AirFly gets its name from Twelve South’s primary target market — those who want to be able to use their Apple AirPods when flying — and sports a design to match. However, in reality AirFly works with any wireless Bluetooth headphones, and can pull audio from anything with a 3.5mm audio output jack. In fact, you can even use it with Bluetooth speakers. In the package you’ll find the AirFly unit itself, which is about the size of a matchbox, along with two short cables for 3.5mm audio and USB-to-micro-USB charging. A drawstring pouch is also included to keep it all together. Twelve South promises eight hours of battery life on a single charge.
Twelve South provides specific instructions for pairing AirPods with AirFly, which basically just explains the standard procedure of putting the AirPods in their charging case and pressing and holding the button on the back of the case to enter universal Bluetooth pairing mode — not surprisingly, AirFly doesn’t include a W1 chip, so it pairs with your AirPods as a standard Bluetooth device. The pairing process on AirFly itself is the same whether you’re using AirPods or any other Bluetooth A2DP device, which involves holding the button on AirFly down for about five seconds until it flashes amber and then waiting for it to link up. The process is pretty straightforward, but unlike pairing a Bluetooth device with an iPhone, you’re “flying blind” since there’s no screen to show you what’s happening; some third-party Bluetooth headsets required that we turn off Bluetooth on other nearby devices such as our iPhone and Apple Watch first in order to disconnect their other Bluetooth connections. Notably, however, the AirPods didn’t have this issue since placing them in the case with the lid closed disables their connection to nearby Apple devices.
AirFly does a great job for purely listening to music, but it’s worth noting that headphone controls aren’t passed through in any way, so you won’t be able to play or pause music playback, even if you’re listening to a device with an MFi-compatible headphone jack. Audio quality from AirFly is pretty much what we expected from a Bluetooth device, although it’s worth noting that AirFly actually does support aptX, but not AAC, so you’ll actually stand to get better audio quality with third-party Bluetooth headphones than you will with Apple’s AirPods.
While AirFly is a bit of a niche product — it’s rare to find a portable audio device without Bluetooth support these days — we think it will have wide appeal to frequent air travellers who like their AirPods or other wireless headphones, and we can think of many other possibilities for it as well, ranging from plugging into gym equipment to providing wireless listening capabilities for those who are still holding onto iPod classic devices or want to go ultra-portable with something like an iPod shuffle or sixth-generation iPod nano. If you’ve invested in a good set of Bluetooth headphones that you find yourself needing to plug in, AirFly seems like an easy call for its $40 asking price.