It’s also the category of tech products that, I think, comes closest to feeling futuristic today
I’ve never managed to phrase it like that in my head, but that’s exactly my feelings, too. For two reasons:
One: AirPods are a damn marvel of technology and miniaturization. They’re literally the same form factor as the EarPods we’ve had for almost a decade, and yet Apple somehow managed to fit inside a Bluetooth transmitter, optical sensor, accelerometer, and still had enough room left over for five hours of battery.
And two: Nothing better illustrates Apple’s incredible talent at designing, building, and shipping a product when they own the entire stack. I think AirPods are the best product - hardware or software - that Apple has released in the last five years if not longer. Better than Apple Watch, the insane year over year CPU jumps, and massive software and hardware camera improvements. The only thing that comes close to that level of integration and seamlessness in my mind is Face ID.
If you had shown my 2002 self a pair of AirPods as I was busy unboxing my first iPod and its white, corded earbuds, I simply wouldn't have believed you. (And then I would have grabbed them from your hands and run away.)