When it comes to smartphones, chances are you fall into one of two camps: fans of the Apple iPhone’s iOS operating system or those dedicated to the Android OS used by Samsung (among others).
However, in the world of true wireless earbuds, these distinctions aren’t quite as clear, and you may well be considering buying a pair of Samsung Galaxy Buds, even if you have an iPhone.
While we could tell you that both charging cases feel nice in the hand and that each boasts a robust build in its own right and leave it at that, we believe that when it comes to audio, there’s subjective preference and then there’s objective science.
WHICH HEADPHONES STYLE IS BEST FOR YOU?
AirPods vs Ear Buds: The design
The Apple AirPods have a very distinctive style, which you will probably either love or hate, essentially taking the classic EarPod design cutting the cables, leaving the stem of the bud to hang out of the ear.
It’s interesting that Apple hasn’t changed the design of the earbuds after all, those stem-like protrusions were widely mocked upon their original release in 2016.
Like their predecessors, the AirPods draw battery from a pillbox-like charging case, which features a small LED light on the front, which allows you to check the charge status of the buds.
True to that rigid Apple design, you won’t find the convenience of replaceable silicone eartips, and although they felt relatively snug when we tested them, we’d think twice before wearing them while working out.
Like we say, it’s a ‘love it or hate it’ kind of design, and if you are a fan of Apple’s clean aesthetic, you’ll probably like the AirPods.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds on the other hand, have a more ‘classic’ true wireless earbud design (if such a thing exists), with all the tech built into their pearlescent housing, unlike the AirPods, which pack all their tech into the stems.
Overall the Samsung Galaxy Buds are quite dainty, and feel pretty secure thanks to the inclusion of rubber wingtips. In our opinion, they are the more aesthetically pleasing of the two models, but it really comes down to personal taste.
Both earbuds have touch controls, which means you can summon your phone’s respective voice assistant (the AirPods can summon Siri on iPhones, while the Galaxy Buds summon Bixby on compatible Samsung phones), play/pause your music, and answer and end calls.
Airpods vs Ear Buds: The Hardware Comparison
Just like our Sony WH-1000XM3 vs. Bose QC 35 II feature, we’re going to work from the outside in with this comparison, meaning hardware first. These true wireless earbuds sport starkly different designs from one another. Samsung’s have a playful, practical design while Apple applies its minimalist philosophy to the updated AirPods.
Both feature touch controls and both can be remapped and customized to your liking. The AirPods (2019) have a leg up on the Galaxy Buds because of the automatic ear detection, which may be toggled on or off via your iPhone’s settings menu. The Galaxy Buds also support automatic ear detection, but our unit had trouble reliably executing this during regular use.
What’s more, the AirPods allow users to choose whether sound is recorded and relayed through the left or right microphone. On the other hand, the Galaxy Buds dual-mic array doesn’t let you modify recording settings. Both sets of touch controls work well, and both models allow for wireless charging.
Granted, Apple’s cancellation of AirPower proved to be quite a spectacle, the wireless charging case works with Qi-compatible mats. Users will have to pay a premium for it with the second-gen AirPods as it increases the price.
The AirPods may have a sleeker design, but the Galaxy Buds provide a better fit and don’t require you to pay more for wireless charging.
Samsung’s wireless charging, on the other hand, is all included and can be charged directly from any of the Galaxy S10 phones. Not only is this a neat party trick, but it’s also quite convenient and is automatically included with the Galaxy Buds.
Some may prefer the larger, relatively flat panels of the Galaxy Buds while others may be more drawn to the design of the AirPods. Ultimately, though, we tip our hats to Samsung on this one as its a better value and doesn’t hike the price for wireless charging.
Airpods vs EarBuds: Bluetooth codec and connectivity
What about codec and Bluetooth support? Well, both operate via Bluetooth 5.0 and support AAC. The products diverge from here, though, as the new AirPods uses Apples H1 chip, the successor to its W1 chip. Not only does this facilitate hands-free access to Siri, but Apple claims it results in faster connecting times and lessened playback control latency. What’s more, you also benefit from a 50% increase in talk time.
If you’re using it with an iOS device, connectivity is stable and reliable. The same can’t quite be said when using AirPods with an Android device. Although Samsung doesn’t support aptX, a bit of a misstep, it does use the company’s proprietary scalable codec. This operates similarly to aptX adaptive in that it’s constantly optimizing for bitrate without compromising connectivity.
Initial testing made it seem that connectivity was consistently reliable, however, as I’ve continued to use them between other products, it’s become apparent that the Galaxy Buds still have a ways to go. There have been multiple instances where I’ve had to completely unpair and repair the Buds with my Galaxy S10e. Hopefully Samsung remedies this with future updates, but for now, this point goes to the Cupertino kids.
True wireless earbuds get a bad rap when it comes to audio performance, but they are getting better all the time – and the AirPods and Galaxy Buds are good examples of this.
In terms of audio quality, the AirPods have a lively, powerful presentation, although they can sound slightly harsh when it comes to higher-frequency sounds, and they aren’t the bassiest earbuds on the market.
If you’re a true bass-head, you might prefer the Galaxy Buds, which have a warmer, and generally more bass-heavy soundstage.
Neither of these buds will offer the same kind of audio prowess that a really good pair of over-ear headphones will, but you do get the freedom of wireless connectivity in exchange for a slightly less powerful sound.
Battery life and longetivity
This one’s pretty easy to measure. We subjected each pair of earbuds to a constant 75dB(SPL) output, as we do with all headphone units, and observed the results. The new AirPods afforded 4.125 hours of playback with an iPhone X streaming over the AAC codec. While this is a tad shorter than Apple’s claimed five hours of playback, it’s 21 percent longer than the first iteration, presumably due to the new H1 chip. This is no small feat.
It’s worth commending Apple for improving efficiency, the Samsung Galaxy Buds mop the floor with the AirPods as they provide 6.53 hours of playback on a single charge. Granted, the Galaxy Buds case only provides an additional seven hours of battery life, while the AirPods’ case provides an extra 20 hours.
Additionally, the Galaxy Buds’ quick charging capabilities fall short of Apple’s truly wireless ‘buds. Just 15 minutes in the case for the Buds grants 1.7 of playback; however, the 15 minutes of charging the AirPods results in approximately three hours of playback. Ultimately it depends on how you prioritize your usage, but as far as standalone playback goes, Samsung wins this round.
Don’t overlook the Apple AirPods Pro with noise cancelling
As of the Apple AirPods Pro release you no longer need to leave the Apple ecosystem to get a secure fit and solid isolation. The AirPods Pro has been completely redesigned from the original and second-generation AirPods with the inclusion of dedicated nozzles, noise cancelling, and a Qi wireless-compatible charging case by default. The AirPods Pro cost significantly more than Apple’s older total wireless earbuds, but we feel it’s worth saving up for as they’re also more durable than ever with an official IPX4 rating to show for it. If you want to get the best sound quality from a pair of Apple earbuds, the AirPods Pro is the set to get. Android users who want noise cancelling true wireless earbuds will benefit from comparing the AirPods Pro to the Sony WF-1000XM3.