Earbuds are, strictly speaking, a pair of earbuds. That’s it. These earbuds are designed for use while you’re on-the-go, running around or commuting, not sitting comfortably in a car with the music cranked up. Headphones are different, though. They can fit comfortably in your ears at a desk or in your pocket. They can be as small or as big as you like, and they generally come with a carrying case to keep them nice and safe. That’s what Samsung has adopted with the Galaxy Buds Pro: they’re available in a bunch of different sizes, just like Bluetooth headphones, but they’re also available with a little carrying case and a charging case. As a result, you’re going to need to buy a pair of headphones with a different control scheme for different situations.
Last year’s Galaxy Buds fit into a line of earbuds by far the most awkward way possible. The stubby buds ended up feeling like a bulky ear tip, and at least one reader came away disappointed by the lack of variety on offer. The Galaxy Buds Pro headphones are a huge improvement, at least when it comes to design. The Galaxy Buds Pro have a much smaller footprint. They’re thinner, and built around the characteristic rubber base of the Galaxy Buds, which means that Samsung has been able to simplify the construction considerably. There are only three cables in the box: a standard USB-C charging cable, a standard USB-C to 3.5mm cable for wired use, and a USB-C to USB-C cable for charging. There are no additional wires to fumble around for.
The Galaxy Buds Pro are different in a couple of important ways from their predecessors. First of all, they’re coming from a new division of Samsung: the audio team. Even if you’ve heard nothing of the company’s audio prowess, the fact that JKS Audio is working with Samsung’s Galaxy mobile division says a lot. Secondly, they’re made from slightly softer rubber. With that said, they still have the same rubber tips found on the regular Buds. They’re big, heavy, and you’ll probably want to opt for a case for them if you’re expecting the buds to become as intimately entangled with your ears as the Buds Plus were. The buds have a relatively short 4.5-hour battery life on a charge, which is par for the course for these buds.
Galaxy Buds Pro vs. Apple AirPods Pro: If you aren’t already running out to buy a pair of Apple’s AirPods Pro, don’t worry. The two companies still go toe-to-toe, as the latter recently announced that their earbuds can still be had for $160. However, the AirPods Pro introduce a number of improvements to an already impressive earbud experience. The AirPods also have a long battery life, allowing you to go several days without having to worry about charging them up. The Galaxy Buds Pro lack such goody, as their batteries will only provide about four hours of listening time. The AirPods Pro have some improvements, but not enough to outweigh Samsung’s advantages Galaxy Buds Pro vs.
A 1,500mAh battery is only a slight step up from the smaller Galaxy Buds, and Samsung is again vague about how long it will last on a charge, although this is likely a lesser capacity than the included charging case will be able to provide. Happily, they do include a fast charging case, and it has Qi wireless charging built in. There is a sliding mechanism on the buds to let you swap between ears, and this seems to work well enough that you may not need to use a different method to put them in your ears. A small LED light shows the status of the buds. Samsung is touting sound quality as a key reason for the Galaxy Buds Pro’s existence, but it’s a familiar theme at this point.
More Samsung Galaxy Buds Let’s look at the big picture. Just because Apple is releasing AirPods doesn’t mean that other manufacturers have to follow. But unless there is an external external tweak or change, the Apple hardware is unlikely to offer significant advantages over competing headphones. We’ve seen some value from both Sony and Beats, but that’s not saying much. The major selling point for either of them is a relatively low price tag. And though it might be nice to walk around with some really expensive headphones, Apple’s innovation cycle means that no matter how well a product is made, Apple has likely had it available for a while. That’s why I’m going to pick the Apple AirPods at the high end of the price scale for now.