Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro’s 360 Audio is a huge upgrade — but you probably can’t use it

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
(Image credit: Samsung)

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro have launched, with Samsung adding an array of new features to its wireless earbuds. However, you probably won’t be able to use one of the biggest additions: 360 Audio.

Similar to the Spatial Audio mode on Apple’s AirPods Pro and AirPods Max, 360 Audio creates an immersive surround sound effect by tracking your head movements. But Samsung has quietly clarified in the small print of a press release that it only works when the buds are paired to a Galaxy device running its OneUI 3.1 software. As it stands, the only devices that do are the three brand-new Samsung Galaxy S21 phones, so you’ll need one of these to get the most out of the earbuds.

We contacted a Samsung representative who confirmed that yes, 360 Audio currently only works with the Samsung Galaxy S21, the Galaxy S21 Plus and the Galaxy S21 Ultra

While this isn’t wildly different from AirPods Pro's Spatial Audio needing a compatible Apple handset to function, it’s a pretty big limitation that wasn’t made clear during Samsung’s launch presentation. Or anywhere on the Galaxy Buds Pro’s official store page for that matter.

Apple’s Spatial Audio also requires that the source device runs iOS 14 and includes a gyroscope, but that still means it can be used with a much wider range of phones and tablets. That includes older phones going back to the iPhone 7 as well as the latest iPhone 12, rather than just three brand-new, premium-priced handsets.

In Samsung’s defense, it’s normal for new OneUI versions to make their way to older Galaxy devices. So it’s certainly possible we could see OneUI 3.1 come to the likes of the Galaxy S20 family, Galaxy Note 20, Galaxy Z Flip and maybe even the Galaxy S10 range. This would potentially add them to the stable of 360 Audio-compatible devices, making the feature available to countless existing Galaxy owners.

Still, be wary of buying the Galaxy Buds Pro if you were specifically looking forward to the 360 Audio feature. For the time being, you’re going to need to stump up for one of the new Galaxy S21 models to use it.

James Archer

James is currently Hardware Editor at Rock Paper Shotgun, but before that was Audio Editor at Tom’s Guide, where he covered headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. A PC enthusiast, he also wrote computing and gaming news for TG, usually relating to how hard it is to find graphics card stock.