The Best Airpod Alternatives for Android

The Best Airpod Alternatives for Android

Depending on how you feel about Bluetooth earbuds, Apple’s AirPods are either (1) the greatest invention since sliced bread, or (2) a solution in search of a problem. But with an ever-increasing number of Android original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) doing away with 3.5mm analog jacks, digital wireless headphones are becoming the de facto way to listen to music, podcasts, and soundtracks on the go. That’s no surprise: Despite their less-than-stellar battery life and occasionally flakey connectivity, Bluetooth earbuds (or “hearables”) for smartphones are heads-and-shoulders more convenient than wired headphones. There’s no cord to tangle; they integrate natively with the Google Assistant and other digital voice assistants; and some of them boast biometric sensors that can track your fitness activity.

If you’re an Android user, you don’t have to switch to an iPhone to jump aboard the wireless revolution — Bluetooth earbuds, spurred by the popularity of Airpods, are a dime a dozen. That said, a few stand above the rest. Looking for the best Airpod alternatives for Android? Check out our comprehensive roundup, which highlights cream-of-the-crop Bluetooth headphones with fitness tracking, local noise cancellation, long-lasting battery life, and other great features.

By Kyle Wiggers

Bluetooth and Wireless Headphones: Everything You Need to Know

Airpods

Even if you’re philosophically opposed to Airpods, it’s worth noting that they offer perhaps the best wireless Bluetooth experience on Android — minus a few drawbacks. They can’t control your phone’s  volume, for example.

That said, they’re a cinch to pair, and third-party apps like AirpodsForGA and AirBattery have brought Google Assistant, battery indicator, and in-ear detection (which pauses music on the AirPods when you remove them from your ears) support to Airpods on Android.

Truly wireless headphones

If you’ve window shopped for Bluetooth headphones recently, you’ve probably encountered the hybrid subcategory of wireless headphones known as “wire-free” and “neckband” headphones. These earbuds aren’t truly wireless: instead, they’re tethered to short wires that run the length of a plastic collar that rests on your shoulders. (Popular models include the Samsung Level U, LG Tone, Sol Republic Shadow, and Motorola S11-Flex.) They’re geared toward fitness, with waterproof designs, heart rate-tracking biometric sensors. And thanks to the extra space afforded by the neckband housing, they often boast larger batteries than truly wireless headphones, which means they last longer on a charge.

But wire-free neckband headphones are beyond the scope of this article. Instead, we’re focused strictly on truly wireless headphones: earbuds that aren’t connected to any form of wire, such as the Sony WF-1000X and the Samsung Gear IconX.

Battery Life & Charging

If there’s one thing wireless earbuds have in common, it’s middling battery life. Sadly, that’s just a fact of life right now — the tiny Lithium-Ion cells inside the Jabra Elite Sport, Jabra Elite Sport, and other wireless earbuds can’t supply more than a half day of charge. At best, you’re looking at six to seven hours of battery life, and that’s assuming you’re not listening to audio continuously.

Wondering how the longest-lasting wireless earbuds stack up to the competition? Here’s a ranking of our top picks by battery life (note that these are manufacturer estimates, and that real-world results will vary with volume levels):

Wireless Headphones Battery life
JLab Epic Air 7 hours
Samsung Gear IconX 7 hours
Jabra Elite Sport 4.5 hours
B&O Play BeoPlay E8 4 hours
Jaybird Run 4 hours
Kitsound Comet True Wireless 4 hours
Sony WF-1000X 3 hours
Here One 3 hours

Wireless headphones might not be able to outlast your smartphone’s battery, but at least they’re easy to recharge. They ship with wireless charging cases that contain batteries of their own, which supply a few additional hours of battery life in a pinch. (The JLab Epic Air’s case, for example, can deliver up to 30 extra hours of charge.)

Easy pairing & companion apps

Apps are one of the best benefits of digital headphones — they’re far more capable than the analog equalizer apps you might be accustomed to on Android. Some track your heart rate in real time, while others let you adjust the strength of ambient listening modes, enable or disable noise cancellation, and choose from collections of custom-tuned sound profiles.

Here’s a sampling of the wireless headphone companion apps in the Google Play Store:

  • Sony’s WF-1000X wireless earbuds pair with the Sony Headphones Connect app, which lets you adjust equalizer settings and switch between sound modes (higher-quality audio or a stronger, more stable Bluetooth connection).
  • Beoplay’s app has presets and a stereo pairing feature.
  • JLab offers a burn-in tool for the Epic Air that tunes the headphones to “achieve […] optical sound.”
  • Jabra’s Sport Life app offers in-ear fitness coaching, GPS and heart-rate workout tracking, and VO2 oxygen absorption measurements.

The Best Airpod Alternatives for Android

JLab Epic Air

 

Maximum range 30 feet

Specifications JLab Epic Air
Battery life 7 hours + up to 30 additional hours with rechargeable case
Noise cancellation No
Water resistant IP55 dust- and water-resistant
Drivers 8mm drivers
Connectivity Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX
 Accessories Hard Charging Case and 8 Sets of Silicone Gel Tips: Single Flange (XS, S, M, L), Double Flange (S, M), Triple Flange (M), Shallow (M)
Other features N/A
Colors Black
Price $149

If you don’t mind plunking down slightly north of a Benjamin for wireless headphones, JLab’s Epic Air is the one to beat.

The IP55 water- and dust-resistant ‘buds boast rubber hooks that fit snugly around your ears, providing stability during workouts and jogs, and come with eight different ear tips in various sizes and shapes. They’re capacitive, relegating playback and volume control to taps and swipes (when you’re blasting tunes, pressing on the left earbud or right earbud skips forward and back a single track, respectively), and acting as nifty shortcuts to the apps and digital assistants on your phone. Tapping the left earpiece once answers incoming calls, and double tapping it summons the Google Assistant.

Charging and pairing the Epic Air is a painless process, which can’t be said of all wireless headphones.  Built-in LEDs blink to guide you through the one-button pairing process, and once it’s complete, the earbuds will automatically power on and pair to your smartphone every time you remove them from JLab’s included charging dock.

As far as performance and audio quality is concerned, the Epic Air delivers a rich sound that’s crisp, clear, loud, and practically free of distortion. Mid- and high-frequency reproduction is quite good for drivers of this size — it’s especially noticeable in vocal- and string-dominant tracks. One point against them is that they tend to be a little bass-forward, which might not appeal to all tastes. But that’s our only quibble.

Samsung Gear IconX

 

Specifications Samsung Gear IconX
Maximum range 30 feet
Battery life 7 hours
Noise cancellation No
Water resistant IP67 dust- and water-resistant
Drivers 5.8pi Dynamic Driver
Connectivity Bluetooth 4.2 with HFP, A2DP, and AVRCP
Accessories Charging Case, USB cable, wingtips & eartips (S, M, L), USB connector (USB Type-B), USB connector (USB Type-C)
Other features 4GB of internal storage
Colors Black, Gray, Pink
Price $199

The second-gen Samsung Gear IconX wireless earbuds are a major step up from last year’s model. The battery life’s competitive, the sound quality’s on par with the competition, and the design’s lightweight and comfortable.

The Gear IconX aren’t the smallest wireless earpieces on the market, but they’re pretty darn close. The diminutive earbuds come with four sizes of wing tips and ear tips, and feature a round design that’s minimalist and low-profile, albeit sadly not water-resistant. Very little has changed compared to last year’s model, but an omission worth noting is the heart rate sensor: Samsung ditched it in favor of a larger battery. That’s bound to disappoint fitness enthusiasts, but the quoted seven hours of battery life and built-in jogging tracker, which offers voice-guided interval training and uses the IconX’s accelerometer to measure speed and distance, make the trade-off worth it in our opinion.

The Gear IconX has capacitive controls, much like the JLab Epic Air. A swipe to the left or right of either earbud adjusts the volume, and a series of taps controls music playback and call management: A single tap pauses or resumes tracks; a tap-and-hold gesture declines incoming phone calls; and a double tap skips tracks or accepts incoming phone calls.

The Gear IconX supports voice assistants such as the Google Assistant and Bixby, but one of its niftiest features is offline music playback. Thanks to 4GB of onboard flash storage and Samsung’s wireless transfer option, you can beam a playlist (up to about 1,000 tracks) to the ‘buds for on-the-go listening without a smartphone.

Speaking of music, the Gear IconX boasts great sound quality. The earbuds are clear, loud, and balanced, with a strong bass response that doesn’t overwhelm middle and high frequencies. Unfortunately, finicky Bluetooth connectivity results in the occasional bout of interference and static, but Samsung’s addressed many of the IconX’s launch-day bugs in recent firmware updates.

Sony WF-1000X

Specifications Sony WF-1000X
Maximum range 32.8 feet
Battery life 3 hours + 6 additional hours with rechargeable case
Noise cancellation Yes
Water resistant No
Drivers 0.24-inch dome-type drivers
Connectivity Bluetooth 4.1 with HFP, HSP A2DP, and AVRCP
Accessories 5 pairs of silicone ear tips, 3 pairs of Fitting Supporters, 4 pairs of Triple-Comfort Earbuds
Other features N/A
Colors Black, Gold
Price $199

The WF-1000X are Sony’s first truly wireless headphones, and they’re not a bad first attempt. They deliver best-in-class sound quality, fit snugly in almost any ear, and have the distinction of being the first wireless earbuds with active noise cancelation.

That said, the WF-1000X’s design is a little gaudier than the Gear IconX and Epic Air (especially in gold, one of the two available colors) and lack water resistance. The earbuds are a little less discreet, too, sticking out further from your ears than some wireless earbuds. Also worth noting is that the tiny playback controls, which are tactile as opposed to capacitive, can be a little tricky to press. (Oddly, there’s no onboard control for volume — you have to adjust that from your smartphone.)

But the WF-1000X makes up in sound what it lacks in design. It produces deep and rich audio that’s nearly unrivaled among wireless earbuds, albeit it more neutral than some listeners might prefer. Mids and highs are rendered beautifully in orchestral and acoustic soundtracks, and bass frequencies are punchy but never overpowering.

The WF-1000X’s other audio features include ambient listening, which allows you to listen in on your surroundings without having to remove the earpieces, and adaptive sound control, which detects your environment (e.g., “transportation”) and adjusts the noise-canceling mode accordingly. The noise cancellation, speaking of, is just so-so — there’s an audible hiss when it’s enabled, and it’s weaker than the noise-canceling tech on Sony’s over-the-ear models.

The WF-1000X’s Achilles heels, though, are battery life and connectivity. The earpieces last three hours on a charge, which falls well short of flag bearers like the Gear IconX and Epic Air. And the Bluetooth connection sometimes drops out in Wi-Fi congested areas, or lags between the left earbud and the right, losing sync between the two.

Jabra Elite Sport

Specifications Jabra Elite Sport
Maximum range 33 feet
Battery life 4.5 hours + 9 additional hours with rechargeable case
Noise cancellation No
Water resistant IP67 dust- and water-resistant
Drivers 6.8 x 5.1mm drivers
Connectivity Bluetooth 4.1 with Headset v1.2 , Hands free v1.6, A2DP v1.3, AVRCP v1.6, PBAP v1.1 Bluetooth profiles
Accessories Charging case, microUSB cable, silicon EarGels (3 sets), foam EarGels (3 sets), EarWings (3 sets)
Other features Four-microphone call technology
Colors Black, Lime green / Gray
Price $179

If you’re in the market for fitness-oriented wireless earbuds, the Jabra Elite Sport, the second generation of Jabra’s Elite Sport, are worth a go. They’re compact and nondescript, feature a heart rate monitor and truly waterproof casing, and last longer on a charge than most of the competition.

The Elite Sport might be a little on the pricey side, but $250 nets you an attractive pair of earpieces with a six-piece collection of interchangeable tips, a wireless charging case, and wings. The earpieces themselves are tight-fitting and comfortable, though a little on the large side. The same can’t be said of the Elite Sport tactile controls, unfortunately, which are positively dwarfed by the earbuds’ housing. (Figuring out which buttons control the volume and pause/play takes some patience and trial-and-error.)

The Elite Sport’s aforementioned heart rate monitor provides real-time, “in-ear fitness analysis” that you can track from Jabra’s companion app for smartphones. There’s also built-in noise reduction technology that automatically switches to the earbud with the least background noise, and an internal equalizer that lets you customize sound profiles and tweak frequency response. Finally, a new HearThrough feature ambient listening mode mixes noise from the surrounding environment with your tunes, letting you, say, order a cup of coffee without having to stash the ‘buds in your pocket.

The Elite Sport boasts an impressive battery life of about five-and-a-half hours, up from the Elite Sport’s three hours. That’s about half the quoted battery life of the top performer on our list, the JLab Epic Air, but it’s just enough to best the Sony WF-1000X and B&O Play BeoPlay E8.

B&O Play BeoPlay E8

 

Specifications B&O Play BeoPlay E8
Maximum range 33 feet
Battery life 4 hours + 8 additional hours with rechargeable case
Noise cancellation No
Water resistant Yes
Drivers 5.7 millimeter drivers
Connectivity Bluetooth 4.2 with AAC
Accessories Silicon tips, 4 pairs of different sizes (XS, S, M, L); Complyfoam, 1 pair in size M
Other features N/A
Colors Gray
Price $299

There’s no beating around the bush: The B&O Play BeoPlay E8 breaks the bank. In fact, at $299, they’re the most expensive wireless earpieces in our roundup. But you’re paying for more than window dressing. The BeoPlay E8 boast a gorgeous design, premium materials, and sound quality that puts the competition to shame.

The first thing you’ll notice about the BeoPlay E8 earpieces is their matte surface, which is water- and dust-resistant. It’s stylish but inconspicuous; unlike the Sony WF-1000X and other wireless headphones with protruding designs, the BeoPlay E8’s are engineered to blend in. They come with four in-ear foam tips in various sizes, and a premium leather charging case that delivers up to eight additional hours of battery life.

Playback controls on the BeoPlay E8 are a capacitive affair: you pause and play audio by tapping on the right earpiece, skip forward a track by tapping twice on the right earpiece, and skip backward by doing the same on the left. And increasing or lowering the volume’s as simple as a touch and hold.

Audio, speaking of, sounds great on the BeoPlay E8. The tiny earbuds pack an impressive punch, especially in bass-heavy (and sub-base-heavy) tracks. Rare is distortion at the low end or clipping at the high end — the earbuds produce an incredibly clean an balanced sound that’s rich in mid- and high-frequencies. Another plus worth noting: Thanks in part to near-field magnetic induction tech, which uses a magnetic field to keep the two earbuds in sync, the BeoPlay E8 rarely experiences connectivity issues.