When Apple first launched its AirPods – tiny wireless earbuds for those of you who’ve been living on Mars and haven’t heard about them – they got a coolish reception from some.

It feels like the Apple faithful have been waiting for Airpods with a wireless case for, well, for at least a year, if not longer. With evidence mounting that Apple’s proprietary wireless charging solution, AirPower, may be doomed to fail before it even launches, the reality of us getting a completely wireless AirPod is quickly looking less likely.

That’s why we’re lucky Rowkin got there first.

Released today, the Rowkin Charge+ is a wireless earbud system that charges automatically when inserted into the included Qi-enabled charging case. The case is compatible with any Qi charging pad, but if you somehow don’t have one yet (and if you don’t, you should check out my suggestions), the Charge+ has a 5W pad included for $10 more than the Ascent Charge.

The Perfect Workout Earbud?

I’ve been searching for a while for the perfect way to keep me tuned in to my Nike+ Run coaching when I’m on the run. JBL makes a couple of amazing headsets with great runner safety features. At the end of the day, though, I want something that I don’t have to worry about, that I can grab and head out the door. Did I forget to charge it? Even with quick-charging, there’s five minutes gone. Did the cord get tangled? I’ve got to take time out to detangle things.

The Ascent Charge (and the also-released Ascent Micro, which is like the Charge, but with a USB C case instead of the Qi case) eliminate the hassle. When I take them out of their charging case, they turn on and pair with the last device I paired them with. They connect to each other automatically for stereo sound. When I get back from my run, I stick them back in the case, check and see if the case itself has enough battery and either plug it in or pop it on the charger.

The sound quality is excellent, if not a little low on volume. There were a few times that I wished I could manipulate the volume on the earbuds directly, especially when I was running by busy roads. But when it was less noisy, the Rowkin earbuds were exactly what I needed to stay in the zone without getting tangled up.

I Had Two When I Left…

The biggest fear of any wireless earbud owner is getting back from an activity and discovering that only one of your earbuds made it home. A convenient feature of the Rowkin Ascent is that the companion app will keep track of where it last saw each individual bud, making it easy to retrace your steps and find your wayward tech (assuming some critter hasn’t grabbed it for lunch).

The battery life is 3.5 hours – plenty of time if you’re running a half marathon, but maybe a bit puny if you’re facing down a marathon or ultra in the future. Me, I tend to only use my earbuds while training, preferring to race without any music or app interference. For that kind of use case, the Rowkin Ascent earbuds are perfect. I’m out for 1-2 hours (or, um, 30 minutes more recently), then I come back and pop the buds into their charger, topping them back off for the next workout. Both the Charge and Micro case can charge your earbuds 15 times each. I do have to give the Micro the edge here, the Charge+ is nice, but once it was away from its Qi pad, it lost charge a lot quicker than its non-Qi counterpart.

That said, the case for the Charge and Charge+ can also be used to top off your mobile tech as well (as long as you have a USB C-compatible charger). That’s something the Micro can’t do.

You can grab the Charge+ for $139, the Charge for $129, and the Micro for $99 from the Rowkin website.

Thanks to Rowkin for letting me try out the new earbuds. Opinions are my own. 

I’ve been writing about technology, gadgets, and pop culture for the past two decades. I’ve seen the rise and fall (and rise again) of Apple. I’ve watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate… In addition to Forbes.com, I am a core contributor at GeekDad.c…

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