It’s 2020; everybody’s doing it. It was only a matter of time before OnePlus ditched the wires completely for lightweight, true-wireless Bluetooth earbuds. The OnePlus Buds debut at a time when incessant online meetings and Zoom fatigue are the norm. OnePlus follows its own disruption playbook with a price-value equation that looks set to shake things up in this busy segment. There’s been a wide gap between cheap, unreliable and often hastily branded earbuds at one end and premium players like Apple’s AirPods at the other end of the spectrum. The OnePlus Buds aim to fill that gap with a product that ticks key boxes and doesn’t cost a bomb. It’s reminiscent of 2014 and the first OnePlus smartphone challenging the flagship status quo.
There are two subplots in this Buds story. The first, the uncanny similarities between Apple’s second gen AirPods and the Buds. OnePlus opts for a charming pebble-shaped case with a matte finish that compares quite favourably with the shinier plastic of the AirPods. We checked out the Nord Blue colour option that stands out in a world of black and white ear buds. I felt the canary yellow contrast notes on the inside of the case were slightly over the top though. You may not notice the similarities between the second-gen AirPods instantly, but play around with these Buds for a couple of minutes and you will start seeing the subtle similarities.
First, it’s the silver accent on the hinge of the case and then the placement of the pairing button (that you use to initiate a new device connection). The earbuds itself are quite similar to the AirPods, especially the way they rest on your ears. There are no silicon tips (like the more premium AirPods Pro), this means that there’s just one size that should fit most (not all) folks. The Buds didn’t fall off even through a workout and passed my ‘headshake’ test. Just like the second-gen AirPods, the lack of silicon tips also means that you don’t really get that level of sound isolation. There’s no active noise cancellation option either. Sound quality is a big win for the Buds at its affordable price point. These buds manage to hold their own against the AirPods with a surprisingly good bass thump. But I didn’t find them as comfortable (vis-à-vis the AirPods or Samsung’s Galaxy Buds+) to stick them in my ears for long periods of time.
The other subplot is how these Buds interact with different families of gadgets. It’s actually three distinct experiences. Not surprisingly, these Buds pair and work best with OnePlus smartphones. You need a OnePlus device for device updates and to reassign shortcuts (for the taps) for functions like skip tracks or play/pause. I also tried pairing it with a Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra where the pairing prompt was instant and a short menu gives you battery drill down data for the case and buds. Pairing with an iPhone was instant but the Buds don’t offer any functionality or battery info. In essence, it’s almost like the Apple AirPods experience with iPhones and Android devices.
Ultimately any verdict should hinge on the sticker price. At Rs 4,990, the OnePlus buds punch way beyond their weight and price. The sound quality is good and battery life (OnePlus pegs it at a total of 30 hours for the case and buds) is solid based on our three days of extensive usage. If you’re in the market for true-wireless earbuds, the OnePlus Buds deserve to be in the mix.
The OnePlus Buds are priced at Rs 4,990 and come in Nord Blue, White and Gray colour options