS 16.