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Best smart wireless earbuds and hearables to buy 2019

From AirPods to Galaxy Buds, these are the ones you need in your ears
Best hearables & smart earbuds
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Ears are an increasingly popular place for wearable tech to sit, with a number of smart headphone and hearable startups now entering the space.

And it's a busy time for the category, showing the appetite is definitely there for fitness coaches, personal assistants and language translators in our ears, with no bulky wrist accessory or cumbersome display necessary.

Read next: Best smartwatches to buy right now

Below, we'll explore devices which actually exist and that we've already tested, like the Apple AirPods and Samsung Galaxy Buds.

But in case you're not quite ready to buy your first connected ear accessory just yet, we've also detailed the smart earbuds and hearables to look forward to for the rest of 2019 and beyond.

Update: We updated this article in October 2019 to include the latest wireless earbuds announced - including the Google Pixel Buds and Amazon Echo Buds.

Best hearable: Apple AirPods 2

Buy now $159, Amazon | apple.com

The best hearables and smart wireless earbuds you can buy

Apple AirPods 2 key features

  • Works with iPhones and Apple Watch
  • Siri support
  • 5 hours battery time off one charge
  • Share audio with other AirPods
  • Wireless charging case

With our previous best hearable pick Bragi Dash now gone (insert sad face), our hearable crown goes to Apple. The AirPods aren't quite smart enough to be a true "hearable" just yet though, more of a gateway drug and a taste of things to come. And while they might look silly, and not sound quite as good as some of the other buds on this list, there are plenty of reasons to like what they offer.

Read this: Apple AirPods 3 – what we know so far

The Pods are compatible with the iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad and Mac, finding a connection instantly and pausing/resuming music as you take them out/put them in your ears. That's down to the optical sensors and a motion accelerometer that we anticipate could also unlock fitness tracking features in the future.

Apple's new H1 chip is able to deliver performance efficiencies, faster connect times, more talk time and a hands-free "Hey Siri" wake-up and voice control. Battery life is up too, offering you more talk and music listening time and the new Wireless Charging Case gives you an alternative way to power up your Pods.

The more streamlined hearable approach definitely works in Apple's favour. They just work, and if you can live without more impressive features like fitness tracking or augmented audio, then they're well worth going for instead.

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Best Apple AirPods alternative: Samsung Galaxy Buds

Buy now $129.99, Amazon | samsung.com

The best hearables and smart wireless earbuds you can buy right now

Samsung Galaxy Buds key features

  • Works with iPhones, Android phones, Samsung smartwatches
  • 6 hours battery time off one charge
  • Works with Bixby smart assistant
  • Can charge on compatible Samsung smartphones
  • Wireless charging case

Samsung ditched the Gear name and stripped back some features, but these Android-friendly buds are still great little performers.

The earbuds look quite similar to their predecessor, but Samsung has made some decent improvements under the hood that do make them a much better fit for your ears. That includes better sound, which has been tweaked by AKG, the sub-brand Samsung acquired when it purchased Harman back in 2017.

Other key features include Bixby support so you can use them to make calls, send messages or check battery life. If you own a Samsung S10 phone, you can use the phone to wirelessly charge the earbuds just by placing the case on the handset.

Battery life is strong too, with Samsung delivering up to six hours of Bluetooth streaming and up to five hours of calls. If that doesn't sound like a lot, consider that the case holds up to seven hours of charge and, best of all, can replenish just over 100 minutes worth of power in a 15-minute charge.

If you own an iPhone, the key features you're missing out on are automatic syncing and quick pairing. Other than that, you're getting a nifty set of truly wireless earbuds that sit more discreetly in the ears than Apple's AirPods.

Best for translation: Waverly Labs Pilot

Buy now $179, waverlylabs.com

The best hearables and smart earbuds you can buy right now

Waverly Labs key features

  • Works with iPhones and Android phones
  • Available in three colors
  • 15 languages and 42 dialects supported
  • Downloadable transcriptions
  • 4 hours of battery life off a single charge
  • Also stream music

Waverly Labs' Pilot crowdfunding campaign built up a lot of hype, raising a total of $4.5 million. Essentially designed to be a pair of Babel Fish earbuds, offering real-time audio translation of 15 languages (plus regional dialects), we were consistently impressed with how the Pilot was able to accurately convert languages.

It's not perfect just yet – for example, it still finds noisy environments tough to work in – but Waverly Labs' first generation sets the foundations for deeper translation smarts in the future.

Wareable verdict: Waverly Labs Pilot review

It's not just its base smarts that are the selling point, either, with the Pilot also offering one of the more comfortable fits and sleekest designs on the market. And when you're not out on the streets translating, the excellent audio quality will ensure that these become your go-to earbuds when listening to music.

Waverly Labs has recently unveiled its second generation translation hearable in the shape of the Ambassador, although it's more geared towards being used in professional and educational settings.

Best for augmented audio: Nuheara IQbuds Boost

Buy now $399, Amazon | nuheara.com

The best hearables and smart wireless earbuds you can buy right now

Nuheara IQbuds Boost key features

  • Works with iPhones and Android phones
  • Augmented audio features
  • Onboard touch controls
  • Up to eight hours battery life off single charge
  • Sweat/rain resistant design
  • Comes with charging case

For its first hearable, Nuheara raised ten times its crowdfunding target and started shipping out units of its smart IQbuds on time.

Its second generation device builds on the features introduced on its first-gen buds, but it's still all about altering your experience of hearing the world, packing in noise cancelling and letting you mix your own balance between your music and the real world.

Read this: Nuheara IQbuds review

Its new Boost smart earbuds introduces an Ear ID feature, which evaluates a user's own hearing profile to create a more personalised hearing experience. It also offers the same audio blending features and range of presets, plus decent sound quality too.

They are some of the priciest buds on our list, but Nuheara makes a strong case in its aim to bridge the gap between headphones and hearing aids.

Best for running: Jabra Elite Sport

Buy now $219.99, Amazon | jabra.com

The best hearables and smart earbuds you can buy right now

Jabra Elite Sport key features

  • Works with iPhones and Android phones
  • Available in two colors
  • Built-in heart rate monitor
  • Control music and calls from onboard controls
  • EQ profiles
  • Up to 4 hours battery life off a single charge

The wireless Elite Sport seem to do it all – real-time coaching, heart rate sensing and VO2 Max testing, plus sweat and waterproofing. Extras include audio pass-through (so you can pay attention to the world around you) and easy switching between calls and music.

In initial testing, we found the sports tracking, comfort and sound quality to be solid, but the HR tracking and charging case to be questionable. However, a software update has rectified some of these issues, as well as bumping the battery life up considerably.

If you prefer an option with wires, then you should definitely check out the Jabra Sport Pulse Special Edition headphones. They also offer stellar sound, but crucially offer more reliable heart rate tracking in comparison to the Elite Sport.

Wareable verdict: Jabra Elite Sport review

Incoming…

Here's what's coming up next in the world of hearables. Some are crowdfunding projects, some are concepts, and some are announcements from bigger companies that haven't materialised as real products yet.

New Google Pixel Buds

$179, launching spring 2020

Best smart wireless earbuds and hearables to buy 2019

Google is taking another stab at hearables and this time it's going truly wireless. The new Pixel Buds (think Pixel Buds 2) ditch the cable and now come in four different colors. Headline features include hands-free access to Google Assistant, real-time translation and adaptive sound tech that automatically adjusts volume depending on how loud or how quiet your environment is.

Have a read of our initial Pixel Buds 2 first impressions.

Amazon Echo Buds

$129, launching October/November 2019

Best smart wireless earbuds and hearables to buy 2019

Amazon's first hearable comes packing Alexa, letting you take the smart assistant on the move. The Echo Buds support Amazon skills to do things like request an Uber or launch guided workouts without having to reach for your phone. Amazon is also packing in Active Noise Reduction Technology from Bose that seeks to minimise the sound around you. Expect up to 5 hours battery off a single charge with a charging case to keep your Buds topped up.


Soul Blade

$149, shipping June 2020

The best hearables and smart wireless earbuds you can buy right now

Soul Electronics is one-upping its already impressive Run Free Bio Pro smart running headphones by making them truly wireless. It uses the same tech to capture a bunch of running data, like cadence, symmetry, step length and more. It also has a heart rate monitor, fast charging, 96 hours of battery life and an IPX7 weatherproof design. It's completed a successful Indiegogo campaign and while they were expect to ship in 2019, that's now been pushed to 2020.


This article was first published in February 2016. However, we update it frequently to reflect the newest smart wireless earbuds, making sure that we've tested the latest and greatest devices available to buy.


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4 comments

  • ElijahErwin·

    Hi.. Thanks for the article. 

    I think for this price range, Rowkin got one of the best products. Actually they're cheaper. Got one recently and pretty impressed by its features and sound quality.

  • ElijahErwin·

    Hi.. I think for this price range, Rowkin makes some awesome products. Check those out too guys..

  • JakeGraves·

    An one had any luck tracking down these elusive Mars earbuds at all?

    I've been searching for them for a while and I am struggling to find any reference to a website or place you will be able to buy them. Are they still in Beta phase or will they ever be available?

  • Sleekguy·

    Samsung Gear IconX (2018) don't have a HR. . Dangerous with copy & paste and not doing a proper work Conor.