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Samsung Galaxy Buds hands-on: AirPods killers?
Samsung’s Unpacked 2019 event was understandably dominated by the Galaxy S10. The next entry in the most popular phone series in the world wasn’t the only new product revealed at Samsung’s pre-MWC showcase, however — we also got to see its latest Apple AirPods rivals, the Samsung Galaxy Buds.
After consolidating its wearables under the Galaxy brand last year with the Galaxy Watch, Samsung is now following suit with its true wireless earbuds.
The Galaxy Buds look set to replace the cumbersomely-named Gear IconX range as Samsung’s de facto earbuds, but is this just a quick rebrand or are they actually worth the upgrade? We’ll have a full Samsung Galaxy Buds review up very soon. For now here are our early hands-on impressions.
If you’ve seen either the original Gear IconX buds or the 2018 models, you’ll be instantly familiar with the design of the Samsung Galaxy Buds. This is a good thing — not only did the IconX buds have an instantly recognizable look, but they were also designed to be comfortable during general use and workouts.
Whether or not the Galaxy Buds are quite as ergonomically impressive will have to wait for a proper review, but at a glance, they certainly look appropriately sleek and stylish. The Buds also come in three color options — black, white, and Canary Yellow (to match the Galaxy S10e) — so there’s some room for personalization over the white-or-nothing AirPods.
Samsung claims the Galaxy Buds are 30 percent smaller than the Gear IconX buds and they certainly feel a little less bulky overall. Otherwise, these are the same cord-free buds we’ve seen from Samsung already in terms of aesthetics.
Specs and features
On the specs front, Samsung says it upped battery performance from five hours to six hours max music streaming time (or five hours talk time) on a single charge. The audio experts at our sister site SoundGuys barely scraped 1.5 hours on the 2018 IconX buds, so we’ll be holding our judgment on the Galaxy Buds’ endurance.
The same is true of the “AKG sound” Samsung has been talking up. AKG is one of the many brands under the Samsung-owned subsidiary Harman and it has collaborated with Samsung on various audio products. How exactly AKG’s involvement impacted on the solid-if-unspectacular sound quality of the IconX series remains to be seen (well, heard).
Since you’ll be listening to your music through Bluetooth on the Galaxy Buds, you’ll be glad to know that they support the latest Bluetooth 5.0 technology.
Read more: Best true wireless earbuds
Aside from a pair of adaptive dual microphones, the only other headline new feature for the Galaxy Buds is the ability to charge them wirelessly using a Galaxy S10 smartphone.
This is more of a Galaxy S10 feature really, but it’s currently the main attraction for the Wireless PowerShare functionality. All you have to do is pop the buds in their pill-shaped charging case and balance it on the back of your S10.
Having tried this myself, there’s definitely a bit of trial and error in finding the actual charging spot and it has to sit horizontally to register the charge. The small LED on the outside of the pill indicates whether the case is charged, while the light inside tells you if the buds are full of juice.
We currently don’t know exactly how long it’ll take to charge the buds via this method compared to plugging in a USB-C cable, but there’s no doubt this will be an incredibly useful feature for S10 owners with Galaxy Buds that need charging on the go.
Here are the full official specs of the Samsung Galaxy Buds:
|Samsung Galaxy Buds|
Earbud: 17.5 x 19.2 x 22.3mm
Case: 38.8 x 70 x 26.5mm
Ear on/off detection
Charging case: 252mAh
5.8pi Dynamic Driver
Android 5.0 or later
1.5GB of RAM or more
Codec: SBC, AAC, Scalable (Samsung proprietary)
Black, white, yellow
Price and release date
The Samsung Galaxy Buds are available for $130 from Samsung.com and major retailers and carriers in the United States.
In the EU, the Galaxy Buds retail for 149 euros.