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Microsoft Surface Earbuds: What you need to know about the AirPods Pro rival

In early October 2019, Microsoft announced its competitor to Apple’s AirPods, the widely anticipated Microsoft Surface Earbuds.

Originally intended for a release date to coincide with the 2019 holiday season, on November 21, Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer tweeted that the company needed more time to “get all the details right.” The new planned release date is “spring 2020” for the Surface Earbuds’ global availability.

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Product-making is about the relentless pursuit to get all the details right, which takes time…sometimes more than we planned on. To ensure we deliver the best possible experience for you, our fans & customers, Surface Earbuds will now launch worldwide in Spring 2020 #Surface

— Panos Panay (@panos_panay) November 21, 2019

Designed for “all-day comfort and stability,” these true wireless earbuds are aimed at the business world rather than the consumer market, featuring Microsoft Office integration, which can be called upon to dictate text in Excel, PowerPoint, and Word, and dual-array microphones with background noise reduction to make sure instructions are received accurately.

Microsoft even claims that by simply using your fingers to tap and your voice to speak, you’ll be able to listen to and reply to emails — of course, an Office 365 subscription is required for that to work.

A tap, tap here and a swipe, swipe there

The Earbuds are also decked out with a huge touch surface for convenient navigation, including the option to triple-tap to open Spotify for Android, without even having to reach for your smartphone. Plus, you can use this area to swipe to adjust the volume, sift through tracks, and pause and play, as and when needed — regardless of the music platform you’re using.

Talk to Cortana, speak in tongues

Though it wasn’t mentioned at the event when the Surface Earbuds were launched, you can use one of the available touch gestures to summon Cortana or your preferred voice assistant. Cortana’s actual availability on the earbuds will vary by region and by device. Don’t expect her to show up on an iPhone anytime soon.

One thing you can expect is the ability to use the Surface Earbuds to perform real-time translation into 60 different languages. It’s not quite as fancy as the Babel-fish capabilities promised by Google’s Pixel Buds, but it’s still pretty cool: When using Microsoft Powerpoint, your spoken words can show up as translated on-screen subtitles as quickly as you can talk.

Eight hours from a single charge? You betcha

Considering both the AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro last for five hours and are around half the size, Microsoft’s claims of getting eight hours on a single charge is good news. It’s still a far cry from what we know is possible, but we’ll take what we can get. The charging case itself is said to extend the full life of the Surface Earbuds to 24 hours.

Superior sound?

The Surface Earbuds make use of so-called omnisonic drivers. These are custom-designed drivers that Microsoft says are “precisely-tuned to deliver an exceptional acoustic experience.” You won’t find much about omnisonic speakers on the web outside of Microsoft’s own Surface products. That’s because the word is a Microsoft-owned trademark. We don’t know how these drivers measure up to the competition yet, but we know they have a steep hill to climb if they want to beat some of the best true wireless earbuds on the market.

Of course, they won’t come cheap

The Microsoft Surface Earbuds will cost $249 when they eventually hit the shelves. That’s the same price as Apple’s AirPods Pro which offer several features that aren’t on the Surface Earbuds, like active noise cancellation and a wireless charging case.

The Surface Earbuds weren’t the only thing announced by Microsoft for its Surface product line. Here’s everything the company debuted at its October 2 event.

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