You’re thinking about buying Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds Live for your iPhone, but the question is how well do they work if you don’t own an android phone? I’ve been using them with my iPhone for a week now, so I’ll give you not only the downsides and limitations, but also a surprising benefit I found that you gain with an iPhone.
I think for a lot of iOS users the Galaxy Buds may be a better buy than AirPods, but not for everyone, Let’s start out with the benefits.
The biggest one for me is the sound quality. Not only do the Buds Live sound better than regular AirPods, but they even sound better than the Pro’s. Now is it a massive difference? No, but when I put the Pro’s back into my ears yesterday I could definitely tell the difference and missed the rich sound that the live’s 12mm drivers allow for. Of course, they officially cost $70 less than the Pro’s, and $30 less than regular AirPods with a charging case, but both of those can be purchased a little bit cheaper now.
The battery life is also better, rated at 8 hours for the buds and a total of 28 hours in the case if you have active noise-cancelling disabled, which we definitely have to talk about in just a bit. A big benefit for me is that they don’t stick out of your ears. I love the look it provides, and they don’t snag if I’m putting a helmet on, or a hat, or anything else. If you’re someone that hates having the mini toothbrush or hairdryer look sticking out of your ears, or don’t want to blend in with everyone having airpods, the buds live are great.
They’re also really comfortable for me, but that will depend on your ears. They don’t seal into your ear canal which helps compared to the Buds plus so they’re now about as comfortable as AirPods.
I was surprised by how well the stay in my ears as well, and if regular AirPods fall out, these most likely won’t since you do have the option to change the wingtips which you can’t do with standard airpods. If you have other reasons for getting them for your iphone let me know in the comments section below.
One thing that surprised me was how quickly and consistently they connected. The original buds were noticeably worse than AirPods with the H1 chip, but these are super quick. You do miss out on iCloud integration so you’ll have to go into the settings of each iOS or Mac device, but the buds plus do support multiple saved connections and automatically disconnect from my phone if I select them from my Macs Bluetooth menu just like AirPods.
It's very interesting that Samsung went the opposite way of Apple and when they added active noise-cancelling they got rid of the in ear sealed design. Because of this the active noise cancellation can only remove frequencies lower than 700hz, and to be honest, unless you have a constant low noise without other medium and high frequency sounds, it's almost pointless.
It will get rid of my low AC vent noise but then my mind focuses in on the higher sounds and it's even more annoying. And when I was mowing my lawn it literally did nothing, so don’t buy them for your iPhone instead of AirPods Pro’s if you need noise cancellation.
Because of this, the Lives are more like the original AirPods just with a little boost, probably added for marketing. There is a plus side, if you like to listen to music but also be aware of your environment, these are great for that, like the regular AirPods, but with that you’ll get a lot of sound leakage.
Now let's talk about the connectivity, software, and a bonus for iPhone users. I’m so glad Samsung has the Galaxy Buds app for iPhone and that they keep updating it. I set mine up using the app and everything connected quickly but it gave me a prompt to check the Bluetooth settings to make sure both Bluetooth modes are connected, which they weren’t.
This part is important, as I noticed a glitch every once in a while. My buds live wouldn’t show up in the audio options, but they showed up as connected in the Galaxy Buds app. I went into the settings and only the low power mode was connected, so I had to manually connect the normal mode to be able to use them. One time the normal wouldn’t let me connect, so I had to reset them and reconnect. I figured out that this only happened if I was switching from Android to iPhone and apart from that it would work perfectly, so hopefully they fix that in firmware which you can also update using the iOS app which thankfully matches most features. Here are the things you’ll miss out on.
The biggest bummer for me is notifications read out loud. I love having siri read my texts with airpods and you’re just not going to get it. The same thing goes with Bixby on demand with Samsung phones, if you would even use that. You can still use siri by setting it to the customization touch options. In those touch options you also won’t get the one touch Shopify option, an alternative is touching for siri and then asking her to play Shopify or anything else, but that does take a bit longer.
Next is the gaming mode which lowers latency and almost matches AirPods on IOS. Since Galaxy Buds also use AAC there’s no lag when watching videos but when playing a game sounds will be more than half a second off compared to about 150ms, so if you play a lot of games that's one area where the Buds aren’t worth it.
The last thing I missed is being able to quickly change Bluetooth to my AirPods by pressing on the stem. This is helpful if your phone auto connects to another Bluetooth device but with the buds live I have to pull my phone out to switch back.
For the one benefit of using the Lives with an iPhone. They are surprisingly louder. I would say to get them to match volume wise with my S20 ultra I’d have to lower my iPhone by just over one click. They aren’t quiet with the Samsung but I appreciate the extra boost when listening to quieter YouTube videos or podcasts.
Overall, if you don’t need hands-free siri with readout or low latency in games, I think the Galaxy Buds live absolutely destroy the original AirPods. Now its a little more tough comparing them to my Pro’s if you’re using an iPhone especially if you want that active noise cancellation. But if you don’t need that or hands-free siri then the lower cost and better sound quality is intriguing, and they work surprisingly well with iPhones.
I think for many iPhone users the Buds Live will work quite well, and I’ll definitely be using mine a fair bit.