OnePlus Buds 3 $99 wireless earbuds look like serious AirPods rivals

OnePlus Buds 3 in black and blue color options
(Image credit: Future)

OnePlus just unveiled its new entry-level wireless earbuds alongside the global launch of the new flagship OnePlus 12 series phone. Although there's nothing unexpected about a pair of wireless earbuds arriving at the same time as the latest phone generation — for example, this time last year we saw the OnePlus Buds 2 Pro wireless earbuds arrive at the same time as the OnePlus 11 series phone. But, I wasn't anticipating a new entry-level model that undercuts their predecessor's price, or for them to be packed with so many 'pro' features.

OnePlus is continually aiming to propel its models to the next level, and although I felt that the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 fell short in terms of their overall sound quality at the price, the Buds 3 entry-level model look pretty similar and bring pro-style features to an exciting new price point. In fact, the feature set and specs we've seen so far could make them a strong contender for the best cheap wireless earbuds.

OnePlus Buds 3: Pro-style looks and features for less

Battery life has been pretty static over the last few years even on the best wireless earbuds, and the mediocre capacity was one of my criticisms of the OnePlus Buds 2 Pro flagship earbuds from 2023. But the specs released in a post on X (formerly Twitter) show that the OnePlus Buds 3 will run to 44 hours of playback on a full charge, with 7 hours of listening time from just a 10 minute charge. 

Presumably that's the total capacity from the charging case with ANC switched off, but we'll be able to clarify those specs in our full review coming soon.

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Of course, longer battery life is always desirable especially if the hinted at extra features are on board. These include spatial audio support for 3D immersive listening, as well as Bluetooth LE Audio and hi-res audio support via LHDC 5.0. that's capable of handling 96kHz audio sampling rates at up to 1Mbps transfer speeds from OnePlus phones and similarly compatible payback devices. 

Leveraging their high-quality audio capabilities is a dual dynamic driver arrangement with a 10.4mm woofer with a 6mm tweeter said to deliver a frequency range spanning 15Hz to 40kHz. While that sounds impressive and on a par with OnePlus' flagship wireless earbuds, what's even more attractive is their adaptive noise canceling capabilities that claims to block out up to 99.6% of external noise, providing up to 49dB active noise cancelation.

These buds are IP55-rated for dust and water resistance, meaning they are sufficiently protected from sweat when used at the gym or on a run, say. Plus, they come with Bluetooth 5.3 for seamless connectivity. 

The drop-stem design is said to feature an improved sliding touch control for more accurate volume adjustments, and combines a metallic coating and matte finish. Color options run to 'splendid' blue and metallic gray. 

The OnePlus Buds 3 wireless earbuds will be priced at $99 / £99 and are available to pre-order now from the OnePlus store. They're expected to ship on February 5.

Stay tuned for our full review coming soon.

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Lee Dunkley
Audio Editor

As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.