Last week, I reviewed the Noise Shots X-Buds, an affordable but truly wireless earbuds. The device showed the convenience of true wireless earbuds without stretching the wallet. According to Counterpoint Research, the global market for true wireless hearables will reach 120 million units this year. What started as Apple’s alternative to ditching the 3.5mm audio jack, has now become a real consumer device. The report notes that Apple’s market share saw marginal decline while Xiaomi extended its growth in this segment. With Xiaomi yet to launch its AirDots in India, there are a number of alternatives.
Noise is one of the prominent names, but if you are looking for an AirPods look-alike then look no further than Fingers Audio Pods. The easiest way to describe the Fingers Audio Pods is that it copies Apple AirPods like a mirror. The name Fingers Audio Pods is unassuming, but it delivers where it matters. It is inexpensive to start with, has a familiar design (thanks Tim Apple), and has a sound stage that seems perfectly tuned for the Indian audience. The question is whether you should buy true wireless earbuds, do they offer decent sound and lastly, will they stay in your ear for long duration? If you have these same questions then read on.
There is no other way to say it – Fingers copied AirPods in the best way it could. Even Steve Jobs believed that “Good Artists copy, great artists steal.” So I don’t find anything wrong with this company copying Apple‘s design. However, what really matters is whether it has managed to copy the execution as well. Apple masters the marriage of hardware and software unlike any other company in the universe. Fingers Audio Pods, however, seem limited in that context. The experience starts with the case which is made up of plastic, and is slightly bigger than AirPods case. The case easily fits in your palm and can be tucked inside your denim pocket as well.
But the construction of this case kept me worried about durability. The joint holding the top lid and the case felt flimsy. I am certain that opening and closing the case multiple times could break it. Only way to avoid this possibility is by opening the lid with some care. Since we are talking about true wireless earbuds here, you will end up opening and closing these earbuds multiple times during the day. I have been using Fingers Audio Pods for nearly two weeks now and the case has not given up. But I believe the future version could be more durable, especially at the joint.
The case has a huge “FINGERS” branding at the front while the back is home to input and output details. The bottom is home to four LEDs that show the charging status of earbuds and power reserve of the case. It is accompanied by a USB Type-C and microUSB port for charging. Yes, Fingers lets you charge with either of the two ports. My biggest gripe with Noise Shots X-Buds was microUSB port. Fingers has taken a smart approach to offer both port options. I didn’t observe any major difference in charging time while using either of the two ports.
I have been in situations where I didn’t have microUSB cable to charge microUSB only device. With Fingers Audio Pods, I won’t have to worry about such a situation. The Audio Pods have angular earbuds design and slot into the case like AirPods. They start charging immediately and the earbuds have LEDs to indicate when they are charging. The only thing they don’t support is quick pairing with compatible devices. Overall, the Fingers Audio Pods mimic the design of AirPods with a flimsy case that aims to justify the price.
As I wrote in my review of Noise Shots X-Buds, the true wireless earbuds are not known for best sound quality. In a tiny package, they have to accommodate audio drivers, battery and gesture controls. As a result, the final sound quality is only acceptable on these devices. The Fingers Audio Pods, however, surprised me with a really rich sound. It seems to be perfectly tuned for listening to Bollywood music where the audio often tries to hit the higher end of the note. The bass is not deep, but it is visible. I never felt wanting more depth or volume while listening to music on the Audio Pods. The earbuds also create a very good seal which results in decent noise isolation.
These use moving coil driver, which results in distortion at higher volume. I listened to Bruce Sprinsteen’s Dancing In the Dark, which has a synth heavy music and it sounded really good. When I played Lizzo or Carly Rae Jepsen, I could understand the dynamics of their music. When you listen to Arijit Singh or Lucky Ali or Shankar Ehsaan Loy, the Audio Pods seem to gain new power. If you listen to a lot of Bollywood music then you should not hesitate to pick this one. I would have definitely liked to see a sound stage similar to that of Jabra Elite 65t but at Rs 3,799, I think it would be too much of an ask.
Gestures, Bluetooth and Battery Life
The Fingers Audio Pods also come with gesture support built into their earbuds. Trust me, they will make you go crazy. For starters, it is difficult to understand where to tap on the stem to get right action. You often end up pausing the music since single tap is registered easily. Also they are so sensitive to touch that when trying to adjust their comfort in your ears, it might pause the music. I didn’t like gesture interface on the Noise Shots X-Buds either, and these are equally bad. While most consumers would think sound would be the big trade-off with budget true wireless earbuds, I am convinced that gesture interface is the real trade-off.
They support Bluetooth 5.0 and Bluetooth profiles such as A2DP, APT-X, AVRCP, HFP and HSP. The range is not an issue, but there are intermittent drops in connection. There were instances when music paused automatically, the earbuds disconnected and reconnected. You do not have such experience with premium earbuds from brands like Apple, Sony, Sennheiser, Jabra or Bose. On Bluetooth, calling was also comfortable with clear audio and I could talk easily without worrying about microphone not being closer.
I am already a fan of Fingers Audio Pods’ dual charging option of both USB Type-C port and microUSB port. However, you don’t need them that often. The earbuds, on their own, last for up to three hours on full charge. The charging case provides between five and six additional charges. In other words, once the case and earbuds are charged fully, you can use them for anywhere between 15 and 18 hours. I remember charging them only once during a week-long trial period where I used them for a good amount of time. It is amazing how such a tiny audio product is able to not only sound good but also offer good battery life.
Should you buy?
When Apple launched the AirPods in 2016, I was not sure that the industry would catch up to this new device segment so quick. Even smartwatches have failed to catch up this fast. The sheer number of people that I have seen with such true wireless designs shows that this segment will only become more interesting. Fingers Audio Pods cannot claim to be well built true wireless earbuds, but they definitely sound good. If you are looking for better build quality then get the Noise Shots X-Buds. However, if you are in the market for true wireless earbuds with decent sound and AirPods-style design then Fingers Audio Pods would make good sense.
The Fingers Audio Pods are extremely convenient to use and easy to carry around as well. They show that the future of audio segment will be more about convenience that audiophile grade experience. There will be brands offering audiophile-grade products but these convenient devices will be the ones dominating the market. If Fingers set out with a mission to make true wireless experience accessible then it has achieved that. At Rs 3,799, it is difficult to fault them but it won’t hurt to get something good that is also cheap. If you lose them then you can joke around that you lost your “FINGERS”.