iFrogz, a Utah-based audio accessories brand owned by Zagg, last month unveiled Airtime, its first pair of true wireless earbuds that cost just $60 and include AirPods-like automatic pairing mode and some capacities not found on Apple’s earbuds, like built-in equalizer settings.
First of all, these stylish earbuds feature Bluetooth 5.0 so they work with any notebook, smartphone, tablet or similar device as long as it supports Bluetooth connectivity.
iFrogz makes solid audio products and Airtime is no exception. The company provided me with a pair of Airtimes for review that I’ve been using constantly on an everyday basis for about a month. Here are my thoughts and impressions after my first month with them…
Charming little earbuds
I’ve been using Airtime to listen to my favorite music and podcast shows, to watch movies and TV shows, when working out and riding a bike, to conduct phone calls, play games and more — all on my iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV. As soon as I opened the tiny case with a slim profile, the earbuds automatically paired together without any action on my part,.
When paired, the earbuds automatically connect to the last-used device as soon as you open the case. Like with AirPods, they automatically switch on/off when you open/close the charging case. Connecting them to a host device is a matter of holding the pairing button for five seconds and choosing them from the Bluetooth menu.
The left bud will flash white, indicating pairing mode.
Third-party headphones like Airtime don’t get to use Apple’s headphone chip, therefore they lack AirPods features like seamless device switching. And because there are no built-in accelerometers, music won’t automatically pause when you take an earbud out of your ear.
Great everyday earphones
After a month or so of using Airtime on an everyday basis, I can honestly say that these buds hold up well to everyday abuse. They’re plastic, but sturdy and reliable. You also get additional ear tips and in the box, and that’s great. Using these, you can personalize fit to your liking. This is much better than Apple’s one-size-fits-all approach with AirPods.
So, is the fit snug or loose? Like with all earphones, the answer to that question depends on on the size and shape of your ear. I was working out and running with my Airtime a lot, yet at no point would an earbud fall out of my ear (truth be told, I’ve never had AirPods fly out of my ears while running either).
I’ve used them in the gym and for street workouts —again, without issues. I think the ergonomic sport wings help ensure tight fit. Now, I’ve been on a high intensity interval training routine and this summer’s been pretty hot so you can imagine I was sweating a lot like a pig. I’m pleased to report that that hasn’t affected my buds at all because they’re resistant to sweat and moisture.
They have an IPX4 rating like Apple’s new Powerbeats Pro sporty (AirPods are not sweatproof). That means you can use Airtime safely as your workout headphones without fearing sweat or moisture might get inside and wreak havoc. The IPX4 rating also means they’re not waterproof so remember that before you decide to wear them in heavy rain or in the shower.
Like with AirPods and Powerbeats Pro, the built-in battery in the Airtime charging case provides your earbuds with a few additional charge cycles. Specifically, you get four full charges for a total of 15 listening hours away from a power source, according to iFrogz. That means each earbud provides up to three hours of play time before needing recharging.
My experience so far has been more like 10 hours of total run time (with the case). By comparison, AirPods are rated with a 5-hour battery life or 24 hours with the case so Apple’s buds have the upper hand in terms of battery life. Thankfully, leaving Airtime in the charging case for just ten minutes is enough to give you 1.5 hours of listening time (50% charge).
The charging case can be recharged with the included micro-USB cable.
I’ve found the built-in microphone to work just fine for calls on my iPhone XS Max and iPad Pro, as well as on a friend’s Galaxy S10. By default, both microphones are used simultaneously to boost reception. Like AirPods, Airtime work independently — you can use either earbud in single-use mode to take phone calls or stream audio.
Just press the button for three seconds to turn an individual earbud on/off. Of course, you can use them both simultaneously for an enhanced stereo experience. And when not used for 20 minutes, the buds intelligently go into hibernation mode to conserve power.
Airtime are voice-capable with Siri and Google Assistant — I was able to double-press an earbud to talk to Siri without no issues whatsoever. However, the double-press action doesn’t work in music mode as it clashes with playback controls. That’s due to the multi-function buttons that combine actions like music and call controls, Siri and EQ settings.
In music mode, double-press the left/right earbud to go to the previous/next song. A quick press accepts the call while holding the button for two seconds ends the call.
In order to maintain slim design, the product features 8mm neodymium drivers, one per ear.
It’s OK but not on par with AirPods. The range is balanced, the mids and highs are clear and the bass is good enough without sacrificing overall quality. But AirPods sound better to my ear, bringing out more nuances in music, so keep that in mind if audio quality is your top priority.
I’ve always hated that AirPods lack any equalizers. I know you can change EQ settings on iPhone in the Settings app but I’d prefer device-independent equalizers built directly into the buds. AirPods just don’t have that. AirTime gives me three distinct equalizer settings—Signature Sound, Podcast and Bass Boost—although I was left wanting for more.
To quickly switch between the available EQ settings, press the button on your earbud for 1-2 seconds (you must do so while in music mode). A voice will indicate the new setting.
I enjoyed my time with Airtime a lot. The audio sounded nice to me, not AirPods-level nice, but nice nonetheless (Airtime support the AAC codec that Apple uses for audio). If you factor in the low asking price, these earbuds definitely have a good sound for their price.
Now, I’ve experienced some intermittent issues with Bluetooth reception where the earbuds would disconnect briefly. That typically happened while I was in the gym and more than 10 feet away from my iPhone. I’m unsure if I should blame it on my phone (I’ve experienced Bluetooth issues with other devices on this iPhone), the buds, obstructions in line of sight or the fact that I generally moved around frequently while listening to them.
For those wondering, Airtime support Bluetooth 5.0 for increased effective range and faster pairing. Bluetooth 5 also makes possible dual Bluetooth audio connection support but I couldn’t get it to work in iOS 13, which enables a single device like an iPhone to send music to two pairs of AirPods simultaneously.
As for fit, they felt great in my ear but your mileage may vary.
If you’ve found AirPods rather uncomfortable to use, especially while running or working out, do give AirTime a try. You may be left wishing for a longer battery life, additional EQ settings and more reliable Bluetooth, but at that price point some compromises had to be made.
Recommended for everyone on a tighter budget.
Pros and cons
Here’s what we liked and disliked about Airtime
- Comfortable and secure fit
- Multifunction buttons beat touch gestures
- Great price
- Just three EQ settings
- Weaker battery life than AirPods
- Standard Bluetooth connection issues
Pricing and availability
The earbuds themselves have a 1-year warranty which covers defective materials and workmanship. The included tips feature a lifetime warranty so if they get worn out, lost or damaged, iFrogz will replace them no questions asked.
The buds come in four colors: Black, White, Blue and Peach.
They’re available from the Zagg website and select retailers for $60 (yes, the price indeed includes the charging case).
Unfortunately, a version with a wireless charging case is unavailable but Zagg has said that additional models in the AirTime family will be released later in 2019 so there’s that.
What’s your take on these inexpensive truly wireless earbuds?
Have you used these or other iFrogz audio products? If so, please do not hesitate to share your experience with the brand in the comments down below.