Happy Plugs Air Review: A $90 AirPods alternative that nails the look

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Happy Plugs Air

I bought AirPods immediately after they were released. This was despite the high price tag and questionable style at the time. Fast forward more than two years later and there is an enormous market for truly wireless earbuds. Many sport in-ear designs like the AUKEY Key Series that I reviewed about two months ago.

Unlike others, Happy Plugs Air go head-to-head with AirPods thanks to an extremely similar style. At $90, they cost nearly half the price and at first glance, look identical to Apple’s iconic earbuds. For this reason, this review will pit Happy Plugs Air directly against Apple AirPods.

Audio quality

When reviewing the AUKEY Key Series, I noted that audio quality was nearly identical to AirPods. My experience was similar for Happy Plugs Air in every aspect but bass. In this area AirPods were quite a bit better and the difference was immediately noticeable. By no means did audio sound poor, but for this reason I found AirPods to be a clear winner in this category.

Charging and battery life

For iPhone owners, the inclusion of a Lightning port along the bottom of the AirPods case makes charging very convenient. Happy Plugs Air loses in this department as it opts for the dated microUSB connector. Considering that nearly every modern alternative to iPhone is using USB-C and Qi charging, it’s a serious shame to see Happy Plugs miss out on such an obvious opportunity.

When it comes to battery life, AirPods set the bar very high with a very small case that can deliver up to 24 hours of use. Happy Plugs Air offer a modest 14 hours instead. While that’s plenty for most users to make it through a full day, it is a substantial drop that requires users to find a way to top them off nearly twice as often.

That being said, many truly wireless earbud alternatives have cases that are much larger than AirPods so I applaud Happy Plugs for choosing to go with a form-factor that is more pocketable than much of the competition.

User experience

One of the clear reasons to pick AirPods is for features offered by the Apple W1/H1 chip. This makes AirPods easier to pair, provides hands-free ‘Hey Siri’ support, allows users to check battery status quickly, and more. Any AirPods alternative is bound to lose in this category and Happy Plugs Air are no exception.

Upon taking Happy Plugs out of the case, they immediately go into pairing mode which seems like the right move. It was odd however to see ‘Air 1 by Happy Plugs’ and ‘Air 1 by Happy Plugs L’ show up in Bluetooth settings. Apparently this is how Happy Plugs allow users to use just one earbud, which just feels odd, but this didn’t hinder performance in my experience.

Most truly wireless earbuds mimic AirPods with an option to tap on an earbud to skip a song, answer a call, and more. Happy Plugs is similar, but in my testing it was extremely hard to get taps to be registered. This was disappointing as I frequently use this feature to conveniently skip through music and podcasts.

9to5Toys’ Take

Given some of the quirkinesses that I found with Happy Plugs Air, there’s no question that saving money here requires users to give up some of the ‘it just works’ magic that Apple delivers with AirPods. Despite these sacrifices, at a mere $90, it’s hard to not recommend Happy Plugs Air.

This is especially true for folks that prefer the look and comfort of AirPods compared to in-ear alternatives while having a hard time justifying the arguably high $159 investment. The availability of four colorways creates yet another reason for consumers to choose this route instead of opting for Apple AirPods which only come in white.

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