Why I Hate Bluetooth Headphones

They run out of juice and sometimes drop connections

Key Takeaways

  • Bluetooth headphones are liberating, but I’m constantly running into problems with battery life and connection issues. 
  • The battery life is terrible even with my AirPods Max, compared to wired headphones with no battery.
  • One company even makes an external battery with a built-in charging slot for your AirPods and AirPods Pro.
Someone listening to audio from their smartphone through headphones while standing under a neon light.

recep-bg / Getty Images

Bluetooth headphones are one of humankind’s greatest inventions until they let you down, which is most of the time.

I fondly recall the days of wired headphones, when you stuck the plug into your tablet, laptop, or phone and listened to music or whatever. One manufacturer after another has quietly dropped headphone sockets and pushed expensive and gimmicky Bluetooth alternatives in the ongoing race for slimmer devices.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my Apple AirPods Max and use them all day long for blocking out distractions and enjoying music. When I exercise, I have a pair of AirPods Pro that do a remarkable job of making me feel unencumbered while I’m out for a jog. 

Bluetooth headphones and earbuds are addictive because they are so liberating. Once you try them, it’s hard to go back to the tangled mess of wires we used to live with. If only they were more reliable. 

"Not every device you might want to listen to is Bluetooth compatible."

Never Enough Juice

The problems start to arise when I need my headphones for something critical like a work call. That’s inevitably when I discover that my headphones aren’t charged. 

The battery life is just terrible, even on my late-model AirPods Max, compared to wired headphones with no battery. I rarely get a full day’s use out of the Max before I have to scramble for a charger. I fondly recall the days when you didn’t have to worry about charging a ridiculous number of devices.

And, by the way, it’s maddening the way Apple’s gadgets still don’t have a universal charging standard, even though the same company makes them. My iPad Air 2020, for example, charges over USB-C, but the AirPods charge over a Lightning connection. So, I have to remember to bring both chargers, which I often don’t. 

Apple cleverly offers a bunch of reasonably priced adaptors, so that you can fit your wired headphones into a USB-C or lightning socket. The only problem is that these tiny adaptors are the world’s easiest things to lose, and I can never find them when I need one. 

Apple AirPods Pro on a wireless charging pad on a wooden table.

Marco Vides / Getty Images

Despite my plethora of Apple devices, I often stick to using my MacBook Pro, simply because it’s the last gadget I own with a wired headphone jack. I recently ordered a pair of wired earbuds, and intend to use them in those critical situations where I just can’t afford to run out of power or lose my connection. 

To solve the battery-life problem, you could tote around an external battery pack just to keep your headphones charged. I’ve resorted to doing this on long plane trips, and it’s not fun, but it works. However, in most cases, toting around another accessory defeats the whole purpose of having sleek Bluetooth headphones or earbuds. 

One company even makes an external battery with a built-in charging slot for your AirPods and AirPods Pro. The Chargeworx 10,000mAh Power Bank with AirPods Holder costs about $50 and promises up to 75 hours of extra battery life for your phone and earbuds. 

Connection or Disconnection?

Another constant problem is that, while the Bluetooth connection process has gotten much better over the years, it’s still far from perfect. My pricey AirPods Max have fantastic sound quality and are beautifully built, but they are constantly dropping the connection or getting confused about which device I’m using.

The other day, I was trying to interview someone over my iPhone, but the AirPods Max kept thinking I was speaking over my MacBook Pro. 

A woman wearing earpods and working on a laptop computer and smartphone at the kitchen table.

Catherine Delahaye / Getty Images

Not every device you might want to listen to is Bluetooth compatible. The entertainment system on planes, for example, generally requires a wired connection. 

Bowers & Wilkins have a genius solution to the connection problem with their new PI7 truly wireless earbuds. The USB-C port on the bottom of the PI7's wireless charging case also accepts a 3.5mm to USB-C adapter cable. That means it can be plugged into nearly any device with a headphone jack, and the sound will be wirelessly streamed to the earbuds.

The P17s don’t come cheap, however. They cost $400, about $150 more expensive than Apple’s AirPods Pro.

Apparently, the liberating feeling of wearing Bluetooth headphones or earbuds comes at a price. It might be worth it if only my sound gear will stay charged and connected.

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