Apple consistently debuts groundbreaking technology. The iPhone may not have been the first smartphone. But Apple’s iconic touchscreen device arguably popularized the touchscreen device. Moreover, Apple continues to eschew the norm. Whether it’s avoiding removable batteries or expandable storage or replacing keyboard buttons with a touchscreen, Apple remains creative. In a bold move the latest iPhone version even nixed the headphone jack.
Rather than wired earbuds, Apple’s AirPods replaced the default headset. Currently, Apple AirPods are the best selling wireless headset on the market. Should you buy AirPods or opt for a different wireless headset? Let’s explore why you should and shouldn’t buy the Apple AirPods and these five alternatives.
Why You Should Buy Apple AirPods
Apple AirPods sell really well. They also function with select iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches. This isn’t necessarily a surprise as almost anything Apple performs in its market. You’re guaranteed a quality product and compatibility with most Apple products.
The AirPods function with the iPhone 5 through iPhone 7. This includes variants like the iPhone 5c and iPhone 6s. Additionally, AirPods are guaranteed to function with select iPads, the iPod Touch, and Apple Watches. You can see a full AirPod compatibility list over on Apple’s website.
Despite Apple’s instance otherwise, AirPods do function with Android devices. Here’s how to use Apple AirPods with Android devices. Though at first dubbed “Bluetooth-like,” it’s confirmed that AirPods work over Bluetooth. At least on some devices. For instance, according to a Q&A section, AirPods don’t function with PlayStation 4 Bluetooth. So you should buy Apple AirPods if you’ve got a compatible device and are really dedicated to Apple.
Why You Shouldn’t Buy Apple AirPods
Apple AirPods aren’t bad audio devices. They should work with almost any Bluetooth device such as an Android smartphone or tablet. However, as with many Apple products, AirPods cost a hefty premium. A pair of AirPods retails for $160. Additionally, if you lose your AirPods, Apple will charge you $69.
At this price, you’re not even getting a product compatible with the entire Apple product array. Even if you can pair AirPods via Bluetooth on another Apple or non-Apple devices, some features might not function. They’re essentially reduced to a standard Bluetooth headset when paired over Bluetooth alone.
For a pair of $160 wireless headphones, the AirPods lack high-quality performance. Special features such as a five-hour battery life are in fact only available when paired with an iPhone 7. Like Apple’s notoriously uninspired wired headphones, you can do much better for the money.
- Good build quality.
- Five-hour battery life (with iPhone 7 only).
- Can pair with almost any Bluetooth device.
- Lack of wires between buds means a propensity to get lost.
- Unimpressive sound quality.
- Extra features might not work via Bluetooth on unofficial devices.
Apple AirPod Alternatives
Sorry Apple, but the AirPods don’t offer great value. For a bit of Bluetooth help overall, check out this beginner’s guide to finding the right Bluetooth headset. If you’ve been debating a pair of Apple AirPods, here are five Bluetooth headsets to get instead.
Samsung’s Gear IconX cord free fitness earbuds are about the same price as a pair of Apple AirPods. Yet Samsung packs in many more features. You’ll find 4 GB of built-in flash memory for music, standard. This means you can take your songs on the go even without a phone.
Fitness trackers are all the rage. For $154, you get a quality set of earbuds with an activity tracker. The Samsung IconX sports a heart rate monitor and fitness tracker standard. What’s more, these are compatible with select 3rd party fitness apps. As dedicated sport headphones, these earbuds boast sweat and splash resistance.
Unfortunately, its sound quality falls far from great. Don’t expect the same range of highs and lows as you’ll find on a decent pair of wired or wireless studio headphones. Nevertheless, the Samsung IconX earbuds are perfect for those seeking a true cord free AirPod replacement.
You may also consider the GRDE Bluetooth earbuds (UK) or SmartOmi Boots Mini (UK) wireless earbuds. Both offer the same cord free experience at a fraction of the price. Sure, they’re off-brand and lack built-in memory. But considering how easy it is to lose a pair of wireless earbuds, the savings may be worth it.
- Splash and sweat resistant.
- Decent sound quality for earbuds.
- Built-in 4 GB for phone-free music storage.
- Average sound quality.
QCY Q29 wire free Bluetooth earbuds provide phenomenal value. Lending a similar wireless form factor as the AirPods, the Q29 wireless earbuds come at a portion of the price. There’s Bluetooth 4.1, superb stereo sound, and 12 hours of music and talk time. A built-in mic means you can use the QCY Q29 with almost any device including iPhones and Androids.
There’s a charging case for on the go charging and storage. However, as with the AirPods and Samsung Gear IconX, the cable-free design means these are easier to lose. Some reviewers noted occasional audio issues. Additionally, pressing the button built into the earbuds drive the Q29 into your ear. However, for less than $100, the QCY Q29 wire-free Bluetooth earbuds emulate the look and feel of AirPods at a more affordable price point.
- Bluetooth 4.1.
- Excellent battery life.
- Charging case.
- Occasional interference.
- Built-in button uncomfortable to use in-ear.
3. JayBird X3 ($200)
The JayBird X3 sport Bluetooth headphones might not be wire free. Nevertheless, this Bluetooth headset comprises a pair of earbuds. Its battery offers eight hours of use. Compared to the X2, the X3 receives a smaller form factor — it’s 34 percent smaller. CNET reviews praised its light weight and sweat resistance. However, the noise isolation, as pointed out, stands as a potential safety concern for outdoor exercise.
A hydrophobic nanocoating protects against water and sweat. Therefore, the X3 offers superb durability. Lots of EQ settings allow sound profile personalization. Plus, you can wear the Jaybird X3 over or under the ear. The Jaybird X3 Bluetooth headphones are an excellent AirPod alternative. Even so, you may want to consider the TaoTronics Bluetooth (UK) earbuds for a similar sports headset at a fraction of the cost.
- Sweat resistant.
- Excellent sound quality.
- Proprietary charging accessory.
- Noise isolation potential concern.
- High price, better sound available for the price.
4. JBL Reflect Mini BT ($100/£80)
If you’re seeking a lightweight Apple AirPod alternative, check out the JBL Reflect Mini Bluetooth in-ear sport headphones. This headset pumps quality sound but remains small. Additionally, it’s tailored to athletes with its IPX-4 water resistance rating.
However, despite booming audio with decent bass and punchy highs, it’s not bass-heavy. Earbuds typically don’t offer booming bass, and PC Mag notes that the JBL Reflect Mini BT is not for bass junkies. Beats by Dre. Powerbeats3 (UK) or even Powerbeats2 (UK) provide Bluetooth wireless earbuds and loads of bass. Further, the JBL Reflect Mini BT lacks an auto-power off feature. This fails to conserve the battery well.
Ultimately, the JBL Reflect Mini BT is a phenomenal value. With its range of highs and lows, it hits well above its price range in sound and build quality.
- Excellent range of highs and lows.
- Water resistant.
- Not bass-heavy.
- No auto-power off feature.
5. SoundPEATS Bluetooth Headphones ($22/£14)
Sporting Bluetooth 4.1 and aptX, the SoundPEATS Bluetooth sports wireless headphones may be the best value around. With noise canceling, IPX-4 rated sweat resistance, and ear hooks to ensure a secure fit, the SoundPEATA deliver phenomenal sound and features.
Really, the only complaint you can find is that the SoundPEATS fail to provide a Bose range of sound. But for $22, you get great sound quality and rugged build.
- Bluetooth with aptX.
- IPX-4 rated.
- Five-hour battery.
- Noise canceling.
- Noise cancellation potential exercise hazard.
- Middling battery life.
Hear, Hear: Apple AirPod Alternatives
Ultimately Apple AirPods don’t offer spectacular value. If you’re looking for a cable-free experience, try the QCY Q29 or Samsung Gear IconX. However if wireless isn’t a priority, you’ve got plenty of choices. Any lightweight Bluetooth earbuds should provide the same wireless audio and small form factor appeal. Plus, these are usually easier to keep track of than cable-free earbuds.
Are you using Apple AirPods? Which AirPod alternatives are your favorites?