Samsung's Galaxy Buds are the company's take on Apple AirPods, and they're really good.
There's a reason why Samsung continues to play in this market. Apple's AirPods have become incredibly successful since their launch in 2017. While they work with Android phones, the target audience has mostly been for Apple products, since they pair so easily with them.
Samsung has tried to compete with its own version AirPods for several years now, but its latest attempt is its best yet and is the best option I've found for Android users. Plus, they look a lot less silly than AirPods, which makes them a fine alternative even for people who own iPhones.
Here's what you need to know.
The Galaxy Buds are super easy to pair with a Galaxy phone. You just open the case and, as long as it's near your Samsung phone, you'll get a prompt to pair them right up. It's similar to the pairing process with AirPods, which is just as easy. The Galaxy Buds work with iPhones, but you need to pair them manually with Bluetooth instead of using the fast pairing option, and you lose some features made just for Samsung users.
The Galaxy Buds sound really good. While I've never complained about the quality from my AirPods, I thought the Galaxy Buds sounded more balanced, since they are better at blocking out external noise and have controls that let you change the equalizer to highlight bass or treble in the music you're listening to. I also like that the buds are soft, so they didn't hurt my ears after wearing them for a while, as AirPods sometimes do. They're more snug, too, so I didn't worry as much about them falling out as I do with AirPods.
Like AirPods, they have a small clamshell case that quickly charges each bud individually. The case also protects the pods from getting junk in them, which means you can just quickly toss it into your backpack or pocket without worrying about lint getting in the buds. If you lose the case, say in a cushion, you can use a Find My Galaxy Buds feature inside the Samsung Wear app, which rings the case.
I love that it charges wirelessly, a feature that is available in Apple's brand new AirPods or through a new $79 case for the last-generation model. This means you can drop the case on any standard wireless charger to juice it up. Or, if you have a new Galaxy S10 phone, you can turn on the wireless power share feature to charge the battery simply by placing the Galaxy Buds case on the back of the phone. It's super convenient if you don't have an outlet.
But you shouldn't worry about battery life too much. Samsung promises — and it seemed accurate in my tests — about six hours of battery life from the buds plus an additional seven hours of battery life from the case they charge in. And 15 minutes of charging gets you 1.7 hours of playback, so you don't need to charge for long.
Phone calls sounded good, too. I called my editor while I walked down the hall and he said I sounded clear. I could hear him from his desk phone just fine, too. But the signal did drop off after I walked about 20 feet from the Galaxy S10 they were paired to.
I liked that I could tap the side to activate Google Assistant and ask it anything, from the weather to placing a phone call to my colleague. AirPods only work with Siri, which does both of those things but isn't generally as smart as Google Assistant, which I was also use to play music from third-party services like Spotify.
The Galaxy Buds also have an ambient noise feature, which means you can tap one of the buds to lower the music volume, allowing you to temporarily hear your surroundings more. This worked OK. The music got really soft, but I found it was just as easy to pause the song entirely.
I really don't have a lot of complaints with the Galaxy Buds. At $129, they're $30 cheaper than AirPods and, to me, are the perfect alternative for Android users.
My biggest complaint is that while you can see the battery life of each individual earbud, you can't see how much charge is left in the Galaxy Buds case. There's only an indicator light on front that's green when there's a good charge and red when there isn't.
AirPods are able to show you how much battery percentage is left in each component, including the case, and you can see it right on your iPhone. This isn't a huge deal, but I do wish I had a better idea of how much battery life was left in the case at all times.
Yeah, these are good, but it depends who you are.
While AirPods work with Android phones, they don't pair that easily and work best with iPhones. But with the Galaxy Buds, Android users now have something that pairs quickly, sounds good and works well. If you're on an iPhone, though, just buy AirPods.