Forget AirPods — why I use Samsung earbuds with my iPhone

AirPods Pro 2 are the go-to flagship headphones for an iPhone user; You get all the ecosystem benefits in addition to brilliant sound quality and active noise cancellation (ANC). But what if you use your iPhone with a Windows laptop, or what if you have an Android phone as a secondary device? That’s where you need a second pair of headphones—unless you find something that works well with iPhone as well as Windows and Android. Surprisingly, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are one such product.

I used the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro with my iPhone 13 Pro Max and Galaxy Z Fold 4. While there are obvious reasons for someone in the Galaxy ecosystem to buy Samsung’s flagship headphones, they work shockingly well with an iPhone – although there are some caveats.

Open, pair and play

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro.
Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Samsung has removed the Galaxy Wearables app from the Apple App Store, and as a result Samsung smartwatches after the Galaxy Watch 3 do not have support for iPhones. You might think that the same can be said about the Samsung headphones, but the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are different.

Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 5, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro do not require an app to pair and work. You can simply open the case and pair it with your iPhone. You can then play your favorite music or podcasts through any app you want on the iPhone. But you don’t get support for fine-tuning the controls, and you miss out on some niche features (more on that below).

What works on Galaxy Buds 2 Pro with iPhone

Galaxy Buds 2 Pro with iPhone 13 Pro Max on a table

Once you pair and connect the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro with your iPhone, no other settings are required to fully use the earbuds. While the earbuds support 24-bit audio, it is limited to Galaxy smartphones. That said, the normal 16-bit audio isn’t bad at all. Indeed, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are a fantastic pair of headphones.

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The Buds 2 Pro feature dual drivers tuned by AKG, which make them very well rounded. The highs are clear with a good amount of bass thrown in and you get great instrument separation with excellent vocals.

Active noise cancellation is one of the best in a non-stem design pair of headphones under $200. In my experience, the Buds 2 Pro’s ANC is closer to the Pixel Buds Pro. The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro have been my partner on my commutes and travels – across cabins, buses and planes. The Buds 2 Pro really shine when it comes to quieting the noise of an airplane. That’s not to say that it feels like I’m in a vacuum, though. Instead, the silicon tips create a good seal (at least in my ear), and the software does the rest.

Galaxy Buds 2 Pro with iPhone 13 Pro Max

What made my experience more enjoyable was the ability to have a conversation with the earbuds still in place and without me touching them. How? There’s a “voice recognition feature” that detects when you’re talking to someone and turns off transparency mode so you can hear the other person clearly. And it’s not like it’s there for the sake of it. Voice recognition worked for me nine times out of 10 within seconds, and when it works, it does very effectively.

Samsung promises up to five hours of continuous playback with ANC turned on, and 18 hours of battery life with the case. During my four-hour flight, I was not afraid of the battery and could watch Modern love Season 1 (oh, the first episode is so healthy). You can get better battery life on other headphones, but the sound, ANC performance, and voice recognition function combined to give me a brilliant experience with these. And remember – this is all possible with the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro with an iPhone; no Samsung phone required.

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Where the iPhone experience stumbles

Galaxy Buds 2 Pro on the iPhone 13 Pro Max

The Galaxy Wearable app works as a catalyst to offer more features, but the Buds 2 Pro and its unavailability in the App Store means you lose some features when paired with an iPhone.

First, you can’t remap the touch controls on the headphones. This is the most basic feature I expect any manufacturer to have, regardless of the device I use the earbuds with. But surprisingly, I didn’t encounter any problems not changing the controls. On the right earpiece, you can play/pause music with a single tap, double tap to go to the next song, and triple tap to go to the previous song. You can touch the left earcup to switch between ANC and transparency mode.

Second, you cannot change the duration of the voice detection function. By default it is set to 10 seconds, which again turned out to be enough for me. Third, you don’t get equalizer controls, which according to our Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review “deteriorated the sound quality.”

Fourth, you miss out on Samsung’s extras, like the “Find my headphones” feature that plays a little sound through the buds to help you find one or both headphones if they go missing. It is the only feature in this section that I would like to have on my iPhone for the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. I haven’t felt the need for it, but it would be nice to have it if I ever lose my headphones.

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Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro 2.
Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

More Samsung-exclusive features include 24-bit audio, which only works with select streaming services. There is also the Samsung Seamless Codec which cannot be licensed by anyone.

All in all, I don’t think you’ll miss much without the Galaxy Wearable app. Of course, it would be nice to fine-tune your headphones to the controls you like. That’s the one big caveat; everything else is just a minor annoyance. What you already have on the headphones will work fine, and you won’t feel any friction.

Not an AirPods replacement, but close

Apple AirPods Pro 2 in their charging case.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

So, does all this mean you should buy the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro over a pair of AirPods? No. While the sound, ANC and voice recognition are top-notch on the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, if you’re in the Apple ecosystem, you should still opt for the AirPods Pro 2 for a seamless connection between all Apple devices.

However, if you have an iPhone but a Windows laptop, or you use both an iPhone and an Android phone — especially a Samsung smartphone — the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro make a better buy at $20 less than the $200 AirPods 2 Pro currently on Amazon.

The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are an excellent pair of headphones. I really enjoy spending time with my iPhone 13 Pro Max. And if you’re like me and use a wide range of devices, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are for you.

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