The best true wireless earbuds may not have entirely originated with Apple but its AirPods were the first to sell in large quantities, and the launch of 2019's AirPods 2 is only likely to further their market dominance. They're also still among the best true wireless buds, but there are alternatives, and the number of them is rapidly approaching large numbers.
We're all now familiar with seeing AirPods in the ears of fellow commuters, and other brands are rushing to catch up with Apple's sales success. In the main, that's by offering better music quality than what the AirPods muster up, sometimes with greater workout-friendliness (ie: sweat-proofing) thrown in.
True wireless buds are getting better all the time – this year's batch are leagues ahead of last year's – but they are still an early adopter proposition at this point, and nobody is getting them 100 per cent right.
Whilst traditional Bluetooth headphones are now ridding themselves of the drop outs that used to plague them, true wireless earbuds still often suffer from drop-outs and, on the cheaper ones, even reception crackle.
That's presumably because they have to connect wirelessly, not just to your phone, but also to each other… through your big thick head.
Another common problem is encountered when first turning this type of earbuds on. They don't always pair with each other, necessitating a lot of button holding, Bluetooth toggling and turn-off-and-onning. Again, happily, this situation is improving rapidly, though.
Sound quality is generally not bad as such, but of lower quality than comparably priced wired or standard Bluetooth headphones.
Oh and battery life? That is still poor. All of these examples have a carry case that contains a battery, so the idea is that as you store them, they charge, giving a much longer overall battery life.
That, of course, means you need to remember to charge up the case. You'll also need to take care to insert your buds in to them properly, because otherwise they may not charge.
However, true wireless earbuds have one massive advantage: they give you complete freedom from cables. For gym goers, they could be the ultimate audio purchase – it's quite hard going back to wires after trying them. The best true wireless buds, whether designed for exercise or not, are discreet, yet fit securely.
One final irritation you need to be aware of is that, because these are more like gadgets than traditional earphones, you can update the software on them. This is good in theory but a right pain in the ass in practice, because pushing software updates via Bluetooth is really not a great idea.
Anyway, the good news is, true wireless are getting better in terms of fit, audio quality, connectivity and in some cases, battery life.
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