Entertainment Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: 5 ways they could beat Apple AirPods
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: 5 ways they could beat Apple AirPods
It’s no secret: Samsung is holding a Galaxy Unpacked event on August 10 – aka the big stage the tech giant traditionally likes to tread when revealing its latest devices and wearables. And as it happens, we know officially that new Galaxy Buds are coming, because Samsung has actually invited customers to “reserve the next Galaxy Galaxy smartphone, watch and buds (opens in new tab)” on its site.
Excited? Good, and you should be – that’s a whole ecosystem of fresh tech to enjoy. But let’s focus on the much-rumored Galaxy Buds 2 Pro earbuds (rather than the oft-leaked Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Fold 4 smartphones, or the Galaxy Watch 5), because if noted tipster Max Jambor is to be believed, the Buds 2 Pro may arrive before the Unpacked event (see below).
If the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro (a name which seems to have been confirmed by a sighting on an Indonesian telecomms website – via Pricebaba (opens in new tab) ) can arrive with as many incremental improvements as Samsung’s last effort, the Galaxy Buds 2 had over the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro – which were already much better than the Galaxy Buds Plus and Galaxy Buds Live they were built upon – they’ll likely become a serious rival for the Apple AirPods Pro.
And as such, they could become some of the best wireless earbuds we’ve had the pleasure of testing. But work does need to be done. So without further ado, let’s get into specifics – the five key things we think Samsung needs to get right if the new Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are to steal Apple’s crown.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: price and release date
Samsung’s inaugural Galaxy Buds Pro currently sell for around £139 / $169 / AU$319 – competitive (and a fair bit cheaper than their original MSRP) which puts them midway between the best budget wireless earbuds and more premium models such as the Sony WF-1000XM4 and of course, the aforementioned AirPods Pro.
It’s a sensible strategy, and although there’s no official word on how much the Galaxy Buds Pro 2 will cost right now, if Samsung can bring a more robust ‘Pro’ offering to its more palatable price points, it’ll be on to a winning recipe – but we suspect they’ll be closer to their launch price $239 / £219. If they’re good enough, that’ll be a fair price, though.
As for release date, well, we know they’ll be available to pre-order after the event, as we mentioned. So we suspect a launch by the end of August.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: what we want to see
We have already briefed you on how Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro compare to Apple’s AirPods Pro, but more needs to be done if the upcoming second-generation Pro buds are to become the Android alternatives to the AirPods Pro.
1. Better battery
Top of the wish-list is improved stamina, because Samsung is lagging behind a little here.
The original Buds Pro delivered an underwhelming five hours of on-ear battery life plus another 12 from the charging case – something that can be easily dwarfed today, even by JLab’s $20 Go Air Pop earbuds, which boast a 32-hour total playtime.
Several mid-range rival earbuds now offer a combined battery life upwards of 22 hours – and a 24-hour total listening time proposition (which is what you’ll get from the AirPods Pro) must surely be equaled or ideally bettered if Samsung is to challenge the class-leaders.
2. Updated Bluetooth version – ideally 5.2
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro support Bluetooth 5.0, but newer versions abound in 2022. Bluetooth 5.1 lets Bluetooth devices pinpoint your location and enables “find my earbuds” in-app features, but Bluetooth 5.2 (which brings Bluetooth LE for reduced power consumption, smaller earbuds, and Auracast audio-sharing to bring AirPods-esque audio sharing to non-Apple earbuds) seems a necessary upgrade if Samsung is to compete seriously in the Pro earbuds realm.
In addition, certain earbuds support the higher-resolution 24-bit Sony LDAC and Qualcomm aptX HD Bluetooth codecs, but Samsung’s track record in supporting aptX HD is middling at best. The Samsung Galaxy S22 doesn’t come bearing it, for example, so we’re not getting our hopes up here.
But the ace up the Buds Pro 2’s sleeve will almost certainly be Samsung’s own Bluetooth tech – Samsung Scalable Codec. Basically, this should provide a stable connection between Samsung devices and earbuds, by constantly analyzing the radio frequency environment around the earbuds and source device, and adjusting the bitrate dynamically to avoid drop-outs.
Samsung, Scalable is all well and good, but Bluetooth 5.2 with Bluetooth LE would be ideal.
3. Improved sound quality
“Flat, cramped sound” – that’s what we said of the Galaxy Buds Pro under intense review (we don’t mince our words, do we?) so there’s certainly scope for improvement here.
But it’s not all bad news: even a quick glance over our Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 review reveals that Samsung’s newer buds feature several improvements over the Buds Pro, including overall better sound and slightly improved active noise cancellation – so Samsung has the power to change things for the better.
While we’re on the subject, the ANC needs to be improved also; we called it “basic” – and even when trialing the improved Galaxy Buds 2, we lamented that the “ANC could be stronger”. Improvement is needed in all these areas, please, Samsung!
4. Audio switching
File this one under aspiration rather than genuine expectation, but we do hope it’s on Samsung’s radar.
To explain: the upcoming Google Pixel Buds Pro will include Google’s new audio switching feature, which seamlessly chops and changes between devices automatically depending on whether you’re taking a call on your phone or, say, listening to a podcast on your tablet.
Google claims it’s rolling out the feature to “select” JBL and Sony products, and to other platforms in the future. Are Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro 2 on the list? Maybe not – but we can hope. An aim for the future, at least.
5. Smaller earbuds
The race to instill ANC, longer battery life, and proprietary immersive audio tech into ever-smaller driver housings has been running for quite some time now – but other audio specialists are currently in the lead.
Sony is out in front here, with its Sony LinkBuds S, arguably the best-fitting earbuds for smaller ears. Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro do “bulge out of the ear quite a bit”, as we said in our review – and who could forget the kidney-bean-shaped Galaxy Buds Live? Fitting these required you to push the speaker grille all the way inside the ear, while the charging contacts sat in the upper part of the outer ear. When properly aligned, we found them to be a surprisingly near-perfect fit – but it is not a design that seems to have taken off.
If Samsung can implement Bluetooth 5.2 with Bluetooth Low Energy for reduced power consumption, it can shrink the size of the earbuds – because they should be able to last for longer, even with a smaller battery.
Of course, whether the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro will be able to tackle Honor’s Earbuds 3 Pro, our pick of the best Android-centric Pro-suffixed earbuds, remains to be seen. But if Samsung can make progress in these key areas, we have high hopes.