Apple launched the new iPhone 7 yesterday to lots of fan lovin’ but also a number of critics wondering if the Bluetooth in-ear bud option of the AirPod earphones will take off. It remains to be seen. The greatest challenge of any Bluetooth in-earbud, in our experience (they have been around for a long time, incidentally) is in maintaining the stereo connection. Too often, one earbud splits off while the other stays connected.
The other challenge is weight and the necessary issue of battery life, along with staying in your ear. But if having what looks like a cut off earphone isn’t appealing to you, here are some alternatives.
1. Bragi Dash
The Good: The Dash sounds like the dream in-ear bud that you can possibly dream up. It’s a music player with internal storage at 4 gigs, so that’s enough for most basic tune-lovers. The Dash is waterproof to a 1-metre depth, works with most Bluetooth devices that support A2DP (iPhones, Android, Windows, desktops, laptops, et cetera), and you can create customised interactions, such as swipes to activate music, skip ahead or pause. There’s passive noise isolation and a mic but it isn’t awesome. Oh here’s a big plus: you can buy a ‘leash’ that attaches to each bud in case you’re afraid they may slip off. Clever. It acts as well as an activity tracker of sorts, in a limited manner.
The Bad: It’s not cheap. The Dash retails at US$299 before shipping. It also has a pretty short battery life, at a max of 4 hours a charge (though in our experience, it’s closer to 2.5 – 3hours). Charging takes around 2 hours and the case holds five charges. So it’s best if you’re not planning for a long train ride. It is a bit heavy, so we would not advise long wear.
The Good: The Apollo 7 has a button in built into it that allows you to perform a range of actions. It has a decent all-around microphone built in as well, and that works better because you won’t have to take it out to yell into it so that the caller on the other end of the line can hear what you’re speaking. Additionally, it supports the new aptX codec on select phones that have that in-built into it. It’s also waterproof and light at 4 grams an earbud.
The Bad: The battery life is a little suspect. Erato says the battery life of the earbuds are at 3 hours if you’re chatting and 4 if you’re listening to music. We’ll hedge our bets at a lower number. The charging case holds 6 charges. It’s just as pricey as the Bragi (US$299) and most importantly, it’s still not commercially available as yet, although Tat Chuan Acoustic in Singapore is a distributor of the Apollo 7. We’ll see.
The Good: Earin looks good and sounds good. Maybe it’s because the earbuds are slightly angled so it fits the ear canal better, though it’s so tiny I had fears that it would slip right in. The grooved back helps when wearing. It delivers solid high and mid tones. I wasn’t expecting an outstanding bass, but because they are earbuds, you don’t need that heft so much. It’s very light and you have the option of getting ear stabilisers if you’re gonna do sporty things. That’s a smart innovation. There’s also a mono play function, that allows your earbuds to play for 11 hours. The charging case can recharge the earbuds 10 times.
The Bad: The Bluetooth disconnection issue occurs, like in all Bluetooth wireless earbuds. Fortunately this issue is partially salvaged by the mono play function, but still a little annoying. It’s also a little difficult to set up at first, until I realised there was an app you could download for it.
The Good: The world’s biggest smart accessory manufacturer has put every bit of effort into making the IconX a multi-function standalone product which we like. It does nearly everything the Bragi Dash does, working as a standalone fitness tracker, music player (with surprisingly good bass), touch-friendly operations and our favourite, a menu readout. And here’s another clever setup: if the battery runs out on one earbud, the other continues. It’s water resistant and Samsung will tell you it’s possible to swim with it but not advisable. I doubt the warranty covers that.
The Bad: Too many functions mean too little battery life. Samsung claims around the same amount of battery life as the Bragi, but it stands at a little shorter. The case charges rather quickly, and so there’s less downtime, but if you’re planning on a marathon run, these aren’t the buds for you.
The Good: The Indiegogo funded project that won rave reviews for hitting well over their expected target has yet to be released (they say November but we all know how that goes). But the demos and updates they have been putting on YouTube are optimistic. Phazon has gone to focus on basics: long battery life (6 hours), good music quality, and incredibly durable. It’s IP68 shock, dust and water resistant, and the videos they’ve put out show the buggers stay stuck in your ear no matter what. From our past experiences with earbuds that is important. Most importantly, they have a “Find Earbud” function, as long as it’s within Bluetooth range.
The Bad: It’s a crowd funded project. So release date is an unknown. Patience is key.