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Apple AirPods vs. Samsung Galaxy Buds+: Which earbuds will be better in 2020?

Apple and Samsung. It’s hard to think of two bigger rivals in the mobile world, and that includes the ever-expanding true wireless earbuds space. In 2019, that battle was between Apple’s second-generation AirPods and Samsung’s Galaxy Buds, which, despite being less popular, were our clear favorites over Apple’s aging Pods (not to be confused with the newer, much pricier AirPods Pro).

In 2020, Samsung is about to officially release its own second-generation product, the Galaxy Buds+. While they’re not yet available, we’ve got all the goods on them from Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked 2020 event, which allows us to make a head-to-head comparison ahead of our full review. Do the standard AirPods stand a chance against Samsung’s newest true wireless earbuds? Here’s how the two stack up by the numbers.

Price

Samsung Galaxy Buds+ hands-on top of table with case
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Apple’s base price for the AirPods is $159. You can sometimes find them for less when they’re on sale, but as with most Apple-branded products, that doesn’t happen often. That price is for the non-wireless-charging version. If you want a wireless charging case, the price jumps to $199.

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds+ start life at $150 — around $20 more expensive than the regular price of the Galaxy Buds. Given that the Buds+ will likely come with a wireless charging case just like their predecessors, they’ll be the clear leader on price.

Winner: Galaxy Buds+

Sound quality

This is always a tricky category to judge — even when you’ve listened to both products. But it’s impossible to say for sure when one product hasn’t even been released yet. Nonetheless, we have some pretty big clues. For one thing, we already thought the first Samsung Galaxy Buds sounded better than Apple’s AirPods. Since Apple hasn’t done anything to improve the AirPods in this regard, it’s hard to imagine that the next Galaxy Buds wouldn’t win this category again.

Adding fuel to this notion is that the Galaxy Buds+ are tuned by AKG and sport dual dynamic drivers, one serving as a tweeter and the other as a woofer. The current Galaxy Buds (and the AirPods) only have single dynamic drivers. In our experience with earbud drivers, two is usually better than one.

None of this is conclusive, obviously, and we won’t name a winner until we try the Galaxy Buds+, but we’re fairly certain where this one is going.

Winner: TBD

Battery life

Samsung Galaxy Buds+ hands-on earbuds on table
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Apple’s AirPods haven’t been the best true wireless earbuds in terms of battery life for quite a long time (if ever), though their 5 hours of playback time once helped set the standard in the genre. However, that’s augmented by a still-impressive 24 hours of total outlet-free time with the charging case. Many other new true wireless earbuds improve on these numbers, and while the Galaxy Buds+ do not, they have made an enormous gain on the first stat.

The earbuds will have a claimed 11 hours of playback time before they need a top-off. That number even beats the Powerbeats Pro and Master and Dynamic MW07 Plus, which offer an already impressive 9 hours and 10 hours of playback time, respectively. In addition, they offer a claimed 7.5 hours of total talk time, which again crushes the AirPods, and according to Samsung, can be charged for just 3 minutes for a full hour of playtime when they’re dead.

The Galaxy Buds+ case only holds one full recharge (an odd decision in our opinion), so the AirPods technically still have a slight edge in total playtime. But, for most people, it’s about how long you can go before needing to return the earbuds to their case, and the Galaxy Buds+ win that race by several miles.

Winner: Galaxy Buds+

Water-resistance

Samsung Galaxy Buds+ hands-on held in hand
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Despite giving its AirPods Pro IPX4 water resistance, Apple never provided its AirPods with an official water-resistance rating. Not that this has stopped people from taking them to the gym or using them for running, but the point is that Apple’s regular AirPods are much more susceptible to water damage than most earbuds in their class.

Unfortunately, Samsung hasn’t seen fit to increase the IP rating for its Galaxy Buds+, offering only IPX2 splash resistance. Nonetheless, IPX2 is better than no IP rating at all, so guess who wins this round?

Winner: Galaxy Buds+

Convenience

Samsung Galaxy Buds+ hands-on cases
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Apple’s AirPods pack the Apple H1 wireless chip, which means you can summon Siri hands-free — a convenient feature, especially if your chosen activity makes it hard to reach your ears or your phone. However, where Apple continues to inconvenience its customers is volume control, something you can only do with Siri or your phone.

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds+ won’t let you bark commands without pressing a button, as far as we know, but you will likely be able to change the volume using the earbuds. They also offer wing and eartips for a more customizable fit when working out.

When you add the convenience of wireless charging (for less money than Apple’s non-wireless-charging model), we think the scales tip in favor of the Galaxy Buds+. That is, unless you really love Siri.

Winner: Galaxy Buds+

Conclusion

Are the Galaxy Buds+ the winner? It’s definitely looking that way. But as always, we won’t jump the gun and declare for Samsung until we try the new true wireless earbuds for ourselves. When we do, we’ll also be eager to see how the additional mics on the Galaxy Buds+ help them with call quality, and how smoothly their multi-device Bluetooth pairing works.

We’ll soon be ready to settle this matchup definitively, so check back with us in the next few weeks for our verdict.

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