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Apple AirPods vs. Galaxy Buds: Why Samsung Wins

It wasn’t too long ago that all you had to do to impress with truly wireless earbud category was show up. Fast forward a couple of years, and features like instantaneous pairing, companion apps and ambient noise adjustment have become must-haves. Oh, and the earbuds better sound good, too.

But in the battle for earbud supremacy, there can only be one. That’s why we’re pitting the Apple AirPods with their unmistakable design and near effortless pairing against the Samsung Galaxy Buds with their comfortable design and long battery life.

Read on to discover which pair of buds takes home the gold.

Apple AirPods vs. Samsung Galaxy Buds: Specs Compared


Apple AirPodsSamsung Galaxy Buds
Price
$159
$129
Colors
White
White, Black, Yellow
What's in the Box
Charging case and Lightning cable
Charging Case, USB Type-C cable, eartips, wings
Battery Life (Estimated)
5 hours, 24 hours (charging case)
6 hours, 7 hours (charging case)
Size
0.7 x 0.7 x 1.6 inches
0.7 x 0.9 x 0.8 inches
Weight (Earbuds, Charging Case)
0.14 ounces, 1.3 ounces
0.2 ounces, 1.4 ounces

Design

As with its laptops and phone, Apple has once again launched a product that’s produced cadre of clones. The now ubiquitous AirPods design is simply Apple's glossy white plastic EarPods sans wires. Despite some comparisons to the hair gel scene in There's Something About Mary, AirPods have become something of a status symbol. Hell, some enterprising lady even found a way to make cash by turning them into earrings as a stylish way to keep from losing them.

When Samsung designed the Galaxy Buds, it basically took the foundation laid by the Gear IconX buds and refined it. Now a shimmering mix of white matte and shiny pearlescent plastics, the Galaxy Buds are striking up close. The company even changed the silicon ring designed to secure the buds by resting against your concha, turning into a little wing.

Galaxy Buds

Galaxy Buds

The Galaxy Buds are still sweat resistant for folks who like to work out and unlike the AirPods offer some much-needed color outside of the default white with yellow and black variations of the buds.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Buds

Samsung Galaxy BudsView Deal

Comfort

Unlike Apple’s EarPods, the AirPods have always provided a comfortable, if somewhat loose fit. Weighing a mere 0.14 ounces and measuring 0.7 x 0.7 x 1.2 inches, the AirPods give the phrase “barely there” new meaning. I hardly felt them as I went bopping my way down the street, and it’s really quite liberating.

However, without a side-mounted wing to hold the AirPods in place, I always felt I was one hard footstep from knocking one loose and sending it skittering onto the New York City street. It’s not yet happened, but I definitely had a close call running for the 6 train once.

Galaxy Buds

Galaxy Buds

Meanwhile, the Galaxy Buds fit comfortably in my ears. The 0.2-ounce, 0.7 x 0.9 x 0.8-inch buds are definitely beefier than the AirPods, but there’s a tangibility there that I like. The wing made sure the earbuds remained in position even when I was working out at the gym or running to beat a light change in traffic. Thanks to that snug fit, I wore the Buds for more than two hours, just jamming along to my chosen soundtrack of the day.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Buds

Apple AirpodsView Deal

Controls

Samsung describes the shiny triangular shell of the Galaxy Buds as touchpads, but the more correct terminology would be tap pad. After numerous Gear Icon X reviewer complaints about the difficulty of registering swipes on such a small surface, Samsung switched the controls over to a tap-based method.

Galaxy Buds

Galaxy Buds

The Galaxy Buds require just one tap to play/pause, a double tap to skip to the next track or answer/end a call, and three taps to skip backward. Unlike other tap-based earbud controls, I didn’t have to tap too hard, which can be quite jarring when you’re wearing earbuds.

The AirPods are Siri-dependent, meaning that if you want to skip a track, adjust a volume or even answer a call, you’ll need to use Siri to do it. You can summon the digital assistant by double tapping on either bud (unless you customize things with another shortcut). That method is spotty in execution though, with Siri taking a few seconds to respond or me fumbling around, trying to find the sweet spot on the AirPod’s tiny frame. And if you’re a Spotify or Google Music lover, you’re out of luck as Siri (and Apple) don’t play nice with either of those streaming services; you’re fine if you use Apple Music.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Buds

Special Features and App

Nowadays, all your gadgets have to be smart, even when it’s something as small as the AirPods and Galaxy Buds. Samsung has outfitted the Galaxy Buds with several helpful features, including Ambient Noise, which lets sounds from the outside world into the buds. Ambient Noise is especially helpful when I was walking down the street, as it kept me aware of oncoming traffic.

Galaxy Buds

Galaxy Buds

I’m also a fan of the Galaxy Buds’ near instantaneous pairing. As soon as I opened the case and put the buds in my ears, there was a notification on my Galaxy Note 8, saying they were connected. In case you lose one or both of the buds like I did, there’s a Find My Buds feature, which plays a loud noise when activated within the free (iOS, Android) Galaxy Wearable app, to help you track down the tiny tech.

But the game-changing feature with the Galaxy Buds  is wireless charging. If you own a Galaxy S10, you can charge the buds using your smartphone just by putting the buds in their charging case and placing that on the back of your S10. Seconds later, your buds are getting recharged via the phone sans wires.

The AirPods has a host of cool features that draw on the devices’ accelerometers and Apple's proprietary W1 chip. I like it when I take one of the buds out while listening to music and the AirPods switch from dual channel to mono. This allows me to keep listening to music in one ear while attending to whatever caused me to take out the other AirPod.

The Airpods can also recognize when you're talking, and the integrated microphones work to filter out external noise so whether you're talking to Siri or someone on the phone, you'll be heard loud and clear. Like the Galaxy Buds, the AirPods offer near simultaneous pairing with most Apple devices and have a Find My Buds feature.

MORE: AirPods Dying? It May be the Charging Case

However, what sorely missing from the AirPods is a wireless charging option. The AirPods came out in 2016, and we're still waiting for this feature to arrive. Oh well, maybe it will happen with the AirPods 2.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Buds

Audio

It’s nice that the Galaxy Buds and the AirPods have a lot of cool features, but all of it means bupkis if the earbuds don’t sound good.

When I first reviewed the AirPods, I thought they sounded “pretty darned good.” I still do. They deliver relatively clean vocals with good highs and a solid mid-range performance. The lows can be a bit bloated, however and the presentation overall can sound distant.

For instance, when I listened to Rosie Gaines “I Can’t Get You Off My Mind,” the pulsating bass line superseded everything but the artist’s powerful alto. That meant the keyboard, drums and Electronic Wind Instrument were pushed to the back. It’s a problem I also encountered with the Galaxy Buds, but by switching the in-app equalizer to the neutral Clear preset, I got a more balanced performance that allowed every part of the track to be easily heard.

My biggest complaint lies with the shape of the AirPods, as I could never really get the snug fit needed to block out ambient sound. It’s especially crucial when you’re riding the NYC subway where at its quietest, it’s still a dull roar.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Buds

Call Quality

As good as the Galaxy Buds sound playing music, that doesn’t carry over into making calls. I made numerous calls with the Buds and every time on both ends of the call, the audio was described as loud, but muddy.

Thanks to the AirPods’ advanced microphones and voice accelerometer, my callers heard me loud and clear. Some ambient noise crept in every now and then, but the AirPods were clearly superior at taking calls.

Winner: Apple AirPods

Charging Case

You’ve got to give it to Apple — it knows how to get the most out a relatively piece of tech. Consider the AirPods’ charging case. At 1.3-ounces, 1.7 x 0.8 x 2.1-inches, the glossy white plastic case is about as big as a matchbook and about twice as thick. Still, out of that teeny-tiny case, the Pods can get multiple charges, stretching the estimated 5-hour battery life to a full day. And thanks to the quick charge feature, you can get 3 hours of listening time (estimated) from a 15-minute charge.

Apple Earpods

Apple Earpods

The Galaxy Buds’ 1.4-ounce, 2.8 x 1.5 x 1-inch plastic charging case is shaped like pill. The sleek-looking box falls well short of its boxy counterpart from Apple, delivering only 7 additional hours of charge. The quick-charge feature is also lacking as a 15-minute power up only nets you 1.7 hours of play time.

Winner: Apple AirPods

Battery Life

Samsung claims the Galaxy Buds can last up to 6 hours on a charge. That wasn’t too far off the mark during my real world testing as I squeezed 5 hours and 46 minutes out of the Buds’ 58-mAH battery. That’s longer than the AirPods estimated 5 hours of battery as well as the 4 hours and 29 minutes they lasted in my testing.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Buds

Price

With Apple, you’re paying for the tech and the name. Priced at $159, the AirPods are reasonably priced with Apple selling replacement buds and charging cases for $69 each.

MORE: I Spent More Than $200 on Headphones: You Should Too

You can  get the Galaxy Buds for a fairly cheap $129.99. There’s no word on how much replacement buds or cases will be or if Samsung will give consumers that option.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Buds

Overall Winner: Galaxy Buds

For the Apple faithful, the $159 AirPods are still king (at least until the AirPods 2 come out), as they provide the most seamless integration with other Apple products. I’m still thrilled by how quickly the AirPods pair with Apple products, and I love how they switch to mono the minute I take one bud out. However, the relatively loose fit and the Siri dependency give me pause. And while the sound is solid overall, the lack of an equalizer means that you’re often stuck with relatively balanced highs and mids fighting for space against overaggressive lows.


Apple AirPods
Samsung Galaxy Buds
Design (15)
12
15
Comfort (10)
8
10
Controls (5)
3
5
Special Features and Apps (15)
12
15
Audio (25)
20
25
Charging Case (10)
10
5
Battery Life (15)
13
15
Call Quality (5)
5
3
Overall
75
93

After some attempts at wireless earbuds with mixed results, it looks like Samsung has finally found the answer to the truly wireless earbud question. The $129.99 Buds offer that same magical instantaneous pairing the AirPods deliver, only for Samsung devices. The refined touch mechanics are easy to learn and master and features like Ambient Noise and the Equalizer allow listeners to tailor their sound to their liking. At nearly six hours of battery life, the sweat-resistant buds outlast the AirPods.

I wish the Galaxy Buds’ charging case could provide more than 7 additional hours, and the call quality needs serious tweaking. Still, the Samsung Galaxy Buds are now the wireless earbuds to beat in this increasingly competitive category.

Credit: Tom's Guide