For years, we’ve been seeing advancements in Bluetooth earbuds. Most new models employ workout-friendly earclips and wires that drape around the back of your neck like a stole. But now, we’re starting to see self-contained ‘buds–each earpiece is its own nub, and you pop both in like earplugs and jam out. Smaller companies such as Bragi, Kanoa, Earin, and Erato have already introduced such designs, but now the big guns are entering the fray.Samsung’s new Gear IconX buds are largely cut from the same cloth: Bluetooth-connecting in-ears with no cords, and controls you can access with a series of taps and long-presses on their touch-sensitive surfaces. They also have 4GB of storage built into them, so you can fill them up with music and use them without a phone.
To charge up Samsung’s new buds–and to help you avoid losing them–there’s a carrying case with a battery in it. According to Samsung, listening to music directly from the IconX’s onboard storage gets you about 3 hours of battery life per charge, while a Bluetooth-connected experience cuts that listening time in half. That battery in the case? It’s good for two full charges.
The touch navigation pad on the side of the earbuds mimics the button controls you find on most headphone cords these days. You tap the touchpad once to play/pause, twice to skip a track ahead, and thrice to skip a track backward. You can configure the buds’ deeper settings with the Gear app for Android.
Long-pressing the earbud’s outer surface brings up an audio menu, which features a setting called Ambient mode. It enables the earbuds’ built-in microphones, allowing to hear your surroundings in impressive clarity while you listen to music. Samsung says the mode is designed for riding, running, or walking around a city, when hearing traffic and people yelling at you is important. The feature should also come in handy for eavesdropping on the subway while you look like you’re listening to Styx.
The Gear IconX buds also go beyond the norm with their heart-rate sensors. Like the new Gear Fit2, they’ll keep track of your ticker and feed the data to fitness apps. They’ll also work as Bluetooth headphones for Samsung’s latest wrist-worn fitness trackers.
These cord-free earbuds will also cost significantly less than the $300 Bragi Dash in-ears. Priced at $200 and available in black, white, and blue, they’ll go on sale sometime between July and September.