Cut back to 2016 and the launch of the iPhone 7. Apple’s decision to ditch a conventional 3.5 mm headphone jack sparked surprise, outrage and also a wave of trolls. Apple’s solution – the AirPods were the target of these trolls. But soon we started seeing more and more users start using these AirPods much to the dismay of the meme creators. AirPods became commonplace at the gym, flights and the Metro from New York to Delhi. It wasn’t just the AirPods but cheap imitations and terrific earbuds like Bose’s SoundSport Free and Sony’s earbuds with superior noise cancellation. The premium earbuds are still priced well above Rs 10,000, one reason why this category hasn’t still seen wide-scale consumer adoption. Could that change with Samsung’s cleverly priced new Galaxy Buds?
In February 2019, Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked event showed off an array of devices including the impressive trio of Galaxy S10 (the tenth edition of Galaxy flagships) devices. The Galaxy Buds might have been the tiniest product launched at this San Francisco event but it caught our attention, almost immediately. The Galaxy Buds is that sort of product. It makes a big impression with its small form factor. These tiny buds sit snugly inside a charging case that will slip into your tightest jeans almost effortlessly. This compact form factor is something it shares with the Apple AirPods although they don’t take the same design route as Apple’s cool dental floss style box. It’s this compact size that gives it an edge over the competition from Bose and Sony.
My favourite feature, however, is the cool wireless charging capability. All three S10 devices possess reverse charging (Samsung calls it Wireless Power Share); you can charge your Galaxy Buds by placing them on the rear of the device.- super convenient when you’re on the go. The Galaxy Buds delivered about 6 hours while I used it for music streaming. This is in line with Samsung’s claims. The battery life dips slightly when you use it more for calls. Add another 6 hours for the case and you effectively get about 12 hours. The AirPods clearly has the edge in the battery life department – the battery case delivers almost 24 hours battery life but doesn’t offer wireless charging. The Galaxy Buds feature a Type-C charger which is a cool touch.
Pairing the Buds with a Samsung Galaxy smartphone is a similar experience to pairing the AirPods with an iPhone – its truly seamless. It’s not too much of a fuss with Android smartphones – all you need is to grab the Samsung Wearable App from the Google Play store. You can also pair it with an iPhone but it’s not as easy as pairing it with an Android device. The other thing you will notice (or callers on the other side will notice) is how the dual microphones ensure your voice is more clear despite external sounds.
It all boils down to the Sound Quality and the AKG-tuned Samsung Galaxy Buds deliver a decent sound experience. Purists might find the bass output lacks the thump of higher-priced competitors. You can tweak that somewhat with the sound settings on the companion app. Bose’s SoundSport Free trumps these in the Sound quality department but is almost twice the price.
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds make the most compelling case for this category. They’re lightweight and after testing it in an intensive workout, I realised that they don’t fall off easily. The IPX2 rating means that they’re sweat proof while the wireless charging is truly a killer feature. There are other useful touches like the ‘Find my buds’ feature that ensures these don’t get lost under your couch. They’re certainly not the best in the Sound department but probably offer the best overall feature mix at a competitive price (especially if you’re buying them with an S10 device).
The Samsung Galaxy Buds (available in white, black and a funky yellow) cost Rs 9,999 or Rs 4,999 if you’re buying it bundled with any of the Samsung Galaxy S10 phones.