One of the biggest announcements to come out of the iPhone 7 launch event (aside from the removal of the headphone jack), was the AirPods, a pair of wireless earbuds that not only cut the cord between the headphones and the phone, but also between the earbuds themselves.
Now that Apple has brought the world’s attention to this new form factor, headphone companies are rushing to bring out their take on the so-called ‘true wireless’ earbud.
At IFA 2017, almost one year on from the announcement of the AirPods, we’ve gotten to see more of these efforts.
Here’s a rundown of what’s been announced.
One of the biggest problems with the AirPods is how they rely upon Siri for controls. While we’ve got no problem speaking to a voice assistant in the comfort of our own homes, we’re a little less keen on doing it in public.
The E8’s get around this problem with their touch controls. You tap and hold the left and right earbuds respectively to turn their volume up and down, and double tap to skip tracks forward and back. You can also double tap to access your phone’s voice assistant for a bit of AirPods-style flair.
Battery spec wise, the earbuds hold 4 hours of charge internally, and come in a case that holds 12 hours of charge in total. In essence this means that you’ll be able to charge up your headphones three times from the case before both run dry.
Finally, if you want to hear the world around you without taking your earbuds out, the E8 headphones feature a ‘transparency mode’ which listens to the world around you and plays what it hears through the headphones.
Price: $299 (£259 / AU$449)
Available: October 12 2017
JBL is a brand perhaps best known for its colorful and rugged Bluetooth speakers, but the company is also a dab hand at producing headphones.
The JBL Free is the company’s first pair of true wireless earbuds. The most notable feature is their battery life, which at 24 hours is significant. The earbuds themselves can hold 4 hours of charge, (the rest is held in the charging case) and JBL boasts that 15 minutes in the case restores an hour of playback time.
Other features include the ability for the headphones to take hands free calls (available with either one, or both of the earbuds in), and splashproofing, so the headphones should survive a gym session.
Price: £119.99 (around $155 / AU$195)
Availability: October 2017
The most interesting thing about Sony’s true wireless earbuds is that they feature noise-cancellation technology.
It’s only recently that we’ve started to see noise cancellation included on anything other than bulky over-ear headphones, so the fact that Sony has managed to cram it into a pair of earbuds that don’t even have a wire passing between them is very impressive indeed.
Outside of this noise-cancellation technology the earbuds have a battery life of three hours, and come with a charging case that can provide six more hours of charge. It all sounds pretty standard until you remember that they’re providing noise-cancellation, which makes it a little more impressive.
Price: $299.99 (around £230 / AU$380)
Availability: September 2017
Not to be left out of the true wireless action, Philips has also announced a pair of AirPod alternatives to sit alongside its Bass+ headphones.
The Bass+ True Wireless have excellent battery life compared to some of the other headphones on this list. At 6 hours they should last for most listening sessions, and their charging case extends this to 12 hours of playback time total.
They also include something called a ‘C-fit stability fin’ to keep them securely in your ears, but frankly that sounds a little bit terrifying to us so we think we’d rather just risk it.
Price: Around $155 / £120 / AU$195
Availability: November 2017