The number of true wireless earbuds are increasing by the month, with Apple AirPods seeing off challengers like Samsung Galaxy Buds, Amazon Echo Buds and more from the likes of Huawei and Anker. Now, Chinese smartphone manufacturer Oppo is considering getting back in the ring.
News outlet 91mobiles (opens in new tab) has found a patent filed by Oppo for two new true wireless earbud designs. Although Oppo's current earbud model, the Enco Free, is set to launch in some international markets like India and Malaysia shortly, it closely follows the Apple AirPod design. Oppo's new plans offer two individual designs: one with the AirPods-style stem and one without, which looks more along the line of the Samsung Galaxy Buds.
Check out the designs of the individual headphones below:
Oppo's Enco Free has volume and track controls depending on the stem: you slide your finger up or down the left earbud's stem to control volume, and slide your finger up or down the right earbud's stem to skip forward or backwards during tracks.
Without the stem, the new Oppo buds would need to redesign their controls while keeping them intuitive if the Chinese company wants to beat the big players on the audio scene. The images above don't offer much in the way of clarification, but the presence of what appears to be a physical button on the stemless bud could be a move towards redesigning those controls.
There's microphones on both designs, which would hopefully use beamforming technology, in which sensors map movements of the jaw, to identify when you're talking and adjust volume appropriately for call clarity. Most serious earbuds do this, as well as wind-blocking and Active Noise Cancellation (just like the Enco Frees) in order to further boost clarity of sound and adjust listening volume when you're going about your day.
Oppo's current buds can last for five hours of listening on a single charge, and up to 20 hours when used with the accompanying charging case. This is comparable to Apple's first-generation AirPods.
We'd expect Oppo's follow-ups to be able to beat that time, as well as last for longer when calling, which uses significantly more power due to engaging more of the buds' functions. We've not seen charging cases yet, but we're expecting a USB-C charging port as normal. The biggest question remains which design Oppo will aim for: stemmed or stemless?
As Oppo's stemmed Enco Free earbuds roll out to international markets, we imagine the Chinese smartphone company will be watching user reactions very closely. How well the earbuds do may sway Oppo to stick with a design that works, or ditch the stem for something slightly more radical.