Apple launched its true-wireless in-ear buds, the AirPods, more than two years ago. Now, Samsung has released its AirPods-killer, the Samsung Galaxy Buds. I’ve been using the AirPods since literally the day they were announced, and the Galaxy Buds from moments after they were revealed.
Read on for a definitive comparison.
By the way, I’m aware the Apple AirPods look like they’re going to be updated imminently. I’ll update this review as soon as the new model is on sale, if not before, so please check back.
This is pretty straightforward with both pairs of in-ear buds but especially simple if you have AirPods and an iPhone. Connecting Apple’s AirPods to an iPhone or iPad is sublimely easy to do. It’s not hard to pair the Samsung Buds but it’s way easier with AirPods. Not just that, but when you switch to your Mac, say, and you’re on the same Apple ID, the AirPods are smart enough to be able to switch almost effortlessly.
That said, Samsung makes connecting the Galaxy Buds pretty frictionless, whether you’re using a Samsung phone, another Android phone or an iPhone.
With in-ear headphones, especially, how they fit in your ear is crucial. The AirPods look like they will fall out and get lost really easily. In fact, they stay in most ears pretty successfully, rarely if ever dropping out. In my ears, they have stayed consistently in place, whether in general use or running. I have never lost an AirPod.
But, let me tell you, there’s just no chance the Samsung Galaxy Buds will ever fall out of your ears. They have springy earpieces which, once you’ve put them in, spin backward to clip into your ears with ultimate security.
I’ll be honest, I got hold of the Galaxy Buds early, and they just weren’t ready. Connecting them to an iPhone especially was atrocious, with drop-outs, inconsistencies, and unreliable audio. They drove me mad.
But more recently, a software update happened and everything changed. The Galaxy Buds’ connectivity became as solid and reliable as it has been on the AirPods since day one.
From the get-go, the connection between Apple products and the AirPods has been irreproachable, but it also worked just fine with Android phones, for instance.
Apple definitely still has the lead with the simplicity of connection and pairing but Samsung now pretty much comes close.
This is the big one, right?
AirPods have always sounded sensational. True, they haven’t matched the bass of that other Apple brand, Beats, but they have always sounded good, whether you’ve been listening to light classical or heavy rock.
Clarity is one of the stand-outs, with strong vocals, impressive mid-ranges, and a lively overall tone.
Samsung comes pretty close, adding a more solid bass and a beefier all-around sound, but rarely overtakes Apple for the in-depth richness overall.
In fact, when it comes to separation of the different musical elements, there’s a better precision on Apple’s buds, I’d say.
The stated life for the Galaxy Buds between charges is 13 hours, six hours from the buds and another seven from the charging case. Since the Galaxy Buds are bigger, you’d imagine they have a longer life than Apple’s, right?
In fact, Apple claims five hours from the AirPods (that’s less!) but another 19 hours from the case (oh, hold on, that’s more!).
Recharging is also faster on AirPods – 15 minutes delivers three hours’ of use, while Samsung promises five hours’ play time from a 15-minute charge.
Versatility of fitting
I have never had an issue with an AirPod falling out of my ear. Literally never. But I know people who have. For them, the snug fit of the Samsung will be a real benefit. It is a very good fit. Push them in, then rotate so the protuberant bit rolls back into the ear. Brilliant.
You know how the AirPods poke downwards out of your ears, in a way that looked weird at first, then, as ubiquity unfolded, shifted to looking normal and now is on its way to being iconic? See, that pointy design is one of the reasons call quality sounds as good as it does because the beam-forming microphones are aiming directly for your mouth to pick up your every deathless word.
One of the things that delights me most about the AirPods, consistently, is the way that when I take one ’Pod out of my ear to talk to someone, the music pauses. Put it back, the music restarts. This is the very definition of cool.
Samsung has introduced something similar except you have to remove both for the music to stop. Maybe this makes more sense: you might need both ears to engage with the conversation properly. But it doesn’t restart when you put the Buds back in place. I think that’s a shame but if you haven’t had the sublime seamlessness of Apple’s solution, you may not miss it.
There’s nothing wrong with charging through the Lightning cable. It’s fast and efficient. But the wireless charging case is a masterstroke. Of course, Apple came up with this feature first, but it still hasn’t materialised yet, though it can only be a matter of days, I believe.
Meantime, Samsung has leapt ahead in two ways. First the charging case and second, (how cool is this?), you can wirelessly charge the Buds by placing the case on the back of the Samsung Galaxy S10, thanks to its bi-directional charging capability. That’s a good feature for the Buds, a great feature for the phone.
Since the software update rescued the Galaxy Buds from being atrocious, Samsung’s true wireless headphones have been very impressive. But the audio is not noticeably better than Apple’s and in some ways not as crisp.
The wireless charging, the secure fit, these are both wins for Samsung. Overall, I’d say that thanks to neat bonuses like the automatic pairing, clever pausing and snazzier design, Apple still edges it, just.
But just wait until AirPods 2 rock up.
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