Review: Galaxy Buds easily beat Apple's AirPods but are years late to the game

Posted:
in iPhone edited March 15
Samsung's Galaxy Buds are very late to the race, but they arrived in style. Boasting a plethora of features AirPods users have been asking for, these truly wireless earbuds don't disappoint for the money.

Galaxy Buds
Galaxy Buds


Galaxy Buds are specifically made to work with the new line of Galaxy S10 smartphones, though you aren't limited to just those. You can use these with any other phone -- iPhone included -- but you lose out on a few of the added features. Because of that, for this review, we tried them out with our Galaxy S10+.






In the box, you will find the Galaxy Buds themselves and a small box of accessories. The accessories include a charging cable as well as a few replacement ear tips and wings to tailor them to your ears.

Ours were charged right out of the box, so we immediately set them up.

A simplified setup process

Compared to other headphones, Samsung has tried its best to simplify the setup process for the Galaxy Buds. There is no holding buttons and jumping into Bluetooth menus. Just open the case near your Galaxy S10-series device, and a simple card will appear asking if you want to connect the earbuds.

Galaxy Buds pairing process
Galaxy Buds pairing process


Tap connect, and the pairing process kicks off without a hitch. Unfortunately, while it is strong from the get-go, the car quickly goes off the rails.

As soon as we started the setup process, a series of four Android alert boxes appeared asking for various permissions that needed granted. Not for the headphones, but for the additional Samsung Wearables app. Things like location, phone calls, etc must be granted. Then, we were moved over to the Samsung Wearables app where the headphones continued to load for almost a full minute before allowing us to continue.

Then an additional four security boxes appeared for additional permissions such as to music, contacts, etc. The process is muddled and extensive before we even get to configuring the earbuds.

Once we are through the switching apps and permissions, we finally get to customize our Galaxy Buds.

Galaxy Buds settings
Galaxy Buds settings


In the center, is a virtual knob that can be used to adjust the equalizer. You can tune the sound profile to your taste, whether boosting the bass or emphasizing the treble. We love this feature and could easily hear the difference between the options, though it wasn't as pronounced as we'd like. At this price point, the earbuds just don't have enough range to really make huge swings in the lows or highs.

Samsung also allows you to customize the long-hold gesture on each earbud. Choose between volume, the summoning the virtual assistant, or toggling ambient sound. Unfortunately, you don't get control over the single, double, or triple taps of which are used to play/pause, next track (or answer a call), or back a track (or decline a call).

You can also control which notifications come through the earbuds, so you only get pestered by the stuff you care about.

In the Samsung Wearables app, you can attempt to locate the earbuds. Find My Earbuds will cause each earbud to emit a soft chirping noise, helping you locate it. Unfortunately, it is very faint and when put the earbuds in a couch cushion, we couldn't hear it at all. It is a nice feature to have, but hard to carry out.

Battery and charging

To power up the Buds, you can use the included USB-C to USB-A cable. We'd prefer a sole USB-C to USB-C cable, but the Galaxy S10 phones ship with a USB-A fast charger so we understand the choice Samsung made to mimic that as now power adapter is bundled with the Buds.

Galaxy Buds wireless charging
Galaxy Buds wireless charging


Alternatively, you can use any wireless charger to top them off. This comes in extremely handy -- even more so when used with the Galaxy S10 phones.

The S10 line has a feature called Wireless PowerShare that turns the phone into a wireless charging pad for additional devices. Just swipe down from the top of the phone and toggle this feature on each time you want to use it. Then place the Galaxy Buds right on the back of the phone.

Being able to charge the Buds while you are out -- with no cables necessary -- is amazing. Especially since the battery is so small it won't significantly deplete your phone.

The battery on the Galaxy Buds is rated for about six hours of continuous use. That means inside each Bud is a six-hour battery. The charging case has a battery of its own which is able to supply an additional seven hours of use, for a total of 13 hours total run time.

Overall, the battery life isn't great at only 13 hours. It is impressive how much you can use them without recharging, but total time is low. Luckily, that wireless charging makes up for it. Why worry about the battery life when you can quickly top it off wherever you are and not think about it.

Galaxy Buds battery status
Galaxy Buds battery status


To view the battery life, just open the Galaxy Buds case next to the phone, and a card will slide into view letting you know the status. This card isn't as well integrated as we'd like though. As soon as the battery card comes into view, a second alert appears on the top with the volume, then a third alert appears below with another battery status. It is just too much. The card dismisses itself quickly too, which may leave you opening and closing the case a second time to get the alert to appear once more.

Jamming out

As we relaxed to listen to music through our Galaxy Buds, we were rife with anticipation. Samsung has been promoting the sound as designed by AKG, a well respected audio company that should be able to inject some superior sound into these affordable earbuds.

Apple Music playlist
Apple Music testing playlist


AKG, as it turns out, is owned by Samsung. So we couldn't take the company at its word that the sound would blow us away.

After quite a bit of listening to our standard audio testing playlist (add it to your Apple Music profile above) we were ultimately left a bit underwhelmed. That isn't to say the sound is bad by any means, just below our elevated expectations. They sound very good for their price range, but certainly not above it. We are holding off for the full comparison to AirPods below, but as a spoiler -- yes, these do sound better than AirPods.



Bass was punchy on modern music and the mids were well established. The highs weren't as bright as we like though and there is some distortion at higher volumes. As we listening to music, we did have the signal drop on us once or twice as we just happened to rotate around in our chair, but otherwise stayed connected as we walked around the office.

The fit was also excellent and comfortable. We only had minor issues as we ran around the gym. Our issues largely stemmed from the wings of the Buds that were somewhat shorter than we'd prefer. The different sizes didn't help much either but we like those on the MW07, Bose, or other true wireless earbuds better.

Since we are talking of audio quality, we took some phone calls too. Voices were reported to be quite clear and didn't pick up too much ambient noise when walking down the street.

Against AirPods

Comparing these two headphones is tough. AirPods are iconic and wildly popular -- and had a multi-year lead. But each set of headphones has certain features that only work with their respective platforms which doesn't make it exactly a fair fight. We'd like to provide some other guidance that simply "choose the headphone that matches your smartphone."

Galaxy Buds and AirPods
Galaxy Buds and Apple AirPods


When you compare directly feature for feature, AirPods get clobbered in almost every way it counts Audio quality of the Galaxy Buds is better. The latter is also able to charge wirelessly which makes its battery life preferable (even if it is less overall).

As best it could, Samsung attempted to replicate Apple's simple setup process which is a start and can possibly be refined through updates, as could the customization of the taps -- a feature Apple already allows.

AirPods battery status
AirPods battery status


We did prefer the actual design and case shape of the AirPods over the Galaxy Buds. Apple chose a glossy finish which is easier to grip. It.s design can also more easily open one-handed. Galaxy Buds have a matte finish which can be slippery to open and is near impossible to do one-handedly. The tradeoff with each is that the matte finish on the buds collects dirt quicker while the AirPods collect many microabrasions that make them look worn.

Looking at direct integration into the OS of choice, Apple wins here as well with the process much simpler and elegant. The alerts don't disappear until you dismiss them or move the AirPods away from the phone. The AirPods settings are also located right within the Settings app and not in an additional AirPods app.

One feature we hope Apple to steal is the ambient audio mode that allows external audio to be passed through to your ears. This is great for talking to people with your earbuds in or walking down the street, still able to hear traffic.

The race is just heating up

As we said, Samsung's Galaxy Buds started the race a bit late -- and that's the rub. We aren't comparing two phones that launched a couple of months apart. We are comparing earbuds that were released years apart. It is no surprise that the Galaxy Buds so easily bested the AirPods in so many different ways, even though there were some missteps.

AirPods charging case
AirPods charging case


Near everything included in the Galaxy Buds are expected with the second iteration of Apple's iconic earbuds. Wireless charging, improved audio, and better sound isolation are all but guaranteed in refreshed AirPods. Even features Samsung didn't include such as additional health features could be in the cards.

Samsung may currently be ahead in this race, but they are about to get lapped.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Where to buy

AirPods are available now for $159, but have largely remained out of stock while Apple still tries to keep up with demand two years in.

Samsung's Galaxy Buds are on sale for $129, with orders expected to ship by March 29 from Samsung directly, or within two to four weeks at Amazon.

Apple's AirPods 2 haven't been formally announced but are rumored to debut sometime in 2019, likely in Spring.

Galaxy Buds were just one of the new wearables that Samsung announced during its media event. They also showed off the Galaxy Watch Active and the Galaxy Fit.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 81
    AppleExposedAppleExposed Posts: 1,690unconfirmed, member
    How did this AirPods wannabe get on my AppleInsider feed?
    mwhitepscooter63jkichlinemagman1979HenryDJPmacplusplusjahbladedanhkiowavtwilliamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 81
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 4,305member
    Living in a mixed Android/iOS/Mac environment, I like articles that may show me what's out there without having to do all the figuring out for myself.

    These buds work well with iPhones, remember.
    napoleon_phoneapartmuthuk_vanalingamcaladanianravnorodomMisterKitkiowavt1983electrosoftCarnage
  • Reply 3 of 81
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,733member
    Interesting - I read a review on another (non-Apple) site that had the AirPods coming out ahead. One of the points that review made was that the microphone was better on the AirPods. Regardless the Samsung pods seem to be reasonable. As you state, you're comparing a 2019 Samsung product with a (Dec) 2016 Apple product. A better comparison would be the AirPods V2 when they arrive. Still, this is what's available now.

    As far as charging goes - I have been thoroughly underwhelmed by wireless charging when I've used it; wired charging is faster, more efficient and more reliable, so for me it's a useless feature. Likewise, the phone to pod charging strikes me as a neat gimmick that will be virtually useless in real life. You won't be able to effectively use your phone or the pods while you're doing it, many people have issues getting through the day with their phone battery, much less depleting it by charging their headphones, compounded by the inefficiency of wireless charging, and if you have a mat or cable to charge your phone then why not charge the pods directly? Beyond that, the AirPods case has 24 hrs of battery life, so you should rarely, if ever need anything else.

    It's an Apple-centric solution, but the W1 chip is a major advantage of the AirPods, imo. Dealing with bluetooth pairing and device switching is a major pain and one if the big drawbacks of bluetooth. The W1 chip significantly simplifies streamlines that process. I wish Apple would license the technology, but it doesn't appear that that's going to be the case.

    This is totally subjective, but I also think the Samsung pods look dorky - like you've got a huge hunk of cotton stuck in your ears. 

    Finally (I gotta say it,) my wired headphones never have issues syncing, never run out of battery life, and switching them from one device to another is a breeze. They also don't use/waste lithium (and the resources used to mine it) and don't have batteries that get old mandating their replacement. Sometimes wires get in the way, but they have a lot of conveniences over wireless.
    edited March 15 ronnblurpbleepbloopjahbladeforegoneconclusionretrogustotokyojimun2itivguytycho_macuserbeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 4 of 81
    Do they stay in?
    I have trouble with the fit of AirPods. Hoping this is addressed with v2.0 but I may just need some kind of ear surgery...
    Possibly a bit unreasonable to expect  to specifically address my earholes..
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 81
    magman1979magman1979 Posts: 1,152member
    Wow, talk about a blatant rip-off of the AirPods! Absolutely disgusting!

    Companies like Scamsung and Huawei will never learn, this is their DNA; lie, cheat, steal, defraud until you get caught, then pay the fees, and rinse and repeat!
    AppleExposedStrangeDayscornchipjahbladejbaughwilliamlondonredgeminipawatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 81
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,336member
    Samsung rips off Apple again. Apple’s AirPods are years old and still is better and Apple is coming out with new ones soon which will leapfrog their current offering. If it weren’t for Apple, Samsung wouldn’t know what to build.
    AppleExposedcaladanianronnradarthekatwilliamlondonredgeminipapscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 81
    KuyangkohKuyangkoh Posts: 375member
    How did this AirPods wannabe get on my AppleInsider feed?
    Good Q.
    WoW, you open the charger pack and you see the status of the buds, looks like it was copied out of airpods gamebook
    AppleExposedradarthekatcornchipdanhwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 81
    MplsP said:
    It's an Apple-centric solution, but the W1 chip is a major advantage of the AirPods, imo. Dealing with bluetooth pairing and device switching is a major pain and one if the big drawbacks of bluetooth. The W1 chip significantly simplifies streamlines that process. I wish Apple would license the technology, but it doesn't appear that that's going to be the case.
    That is a good point that wasn’t touched upon in the article. Can the Samsung pods switch between devices as seamlessly? I use my AirPods with my iPhone, Mac, various iPads and occasionally TV. It’s pretty common for me to use them on multiple devices each day. I would really miss that feature.

    Do they stay in?
    I have trouble with the fit of AirPods. Hoping this is addressed with v2.0 but I may just need some kind of ear surgery...
    Possibly a bit unreasonable to expect  to specifically address my earholes..
    I’ve personally heard a good number of people who say that AirPods won’t fit their ears.  This seems like something Apple may want to address. Why miss out on sales if it’s something that could be easily rectified? Other manufacturers have done it, is there a good reason Apple won’t?
    caladanianronnwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 81
    neillwdneillwd Posts: 10member
    Apple has Live Listen with the AirPods. Connect AirPods to phone then bring up Control Center and tap on the ear icon to toggle Live Listen to listen to the iPhone’s microphones. 
    AppleExposedcaladanianronnwatto_cobraracoleman29
  • Reply 10 of 81
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,302member
    How did this AirPods wannabe get on my AppleInsider feed?
    And why did you read it?
    AppleExposedavon b7GeorgeBMacCarnagepscooter63muthuk_vanalingambeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 11 of 81
    mercelmercel Posts: 34member
    Copycats copy....I wonder if AppleInsider would approve if MacRumors started copying its articles....

    Samsung has no shame.  None.
    edited March 15 AppleExposedradarthekatwilliamlondonmagman1979Latkowatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 81
    AppleExposedAppleExposed Posts: 1,690unconfirmed, member
    Kuyangkoh said:
    How did this AirPods wannabe get on my AppleInsider feed?
    Good Q.
    WoW, you open the charger pack and you see the status of the buds, looks like it was copied out of airpods gamebook

    Did you watch their Apple-esque keynote? When they showed off Galaxypod pairing you'd think they were AirPods pairing with an iPad!

    MplsP said:
    Interesting - I read a review on another (non-Apple) site that had the AirPods coming out ahead. One of the points that review made was that the microphone was better on the AirPods. Regardless the Samsung pods seem to be reasonable. As you state, you're comparing a 2019 Samsung product with a (Dec) 2016 Apple product. A better comparison would be the AirPods V2 when they arrive. Still, this is what's available now.

    As far as charging goes - I have been thoroughly underwhelmed by wireless charging when I've used it; wired charging is faster, more efficient and more reliable, so for me it's a useless feature. Likewise, the phone to pod charging strikes me as a neat gimmick that will be virtually useless in real life. You won't be able to effectively use your phone or the pods while you're doing it, many people have issues getting through the day with their phone battery, much less depleting it by charging their headphones, compounded by the inefficiency of wireless charging, and if you have a mat or cable to charge your phone then why not charge the pods directly? Beyond that, the AirPods case has 24 hrs of battery life, so you should rarely, if ever need anything else.

    It's an Apple-centric solution, but the W1 chip is a major advantage of the AirPods, imo. Dealing with bluetooth pairing and device switching is a major pain and one if the big drawbacks of bluetooth. The W1 chip significantly simplifies streamlines that process. I wish Apple would license the technology, but it doesn't appear that that's going to be the case.

    This is totally subjective, but I also think the Samsung pods look dorky - like you've got a huge hunk of cotton stuck in your ears. 

    Finally (I gotta say it,) my wired headphones never have issues syncing, never run out of battery life, and switching them from one device to another is a breeze. They also don't use/waste lithium (and the resources used to mine it) and don't have batteries that get old mandating their replacement. Sometimes wires get in the way, but they have a lot of conveniences over wireless.

    Apple-centric features don't count. They give Apple an unfair advantage.
    cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 81
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,302member
    Wow, talk about a blatant rip-off of the AirPods! Absolutely disgusting!

    Companies like Scamsung and Huawei will never learn, this is their DNA; lie, cheat, steal, defraud until you get caught, then pay the fees, and rinse and repeat!
    These look NOTHING like the AirPods. use a completely different form-factor, and have features and functions Apple's product does not, just as Apple's product has a unique iconic look and Apple-specific features. How are they a "blatant ripoff"? In your haste to comment are you confusing images of the AirPods in the AI article as images of Samsung's product?
    edited March 15 designrCarnageLatkomuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 14 of 81
    gatorguy said:
    Wow, talk about a blatant rip-off of the AirPods! Absolutely disgusting!

    Companies like Scamsung and Huawei will never learn, this is their DNA; lie, cheat, steal, defraud until you get caught, then pay the fees, and rinse and repeat!
    These look NOTHING like the AirPods. use a completely different form-factor, and have features and functions Apple's product does not, just as Apple's product has a unique iconic look and Apple-specific features. How are they a "blatant ripoff"? In your haste to comment are you confusing images of the AirPods in the AI article as images of Samsung's product?
    The case design is dramatically similar, as well as the the OS interaction when the case opens. They even did the same "card" that pops up at the bottom of the screen with a white background.

    Galaxy Buds pairing process

    Tell me that doesn't look nearly identical to AirPods + iPhone. 
    AppleExposedStrangeDaysradarthekatcornchipguscatmagman1979anantksundarampscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 81
    normangnormang Posts: 85member
    Sound is subjective, if AI can show that everyone in their office felt the same way about the audio quality they "might" have a point. Also knowing that a new generation of AirPods is around the corner, have anything to do with this largely useless review of a product that most Apple users are not going to buy or shouldn't buy based on the Samsung copied it for the most part rip off principle..
    ronnAppleExposedradarthekatmacplusplusanantksundaramwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 81
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,302member
    Aloysius said:
    gatorguy said:
    Wow, talk about a blatant rip-off of the AirPods! Absolutely disgusting!

    Companies like Scamsung and Huawei will never learn, this is their DNA; lie, cheat, steal, defraud until you get caught, then pay the fees, and rinse and repeat!
    These look NOTHING like the AirPods. use a completely different form-factor, and have features and functions Apple's product does not, just as Apple's product has a unique iconic look and Apple-specific features. How are they a "blatant ripoff"? In your haste to comment are you confusing images of the AirPods in the AI article as images of Samsung's product?
    The case design is dramatically similar, as well as the the OS interaction when the case opens. They even did the same "card" that pops up at the bottom of the screen with a white background.

    Galaxy Buds pairing process

    Tell me that doesn't look nearly identical to AirPods + iPhone. 
    The case design is "dramatically similar"? What cases are YOU looking at. One is upright and  relatively tall and narrow. The other lays flat, is oval,  and is smaller overall. Yeah, they both have software screens that are white. Gosh nearly twins!
    Carnagemuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 17 of 81
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 5,007administrator
    normang said:
    Sound is subjective, if AI can show that everyone in their office felt the same way about the audio quality they "might" have a point. Also knowing that a new generation of AirPods is around the corner, have anything to do with this largely useless review of a product that most Apple users are not going to buy or shouldn't buy based on the Samsung copied it for the most part rip off principle..
    Why would we need to do that? This is Andrew's article, it doesn't have any other bylines on it.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 18 of 81
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,706member
    Glossed over in this otherwise-fair article is a) the sheer amount of blatant copying Samsung is very obviously guilty of — it took them nearly three years of understanding all the engineering and software breakthroughs of the AirPods to produce what amounts to a reasonable knock-off that is mostly still inferior, albeit only slightly so: and b) the very huge and significant advantage of the W1 chip both in providing a rock solid connection (very important) and vastly expanded range (maybe less important to the reviewer).

    As for the claim of better sound, I’m skeptical. More likely they’re a better fit for his ears — which is a legit plus for him, but not necessarily others. I’m glad Android users have a reasonable copycat that offers a fuller feature set for their platform than AirPods do for Android, but let’s acknowledge that without the AirPods, these Buds would never have existed. Samsung would never in a million years have invented these on their own — they are fundamentally a copy of Apple’s innovations.
    AppleExposedwonkothesaneradarthekatMisterKitred oakmacplusplusjahblademagman1979anantksundarampscooter63
  • Reply 19 of 81
    AppleExposedAppleExposed Posts: 1,690unconfirmed, member
    Aloysius said:
    gatorguy said:
    Wow, talk about a blatant rip-off of the AirPods! Absolutely disgusting!

    Companies like Scamsung and Huawei will never learn, this is their DNA; lie, cheat, steal, defraud until you get caught, then pay the fees, and rinse and repeat!
    These look NOTHING like the AirPods. use a completely different form-factor, and have features and functions Apple's product does not, just as Apple's product has a unique iconic look and Apple-specific features. How are they a "blatant ripoff"? In your haste to comment are you confusing images of the AirPods in the AI article as images of Samsung's product?
    The case design is dramatically similar, as well as the the OS interaction when the case opens. They even did the same "card" that pops up at the bottom of the screen with a white background.

    Galaxy Buds pairing process

    Tell me that doesn't look nearly identical to AirPods + iPhone. 

    Here's the AirPods + iPad I was talking about earlier. Except this shameless image is from Samsung!


    magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 81
    normangnormang Posts: 85member
    normang said:
    Sound is subjective, if AI can show that everyone in their office felt the same way about the audio quality they "might" have a point. Also knowing that a new generation of AirPods is around the corner, have anything to do with this largely useless review of a product that most Apple users are not going to buy or shouldn't buy based on the Samsung copied it for the most part rip off principle..
    Why would we need to do that? This is Andrew's article, it doesn't have any other bylines on it.
    Really Mike... a sole perspective is all it takes to make it better?
    anantksundaramwatto_cobra
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