Apple’s AirPods and Google’s Pixel Buds offer true wireless audio, with two disconnected earbuds that slip into your ears and stream music from your iPhone or Android phone via Bluetooth. Here we test out some of the best wireless Bluetooth earbuds from other manufacturers, complete with charging cases to keep you powered up on the move.
Although we like the Apple AirPods, as you’ll see in our full long-term review, these dinky earbuds are typically expensive at 65 quid a piece. Of course, the benefit is a completely wire-free design, as well as the nifty charging case that can power the pods back to full on the move. Again, without the hassle of wires.
We were hoping that Google’s Pixel Buds might prove stiff competition, but a similarly bloated asking price and some serious flaws mean they’re impossible to recommend.
Luckily we’ve seen a few other great earbuds released in 2017, from manufacturers such as Winnergear, Motorola and Jam Audio.
Are Bluetooth earbuds any good?
If you’re after convenience when listening to music on the move, Bluetooth earbuds are great. These dinky buds come in pairs and slip into your lug holes, pairing wirelessly with your mobile phone to stream audio straight to your skull. The lack of wires makes them well suited to exercise such as jogging or working out in the gym, although you’ll want a pair that fits snugly in your ear to prevent them from dropping out.
You’ll also want to choose some earbuds that are water and sweat resistant if you’re planning a workout. All three of our selections here fit these criteria.
Of course, if you’re after long battery life and aren’t too bothered about the buds being disconnected, you might want to check out our round-up of the best Bluetooth headphones and earphones instead.
Are Bluetooth earbuds safe?
Yes, they’re perfectly safe. They fit into the outer section of your ear, just like any standard earphones, so you won’t have to go shoving them deep into the ear canal or anything. Of course, you’ll need to be careful with the volume of any audio you play, as with any ‘phones. And if you’re listening while walking in public, try and be aware of your surroundings and be extra careful when crossing roads.
What are the best earbuds for iPhone and Android mobiles?
If you’re tempted by some wireless earbuds, here are three alternatives to Apple’s own AirPods that can be used to listen to music on your iPhone or Android mobile and charged via a handy portable case when needed.
Whether you’re after ear hooks, long battery life, a built-in mic or simple control, you’ll find something you like here. We’ve also made sure that these buds are suitable for jogging, gym use and other activities.
Hero by Winnergear
Billed as the ‘smallest true wireless sports earbuds’, the Hero earphones by Winnergear are certainly the most compact blasters in our round-up. Each circular bud juts only slightly from your lug hole when worn, while the comparatively light design helps to provide quite a comfortable experience. Even when worn for the duration of a long commute (over an hour in total), we didn’t have any issues.
You get three sizes of rubber bud bundled in the box, which can be removed and replaced at will. This is also the only set of earbuds here which come with a pair of ear hooks (which again can be removed and replaced with a different size to fit your personal shape), to help keep the buds locked into position. That means you can jog or keep active while using the Hero ‘phones, and they will stay secure.
The compact design helps to keep the charging case portable too. Winnergear’s box is about the same size as Apple’s, and roughly half the size of the others in this round-up. Impressive stuff indeed.
Setup is quick and simple, with the two buds connecting immediately and then pairing up to an iPhone or Android phone without hassle. You get a single button on each earbud, which is easy to find and performs multiple functions. On Spotify, a tap will pause or play your music, while a double-tap skips to the next track. You can also answer and hang up calls.
On a full charge, the Hero can go for roughly three hours before biting the dust. You can recharge them around three times in the case via the secondary battery, before that is also drained. Not the best effort here, although not the worst either.
Jam Ultra Wireless Audio Bluetooth Earbuds
Sporting a very different design to the Hero buds, the Jam Ultra are bigger yet also more attractive. We like the funky orb-like finish, complete with a fabric surface and subtle buttons.
Despite that elongated design and a lack of ear hooks, the Ultra buds are surprisingly comfortable to wear. Find the rubber tips that fit best in your noggin and you’ll discover that the earbuds sit snugly in place, without feeling like they’ll slip at any point. We even put them through a full mosh test with some I Prevail and they held firm throughout.
Like the Hero, the Jam Ultra is fully sweat resistant. You can go for a jog without worrying about your body juice invading the buds and ruining them.
Setup was just as simple, with no need to refer to the manual to get them hooked up to your mobile phone. You can pause or play your music with a tap of the Jam logo (which at least is made of a different material, to help you from blindly fumbling for ages). A double tap starts up voice control, although we found that our commands weren’t picked up for skipping tracks and the rest.
Sadly the Jam charging case is one of the biggest here, proving twice the size of Winnergear’s own case. The benefit of that is you get more charges before the built-in battery runs dry; around nine or ten in all. Even better, you can use the case as a portable charger for your smartphone. That’s thanks to the rubber flap hiding a full-sized USB port. NIfty.
With respectable audio quality, slick design and strong battery chops, the Jam Audio is a great alternative to Apple’s AirPods.
Philips Bass+ True Wireless Bluetooth Headphones (£99)
The Bass+ True Wireless buds (or SHB4385, to give them their slightly less catchy model number) are the biggest ‘phones in this round up. They certainly sport a very funky angular design, although we couldn’t help but feel quite conspicuous with them lodged in our lugholes. Still, at least they sat firmly in place, even when moshing (you get different sized rubber tips as usual, for a perfect fit).
One of the benefits of that sizable build is the solid audio quality. Philips’ 8.2mm speaker drivers produced impressively punchy sound, which we found was well suited to rock and dance music. The True Wireless ‘phones certainly lived up to their moniker, serving up some clear, groovy bass that matches many over-ear sets.
The other benefit of the bulky design is the great battery life. These ‘phones can survive for a full six hours on a single charge thanks to their large built-in cells, so they’re a solid choice for anyone who travels a lot. Slot the Bass+ buds into their rather bulky cylindrical case and they’ll get one full recharge, giving another six hours of life. It’s a shame you can’t get two or more charges out of the case, like some of the other wireless headphones here, especially given the size of the case. Still, 12 hours of playback should suit most users.
A push button can be found on both buds, and these perform a wide variety of functions. For instance, when enjoying some Spotify, you can pause, play, skip tracks and change the volume, all with single, double or triple taps. That beats most rival buds, including the likes of Google’s Pixel Buds.
Motorola VerveOnes+ Music Edition
Likewise, Motorola has put out some great wireless earbuds in the VerveOnes+. These chunky buds are housed in a cylindrical case that’s long yet quite slender, handy for slipping into a pocket. Twist the cap and the ‘phones are exposed, ready to stick in your lug holes.
Each bud features a large, easy-to-find button which fills the main surface. This can be used to turn them on or off, as well as pause or play your music. We found that the VerveOnes paired up to one another and our test devices quite quickly, very rarely losing connection even during quite intesive activity. Comfort levels are fine, with a choice of three sizes of rubber buds to suit your personal ear shape.
You could technically go swimming with Motorola’s buds as they’re IP57 water resistant, although we’d recommend a tethered pair in case they’re dislodged. That resistance of course means they’re immune to sweat and other liquids, so a solid choice for active users. You get around three hours of life from a single charge and the case can power them back up to full roughly three more times before you need to plug them in.
The Stream buds sport an elongated design similar to the Jam Ultra, although this time it’s a much more straight-forward finish (and actually a little corporate). All the same, they fit snugly and refuse to pop out, even when moshing up a storm. IP54 water resistance means you don’t need to worry in rainstorms or when things get a bit sweaty.
Setup is once again pleasingly simple, using the exact same method as the VerveOnes+. Just hold down the dual power buttons and the buds pair up, then send out a signal for your iOS or Android phone to find. For some reason the voice assistant who provides feedback sounds like she’s about to burst into tears, but it’s only ever so slightly distracting.
The advantage here is that you can use a single bud independently of the other, as they both have a built-in mic. Neither is a ‘master’ earpiece.
You get a pair of volume buttons on each bud, which seems a waste; one should have surely been used for skipping through tracks instead when the two are paired.
A tap of the power button can pause your tunes, although a double-tap does nothing.
That battery case is long but quite slender, sitting between the Jam and Winnergear chargers in terms of size. You pop it open with a push of a button and slip the earbuds into the dinky holes, although you’ll only get a couple of full charges before the case itself needs to be connected and powered up. The Stream only lasts a couple of hours per charge as well, making it the weakest here for battery power.
We like TRNDLabs’ Nova true wireless earbuds for their simplistic, unobtrusive design, clear audio and ingenious charging case (which doubles as a power bank). Best of all, they incredibly affordable, offering great value for money, considering the quality and functionality on offer.
Each buds’ single button offers basic control over music playback (i.e. pause/play) and calls (answer/end and redial), whilst their overall volume output is a little on the low side, but they’ll still make great daily drivers.
The cylindrical charging case that they snap into magnetically features a sizeable 2800mAh cell, meaning you’ve got plenty of juice to extend their native three hours of music playback without needing to visit a wall plug. Meanwhile, the case itself charges via microUSB and features a full-sized USB port so you can charge other devices with it as well.
They’ll set you back less than £60, which seems like a steal for what you get, so consider the Novas if you want small, truly wireless buds that don’t break the bank but aren’t a waste of money either.