So, you’ve got a gorgeous iPhone. And you notice something awful. Something horrible. You don’t have a headphone jack.
What will you do?!? How are you going to listen to music on that flashy, new Spotify subscription? I mean… you could use the EarPods that came in the box- the ones with the lightning connector instead of a 3.5mm jack. You could spend $10 on a tiny adapter to… well… adapt your old, trusty headphones.
Or you could spend some bucks on Bluetooth headphones and make wires (mostly) a thing of the past.
What is dead may never die.
But which wireless headsets should you purchase? I mean, there are an array of Bluetooth headphones out there, however, I’m not here to discuss every option you could possibly purchase. Let’s discuss two of Apple’s own choices instead. Because if Apple expunged the headphone jack intentionally, they have to have their own options to listen to your music, right?
Granted, there are possibly better options than the AirPods 2 or the BeatsX- for instance, the AirPods Pro or the PowerBeats Pro, which Apple also made- but you’re on some sort of budget; after all, you just paid for a brand new iPhone. And possibly an Apple Watch. And you had to purchase a case for your iPhone. And an AppleCare+ protection plan. Now’s not the time to go nuts spending on wireless headphones that will, in effect, do the same thing those free EarPods with a lightning connector will do.
In this article I’m comparing the
since they are competitively priced and offers similar features. It’s up to the fight to determine which are the better choice. Set?
3… 2… 1… Fight!
Let’s start by comparing the price before comparing the features. They aren’t cheap, and that’s a fact; the BeatsX will cost you $99, while the AirPods 2 will set you back $159, or $199 if you chose the version with a wireless charging case (you might be able to get the original AirPods for slightly less, but I mean slightly less).
$60 is a huge chunk of cash, but are the AirPods worth that additional bucks? Both options are still much cheaper than their Pro counterparts, but far more costly than options from companies such as Jlab and Sony.
But we can’t really tell whether the price is worth it or not until we talk about what each headphone brings to the table. Therefore, for the moment, this category has no winner.
Winner: Tie… for the time being.
Those freebie EarPods ($30 if you want to purchase a replacement pair, if we’re still hung up on prices) have one thing up on any pair of wireless buds: they don’t need to charge. So long as your iPhone has battery power, so do the EarPods.
Since you’ve chosen to go wireless, you should consider how long your headphones will last. Apple says that the AirPods themselves will last about 5 hours, with 24 hours of charge from the handy dandy charging case. The BeatsX, in contrast, should last you 8 hours.
Having said that, the AirPods are far much better when it comes to battery management. They are only connected while they are in your ears; because of the built-in accelerometers, each AirPod disconnects immediately you take them out of your ear or put them into the charging case. In contrast, the BeatsX will stay connected- and draining their battery- until you turn off the headphones manually with the power button located in the right hand side of the neckband.
To be precise, during my testing, I unplugged the BeatsX around 8:30 in the morning. I didn’t use them at all, and they were down to 91% by 10 am. That’s almost 10% in an hour and a half with no actual usage other than being connected (during playback, they dropped about 10% after an hour). By comparison, in two hours of using the AirPods (the Pods themselves went from 100% to 76%) and popping them into the charging case, the AirPods charging case went from 80% to 75% (charging the Pods back up to 100% in that time). Someone who is better at math could probably tell you just how much longer the AirPods would last, but the long and short of it is that the AirPods provide substantially more use time, particularly if you are using them on and off throughout the day as they will pop back up to 100% each time you place them in the charging case for about 15 minutes. The charging case itself will also stay a couple of days before needing a recharge of its own.
The way you charge the headsets is certainly something else to consider with the AirPods and the BeatsX. Both sets of headphones will charge with a lightning cable, meaning you can use the same charging set up that you use with your iPhone (It’s worth noting, the AirPods ships with a full length lightning cable, whereas the BeatsX ships with a short cable). Again, if you opt to spend double the price of the BeatsX for the AirPods with a wireless charging case, you can charge them with the same nifty charging pad that charges your iPhone. Both deliver fast charging, though the BeatsX will definitely charge more rapidly; they offer 2 hours of use with only 5 minutes of charging time, and will fully charge in under an hour. The Cupertino based company indicates that 15 minutes of charge will give the AirPods three hours of use time (for anyone doing math, fifteen minutes on the BeatsX should give you about six hours of use). Online estimates say it takes about 2.5 hours to fully charge the AirPods charging case.
Also it’s worth noting that you can’t use the BeatsX while they are charging. Sure, it would be a little cumbersome to try, particularly with the short cable Beats offers in the box. But with the AirPods, you can use the Pods while the case is plugged in.
It’s an interesting crossroads; the AirPods will give you more use time, but the BeatsX will charge more rapidly when you do need to plug up. It all depends on which will work better with your lifestyle in this area, but the winner for me is the AirPods, simply because I stand more chance of having them around all day long, especially if I forget to turn off the BeatsX when I’m not using them (which is a constant).
Winner: AirPods 2. Faster charging is good, but headphones that stay charged all day is absolutely fantastic.
If you aren’t connecting your headphones with a good old wire, then how are these headphones gonna speak to your devices?
We all know how cumbersome it is to switch Bluetooth headphones from one device to another. Most nowadays support syncing with multiple devices, but switching usually means unpairing from one device to pair to the other (or turning of Bluetooth signal on the device you don’t want connected, which could interfere with other gadgets that are linked to the device). But Apple has come up with a way to make switching nearly as seamless as unplugging your wired headphones from one device and plugging into another (as long as those devices are made by apple). They’ve done this through proprietary chips (because of course they have).
Both pairs of headphones feature Apple’s proprietary chips that make connecting to your i-devices a breeze (the BeatsX have the W1 chip while the AirPods 2 pack in the newer H1 chip). Those chips are the reason these headphones are two of the very best options to use with your iPhone; once you sync it to one device, it becomes pretty easy to switch between all devices linked to your iCloud account. No need to unpair your headphones from your iPhone to use them on your iPad. Just simply tap on the headphones in your AirPlay menu and they switch to the device you are currently working with.
Apple says the H1 chip in the AirPods 2 (the same chip that is also in the pricier AirPods Pro and the PowerBeats Pro) provides a much faster connection when switching between devices and reduces latency when watching a video or playing a game, but honestly that speed is negligible; you probably won’t notice it in day to day usage. The AirPods 2 also has Bluetooth 5, whereas the BeatsX features the older 4.2, meaning the AirPods 2 will have a stronger connection when you use them with devices that don’t have an “i” in their title. The newer chip and Bluetooth signal also mean that the AirPods 2 are a tiny bit more future proof; this makes sense, as the BeatsX are a few years older than the AirPods 2.
In day to day use, both version of headsets are just about as easy to use as the other one, however, I did notice that my devices recognized the AirPods more often than the BeatsX when first connecting, and Occasionally, the BeatsX weren’t listed as an available device although they were turned on.
Another strange connection issue with the BeatsX came when using Siri. With the AirPods connected to my iPhone, when I used Siri on my Apple Watch, the audio responses from Siri and the recording of what I was saying to Siri happened on the AirPods. It appeared the BeatsX were trying to do the same, but unfortunately the microphone didn’t pick up anything I said, as if it was confused as to which microphone to use (I’m assuming the one in the Apple Watch is disabled if headphones are paired and listening).
The AirPods aren’t without their connection issues. One that I can’t decide if it should be classified as a connection issue or in the features section causes the AirPods to revert back to my iPhone even if that wasn’t the last device that they were actively connected to. For instance, if I was watching Netflix on my iPad Pro during my lunch break, once I’ve returned to my office and double tap the AirPods to resume playback, they start playing music from my iPhone instead. Of course, I wanted music and not Netflix at that juncture, so either the AirPods are anticipating which device and service I want audio from, but it could also be a glitch that has them reverting back to my iPhone after they’ve been put into the charging case for a few minutes. Whatever it is, the BeatsX don’t do it.
Both will connects seamlessly with your iPhone, but AirPods have the upper hand here.
Winner: AirPods 2. Both offers the magic of Apple’s seamless connection, but the AirPods just felt more seamless than the BeatsX.
It’s not enough for these headsets to just play music in your ears, right? No, if these things are costing you a fortune, you need something more than Beyonce voice echoing in your head.
Neither pair of headsets disappoint, but they are quite different, either, and a lot of that comes down to their form factor. The AirPods are true wireless, which means they look like you just chop the cords off your EarPods and pop them in your ears, while the BeatsX are connected by a cord and a slightly stiff neckband that goes… well… around the back of your neck.
The AirPods includes tap controls which are customizable in Settings on your iPhone. A double tap on either Pod can either play/pause, activate Siri, jump to the next track, or go back to the previous track (or the beginning of the current track). Personally, I set mine up so that the right AirPod skips to the next track and the left goes to the previous track. Since the AirPods 2 have the H1 chip, they support “Hey, Siri,” so tapping for Siri is somewhat redundant, and, likewise, taking one AirPod out of your ear pauses the media, which is faster than double tapping to pause (and makes more sense, as you are probably going to take out the AirPods immediately after pausing anyway). The AirPods don’t have volume control other than to say “Hey, Siri, turn up (or down) the volume”, which can be a bit weird in public.
The BeatsX, unfortunately, do not offer any of those features, but they do include some unique features of their own. They include an inline controller that provides pretty much the same music controls that tapping gets you on the AirPods (plus, volume control), and while they don’t support “Hey, Siri,” you can launch Siri with a long press of the center button (and “Hey, Siri” will work with them if your phone or Apple Watch is nearby enough to hear the command, although the aforementioned confusion with the microphone may or may not interfere with your request). Being around the neck headphones, the BeatsX are also fantastic for when you aren’t using them, as you can just let them drop and rest instead of fumbling around with the charging case (or leaving the loose AirPod sitting at your desk). The BeatsX have no an automatic pause feature when you take one of the headset out, unfortunately, but you don’t really need that with the inline controls. If you are not a fan of that feature you probably won’t miss it, but it can be irritating if you realize your headphones have been playing music for no one for a couple of minutes and sucking that precious battery life.
Another feature to take into consideration with both headphones is the ease of misplacing your headsets. AirPods are pretty easy to lose, and although the Cupertino based brand has a “Find My AirPods” feature to help you locate a stray Pod, if one falls out of your ear while you are on the move, recovering the lost Pod might prove difficult. You can get a replacement for each Pod (or the charge case), but you’ll have to fork out about $50 per missing piece (and more for the case).
The BeatsX, by comparison, are fairly harder to lose. Along with the around the neck design, each bud is also magnetized, so when they are not on your ears, they stick together to form a sort of necklace. Unfortunately, if you happen to place the BeatsX down in some place and forget where that place was, they don’t seem to appear in Apple’s Find My app. One of many small things that honestly makes the BeatsX feel Apple compatible but not Apple made, despite being entirely owned by Apple.
Winne: It’s another close call for me here, and really depends on your preference. The AirPods have the more revolutionary features, but the BeatsX do a better job at not getting lost. Still, in day to day use, I find the AirPods more convenient. So I give this to AirPods, but this category is more subjective.
Fit and Sound
Now, all of this stops short if the headsets sound like crap. So, how do they sound?
I’ll be straightforward; the BeatsX sound better. This is mainly because of the design; BeatsX are in-ear buds that have a couple of different tips to find the best fit for your ear. Because of that, they isolate sound and block the outside world. They don’t feature active noise cancelling, but they definitely blocks up some of the noise. This also means you don’t have to have the volume up as high to hear the music. I’m not an audiophile, but the BeatsX definitely offer better bass and sound more balance than the AirPods.
The AirPods, in comparison, definitely leak a lot of sound from the outside world, which isn’t fantastic for listening to music, but works if you want to keep abreast of your surroundings. This is because their design is basically the same as the EarPods (without the wire), and they don’t include any kind of tips to make a better fit or seal. They are one size fits all, which means they will work- and therefore sound better- to some people than to others. Sound quality is basically the same as the EarPods, as well, which isn’t that bad, but there isn’t much depth to the music either. Treble and Bass all seem a little flat, particularly compared directly to the BeatsX. Likewise, to hear the music in louder atmospheres, you will have to raise the volume to a higher level, which may not be best for your eardrums (maybe that Apple Watch can tell you what decibel the music is at).
But sound quality is subjective to some extent, and it depends on what you are going to use these headsets for. If you prefer sound isolation and better depth in your music, the BeatsX are your best bet, but if you would rather keep abreast of your surroundings while listening and don’t mind sacrificing audio quality to do so, the AirPods might suit your needs.
The AirPods are also capable of working together or on their own; depending on if you pulled one or both out of the case, the audio will automatically switch between stereo sound and mono. I prefer this at work, since I can listen to music but it is great to be able to keep abreast of my surroundings; I usually put just the right Pod in so I can keep in touch with the outside world. The BeatsX only play music in stereo, meaning you might miss part of the song if you don’t have both buds in.
Winner: This one is completely subjective. If audio quality is your first priority, the BeatsX are your best bet, for certain. But if you are looking for something to add more of a background soundtrack to your day without sacrificing alertness, the AirPods are going to be the better option. But I’m not going to pick sides on this category.
So… where do we go from here?
The BeatsX clearly have better sound and clarity (if you’ll pardon the pun), but worse battery life and frankly horrible power management when it comes to standby time.
In contrast, the AirPods have decent-but not outstanding – sound but stellar battery management and performance, as well as more revolutionary features (and design).
By my own categories, AirPods seem to have taken the lead, but really, it is hard for me to say one wins out over the other, as these headsets are trying to do different things. What matters to you? What is most important to you? Do you need the best sounding headsets (between these two choices; there are definitely better sounding headsets out there without Apple’s branding on it)? Do you mind charging you headsets daily (and will you remember to turn off the headphones when you aren’t using them)? Or do you need an excellent battery life, notwithstanding the sound quality?
The choice, dear reader, is yours. Or, you know, save your cash. After all, your gorgeous iPhone did come with perfectly usable wired EarPods. And retro tech is in these days.