Aside from the Starks and the Lannisters, few rivalries are more intense than Apple and Samsung. Our sister site SoundGuys took the companies’ latest true wireless earbuds — the new AirPods (2019) and Galaxy Buds — for a spin to determine which is best for most users. If you want all the details, you can see the full versus comparison on SoundGuys. For a rundown of the essential points, read on.

Hardware

new AirPods (2019) and Samsung Galaxy Buds adjacent to one another on a table.

Apple stays true to its minimalist design ethos while Samsung takes a more playful approach to the Galaxy Buds.

We’re working from the outside in to compare the Apple AirPods 2019 vs the Samsung Galaxy Buds: hardware first. These products sport starkly different designs from one another. The Samsung Galaxy Buds have a more whimsical appearance, while the new AirPods rock the same minimalist design as their predecessor.

Both sets of earpieces house touch controls which may be remapped and customized. Apple’s new AirPods use automatic ear detection, which can be toggled off. The Galaxy Buds include this feature and require users to tap either earbud to resume playback. Additionally, the AirPods grant you the liberty to choose whether sound is recorded through the left or right microphone.

Samsung's wireless charging is included, while AirPods users need to pay an extra $40 for the wireless charging case bundle.

Although both charging cases support wireless charging, Apple pulls a typical Apple move and requires an additional $40 for those who want the new AirPods with the compatible wireless charging case. Samsung’s wireless charging, on the other hand, is included. Plus, the case can be charged atop any of the Samsung Galaxy S10 phones, thanks to the the phones’ reverse wireless charging functionality.

Samsung vs Huawei reverse wireless charging test

We tip our hats to Samsung on this one as the Buds offer better value and don’t hike the price for wireless charging.

Winner: Galaxy Buds

Microphone quality

Apple's new AirPods with the right earbud between a man's fingers.

The new AirPods microphone more accurately relays voices compared to the Galaxy Buds.

Relating to hardware is microphone quality. Again, the new AirPods (2019) use a mic in each earbud, while the Samsung Galaxy Buds use an adaptive dual-mic array which alternates between the inner and outer mics to greatly reduce background noise.


Samsung Galaxy Buds microphone:


New AirPods (2019) microphone:


The clips above demonstrate the difference between the headset microphones. The fundamental frequency of my voice fluctuates from 160 to 240kHz, which is relayed best with the AirPods. Generally speaking, the new AirPods sound much more accurate than the Galaxy Buds, which tend to transmit an echo along with vocals.

Winner: AirPods (2019)

Bluetooth support and connectivity

New AirPods 2 on comic book.

Regardless if you get the more expensive bundle with the wireless charging case, the new AirPods use Apple’s latest H1 chip, which provides reliable connectivity and improved battery life.

Editor's Pick

Samsung and Apple both opted for Bluetooth 5 with AAC codec support. What’s more, both integrate their respective voice assistants — Bixby for Samsung and Siri for Apple. That said, the Galaxy Buds only recently received this feature with the latest firmware version R170XXU0ASD4, whereas the Apple included support from the get go.

The new AirPods use Apple’s H1 chip, the successor to its W1 chip, which minimizes latency and increases talk time by approximately 50 percent compared to the W1 chip. If you’re using the AirPods (2019) with an iOS device, connectivity remains stable and reliable. As you might expect, the same can’t quite be said when using an Android device.

Now, Samsung’s lack of aptX support is a misstep, but the Galaxy Buds do use the company’s proprietary scalable codec that’s constantly optimizing bitrate without compromising connectivity. In our initial testing, connectivity was reliable, but it soon became apparent that the Galaxy Buds are still plagued by connectivity hiccups. Hopefully, Samsung solves this with a firmware update, but for now, this point goes to the Cupertino kids.

Winner: AirPods (2019)

Battery life

Samsung Galaxy Buds in case on top of a Samsung Galaxy S10e smartphone in Flamingo Pink.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds use the scalable Samsung codec to optimize streaming quality.

This one’s pretty easy to measure. The new AirPods afforded 4.125 hours of playback. Sure, it falls short of Apple’s posited five-hour playback time, but it’s still a 21 percent increase from the first-generation AirPods. Given how the size and weight remains the same between the two models, it’s worth celebrating the H1 chip’s advancements.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds clean house with 6.53 hours of playback on a single charge. The tradeoff is the Galaxy Buds case only provides an additional seven hours of battery life, while the AirPods case provides an extra 20 hours.

Additionally, the Galaxy Buds’ quick charging capabilities fall short of the new AirPods. On the Samsung earbuds, 15 minutes in the case yields 1.7 hours of playback. Conversely, 15 minutes of charging the new AirPods results in approximately three hours of playback. Each of us prioritizes battery life differently, but regarding standalone playback, Samsung takes the cake and devours it too.

Winner: Galaxy Buds

Fit and sound quality

Samsung Galaxy Buds white in hand

Unlike the Apple AirPods, the Samsung Galaxy Buds have distinguished and angled nozzles, which improves comfort and audio quality.

With all the features these earbuds have, it’s easy to overlook audio quality. Since you’re paying a premium no matter which pair you go with, it’s important that they sound good and fit comfortably.

Beginning with the latter, the AirPods are notorious for their dubious fit. While some are able to work out in them with ease, others — like me — are unable to keep them in place when walking. The lack of seal and distinguishable nozzles makes these prone to randomly dropping out of your ears. This is where the Samsung Galaxy Buds are much preferred as they have angled nozzles and include an assortment of ear and wing tips for a comfortable and secure fit.

Samsung also outperforms Apple when it comes to sound quality. Above are the frequency responses of both pairs of earbuds. These graphs depict how much emphasis is placed in a specific frequency range. The new AirPods have a much more exaggerated bass response, which is a more consumer-friendly sound and necessary seeing as the AirPods don’t create a seal with the ear. This drastically degrades audio quality and promotes auditory masking.

The new AirPods still don't create a true seal to the ear, making the Samsung Galaxy Buds more comfortable to wear.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds, though, have a neutral-leaning sound signature that bodes well for nearly all genres. Clarity and overall sound quality are better with the Galaxy Buds by nature of them being true in-ears that seal to your ear. Due to their solid fit, Samsung didn’t have to alter the frequency response too much for the Buds to sound good.

Winner: Galaxy Buds

The Samsung Galaxy Buds outperform the new AirPods

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus and Galaxy Buds

Looks like Samsung won this battle, but who knows about the war? At the end of the day, Apple users will probably gravitate toward the new AirPods, while Android users will probably be more inclined to pick up a pair of Galaxy Buds. Sure, we can talk your ears off about the data recorded, but we don’t want to overlook the importance of personal preference.

If you like that the AirPods don’t create a cogent seal, then that may be a reason to buy, rather than avoid, them. However, if you want the best audio quality, comfort, and battery life, get the Galaxy Buds.

Next: Best Beats alternatives

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