Apple likes to say that the Watch is the most personal of all its devices, but for me the most personal Apple device has proved to be the AirPods.

I thought they

Not that it was all wine and roses. The first generation AirPods had some real problems. Getting the AirPods to connect with the Watch (and stay connected) was a bit of a challenge. But with a bit of futzing, it all worked. The problem was, the futzing usually came at that crucial moment when I was dressed, stretched, and ready, and just needed that final spasm of willpower to get myself out the door and running. In other words, a bad time to get tangled up in technology issues. But I needed my coach, my podcast, my heart rate monitor, my run timer, so it had to be done.

The situation improved when Apple loaned me some new AirPods Pro at the end of October 2019. Getting music loaded onto my Watch is still a hassle (mainly because iTunes blows), but with the new AirPods Pro, there is no more confusion about which source device they are connected to. They simply connect to the last device that pointed sound at them, and they stay linked to that device. So far, the AirPods Pro have stayed connected to the Watch during my runs far more reliably than the earlier AirPods.

The main draw of the AirPods Pro was the addition of noise-cancelling technology, which creates an equal and opposite audio tone to the noise happening in the world around you. The noise cancellation isn’t deluxe, but it’s enough to help me tune out the noise of people talking or music playing from overhead in the coffee shops I frequent.

That one thing expanded the role of AirPods in my life. I no longer use them just for running, or for walking from place to place during the day. I now use them while I’m working, at least part of the time. They work well for conference calls and phone interviews, too, provided that I’m in a reasonably quiet place.

When tech moves onto our bodies

Part of the reason I was originally attracted to AirPods is because I’m excited about personal tech moving onto—and eventually into—our bodies. The new AirPods Pro bring that future closer, since they actually fit into your ear canal and form a seal using a silicon tip. If you want to hear the outside world, you can activate the microphones on the device, and the ambient sound around you is piped in.

I also like the idea of assistive tech that doesn’t monopolize our attention and take us out of the world, as smartphones do. Part of the idea of the Apple Watch was to let you keep your hands free and be able to sneak a look at notifications on the tiny screen. That quick glance often tells you that the notification isn’t important enough to warrant making the grab for your phone.