Last year I had the opportunity to try the first iteration of the Galaxy Buds in order to compare them with the original AirPods. Today, I go hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ in order to compare them with the AirPods Pro. Watch our hands-on video walkthrough for the details.
- Premium sound by AKG with woofer and tweeter inside each bud
- Charging case
- Easy pairing
- Switch between two paired Samsung devices
- Tap to control
- Customizable shortcuts
- IPX2 splash-resistant
- Three adjustable ear and wing tip sizes
- Available in three colors: cosmic black, white, and cloud blue
- Android and iOS compatibility
- 11 hours of music streaming on a single charge
- 15 hours of talk time
- 22 hours of total battery life with charging case
- Qi-enabled wireless charging
- 3-minute charge yields one hour of battery life
- Ambient-aware filters in important sounds like airport announcements
- Dedicated mics for phone calls in noisy places
- Price: $149.99
Video: Galaxy Buds+ vs Apple AirPods Pro
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Unboxing & Design
The Galaxy Buds+ are very similar in style and design as their predecessors. The wireless charging case retains the pill-shape design, and comes in three main color options — cosmic black, white, and cloud blue.
If there’s one thing I wish Apple would learn is that people want more color choices for their devices. Apple has no problem allowing for a variety of colors with phones like the iPhone 11, but it’s never been keen on doing the same for its earbuds, wireless or not. Perhaps Apple has decided to leave all of the color options to its Beats brand, and maintain the iconic white earbud design that’s persisted since the original iPod.
Like the AirPods Pro, the Galaxy Buds+ comes bundled with multiple ear tip options, but it takes it one step further in offering different wing tip options as well. Wing tips are little accessories that put a small amount of pressure on the inner ear flap to help the buds stay secure in the ears.
Unlike the regular AirPods, the AirPods Pro provides a more secure fit in the ears thanks to the canal-sealing ear tips. This means that the value of the wing tips may be negligible depending on how well your individual ears cooperate.
Personally speaking I prefer the look of the black Galaxy Buds to the white AirPods Pro. I think the design looks sleeker from a pure aesthetics perspective, but there’s a reason why Apple designs the AirPods to look how they do, and that largely revolves around microphone, driver quality, and touch control interaction.
Handling & Fit
Like the previous iteration of the Galaxy Buds, the Buds+ wireless charging case isn’t easy to operate with a single hand. What has improved, however, is the magnetic connection in the charging case, which lessens the likelihood of the buds falling out of the case while open.
Thanks to the ear tips and wingtips, the Galaxy Buds+ create a seal in the ear that does a great job of providing acoustic isolation. The Galaxy Buds+ lack the Active Noise Cancellation feature found on the more expensive AirPods Pro, which is disappointing, but the sound isolation made possible by the fit is above average.
Charging & Battery Life
One of the most notable improvements to Samsung’s flagship wireless earbuds is the substantial boost to battery longevity. Each individual bud now enjoys 11 hours of battery life while listening to music, which means you can keep the buds in your ears all day without having to top them off.
Compared against the approximate 5 hours of battery life that you’ll get from each fully-charged AirPod Pro bud, and you can easily see that this is the most noteworthy difference in favor of Samsung’s offering.
The AirPods Pro enjoy better overall battery life when combined with the Wireless Charging Case (over 24 hours in total), while the Galaxy Buds + yield about 22 hours of combined battery life.
One of the biggest enhancements that Apple made since my first comparison was the addition of wireless charging. The AirPods Pro come bundled with a Wireless Charging Case, which neutralizes the biggest advantage that the Galaxy Buds used to enjoy.
But Samsung’s charging case still comes with enviable features like USB-C connectivity and the ability to charge wirelessly directly on top of a Samsung Galaxy smartphone. At one time it was rumored that the iPhone 11 might enjoy a similar feature, but it never materialized.
The pairing process for the Galaxy Buds Plus is largely the same as its predecessor. Similar to the AirPods experience, when placing an opened Galaxy Buds+ charging case next to an eligible Samsung phone, you’ll receive a pop-up prompting you to pair with the tap of a button.
Samsung’s pairing process isn’t as polished as Apple’s, as I was inundated with all sorts of permissions pop-ups, which I found to be off-putting. Since the phone is already unlocked, and the user is initiating the pairing, I think the Galaxy Buds+ should be granted permissions without user interaction.
The Galaxy Buds Plus, like the originals, feature a touch-sensitive Touch Pad on the outer area of each individual bud. The Touch Pad allows users to play, pause, skip, etc. using a series of taps to control music playback. Users are also able to customize the long-press gesture to control things like volume, ambient sound, and they even include a Spotify app-launch shortcut.
Like the first Galaxy Buds, the Touch Pad on the new model is sensitive. I found myself inadvertently invoking music controls whenever adjusting the buds in my ears, or when taking them out or putting them back in my ears.
I much prefer Apple’s implementation of the solid state force sensor on the stem of the AirPods Pro. I feel more confident using Apple’s method, and have never pressed the force sensor by accident.
The Galaxy Buds+ feature a sensor on the inside of each individual bud that’s detects when they are in your ears. Although it works most of the time, occasionally it failed to properly detect when the buds were in use.
As an AirPods user since day one, I find it strange that the Galaxy Buds+ continue to play music when a single bud is removed from the ears. With the AirPods, if you remove a single bud, the music pauses and automatically restarts when the bud is placed back into the ears.
Only when you remove both buds from your ears will the Galaxy Buds+ stop music playback, and even then the reaction is a bit delayed. What’s more odd is that the music doesn’t automatically resume, which forces the user to manually restart playback.
The most important difference between these two products is the presence of noise cancellation on the AirPods Pro. The Galaxy Buds Plus, which cost $100 less, have no such feature.
The Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) on the AirPods Pro continues to impress me to this day. I’ve used noise cancelation in a variety of challenging situations, such as on and airplane or in a busy airport terminal, and I’m always surprised by how well it works.
Active Noise Cancellation goes a long way towards improving the sound quality of the AirPods Pro while in challenging environments. Even quiet areas, the noise cancellation of the AirPods Pro provides a level of acoustic isolation that Samsung’s buds can’t match.
Sound & Call Quality
Outside of the individual bud battery life, the biggest improvement to the Galaxy Buds+ involves sound quality. I think Samsung fans will be quite pleased with the improvements, because they are noticeable.
The biggest difference that I noticed was with phone call quality, which is primarily owed to an improved microphone setup. As I noted in my original comparison, call quality was absolutely atrocious on the first Galaxy Buds, but it’s been improved significantly on the plus model.
Music quality is also improved, and this is largely thanks to the addition of a dual driver setup, where there is an individual woofer and individual tweeter coexisting within the same bud. Midrange sound is much improved thanks to this new design, and it comes without affecting battery life.
Yet, after comparing the AirPods Pro to the Galaxy Buds, it wasn’t even a question; the AirPods Pro sounded better. Sound is largely subjective, but in my opinion the AirPods sounded better and clearer in every frequency range.
The midrange of the Galaxy Buds+, while improved, still lacked the clarity and fidelity of the AirPods Pro. Using my go-to song Hotel California, my ears were able to pick up on nuances that were harder to discern when wearing Samsung’s buds.
That’s not to say that the AirPods Pro are anywhere near audiophile quality, as I’m not even close to an audiophile. Yet, if I can make out these subtle differences then people who take audio seriously doubtlessly will.
The Galaxy Buds+ provide a much-needed sound upgrade over the originals, especially when it comes to call quality. The battery life is also way better than in its predecessor, providing 11 hours of battery for the individual buds.
Although improved in sound quality, the Galaxy Buds+ remain a tier below the AirPods in sound, and that’s before factoring in Active Noise Cancellation, which by itself provides a huge incentive to spend the extra money on the the AirPods Pro.
Samsung’s setup, while significantly improved in key areas, lacks the polish of the Apple AirPods. This is seen during initial setup and pairing, when managing features like ambient/transparency mode, and while interacting with the buds via physical touch.
Obviously if you’re a Galaxy smartphone user, you’d be more inclined to go with the Galaxy Buds+ over something like the AirPods. However, this comparison shows how well Apple responded to the criticisms of the first-generation AirPods — adding wireless charging, better fitment, and better sound quality to the mix.
What are your thoughts on the Galaxy Buds+? Is there anything Samsung is doing that you’d like to see Apple adopt in upcoming versions of the AirPods? Sound off in the comments with your thoughts.
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