5 of the best Apple Airpod alternatives for Android

Ding dong, the wicked wire is dead

14 August 2017
by Stuff Staff

While wireless over-ear headphones have been saving us from Tangle Rage™ for some time now, when it comes to really making our lives easier on the go, only the portability of in-ears will do.

The Apple Airpods were not the first of their kind to cut the wires by any means, but their arrival at the end of last year did give the in-ear industry a nudge in the right direction. Now it’s playing catch up, and fast.

That can only be a good thing for Android users. While the Airpods will work with Android phones, so much of their functionality is geared towards iOS that we’d argue your money is better spent elsewhere.

Not sure where to start? Read on for a lowdown on some of the best wireless in-ears on the market right now.

ONKYO W800BT – BEST FOR SOUND QUALITY

The Airpods were but a twinkle in Tim Cook’s eye when Onkyo released the W800BT earphones in 2015. But despite being a bit older than many of their rivals, the W800BTs could still teach most of them a thing or two about sound.

Music sounds clear and expressive and there’s plenty of detail, with enough space around voices and instruments that things never sound congested. The bass is suitably rich and rumbly too, but it doesn’t impress itself on the rest of the frequency range, which is clean and well balanced.

What you won’t get here is a lot of features. The stylish buds might look the part while sitting comfy in your ears, but there are no on-ear controls for your music, nor any sweatproofing for use in the gym. The three-hour battery life is bested by a lot of its competitors now too, though its included case will charge them five times over from scratch.

We also had niggles when using them for anything other than music. A poor built-in mic means call quality is poor, while video content also suffers with lip-syncing issues. But if making the most of your music is your key focus, you’ll struggle to find better for out-and-out sound quality.

JABRA ELITE SPORT – BEST FOR SPORTS

As their name might suggest, Jabra is aiming the Elite Sport at the gym bunnies among you, with some fancy features up their sleeve to give you a helping hand during workouts.

Their design is pretty bulky, which ensures a snug fit – not just for staying put when you’re on the treadmill, but also for reading your heart-rate. This doesn’t make them the comfiest in-ears we’ve worn, though, and after an hour or two you might need to give your ears a rest.

They work with the Jabra Sport app, which records your heart-rate to create an informed workout report, but can also set you up with a training plan or talk you through one of its pre-programmed cross-training sessions. There are even some activities where the Elite Sport’s sensors can count your reps for you, and pretty accurately too.

The heart-rate monitor, on the other hand, doesn’t have the accuracy of some more accomplished fitness wearables. It’ll give a good enough idea for casual gym goers, but no more.

The Jabra Elite Sport haven’t forgotten they need to sound good either, with a crisp, clear performance and plenty of bass kick.

There’s not quite as much airy detail here as you’ll get with the Onkyo W800BT, nor are they as explicit with dynamics, but they’re well organised, with a good balance and no sharp edges in the treble. A very pleasant surprise indeed.

JAM ULTRA – BEST FOR AFFORDABILITY

At US$100, the Jam Ultras are considerably cheaper than the other wireless in-ears here, but nothing in their design would give that away. Lightweight and comfortable to wear, they have a smart fabric casing and a single button on each earbud that’ll play and pause music.

Their 3hr battery claim isn’t exactly market leading, but the included charging case can juice them up 10 times over for up to 30 hours of playback on the go. The case even has a full-sized USB port, so you can recharge your phone on-the-go if it falls short too.

The sound quality here can’t compete with that from the Onkyo or Jabra buds, but at more than half the price, you might expect that.

Critical ears should probably look to spend a little more for that reason, as the Jam Ultras aren’t talented enough to uncover finer detail and struggle to convey much by way of dynamics. The midrange clarity is also a little clouded due to a slightly emphasised low-end, and you’ll also notice some distortion if you really push the volume.

This certainly means complicated classical music is not shown to its best through these buds, but pop and dance music does fare better. It’s not the most refined performance by any stretch, but if you’re looking for laid-back, pass-the-time buds to get you through a commute without spending a fortune, the Jam Ultras may well scratch that itch.

SOL REPUBLIC AMPS AIR – BEST FOR STYLE

Unlike a lot of their wireless in-ear competition, the Sol Republics Amps Air have really nailed things from a design perspective. From their metal charging case to their stylish compact design, these buds have been built to look the part.

There’s some nice attention to detail here too, such as the ability to just shake the case to see how much charge it has left. It’ll do 15 three-hour recharges in total, and has the same ability to charge your phone via USB as the Jam Ultra.

Their sound tickles the popular fancy for lashings of bass. A lot of wireless in ears err on the side of caution in this respect, but the Amps Air have a low-end that’s deep and powerful, if a little overdone for more neutral tastes.

Unfortunately, the solidity it demonstrates doesn’t extend further into the frequency range, and the midrange and treble can sound a little thin and exposed, particularly at volume. That means you might notice harsh edges to its crisp, clear presentation, which can get tiring over long listening sessions.

BRAGI DASH PRO – BEST FOR FEATURES

The Bragi Dash Pro buds might be the priciest in-ears in our list, but they offer much more than your average headphones.

Like the Jabras, they pack a heart-rate monitor and the ability to track a choice of activities, including running, cycling and – since they’re waterproof to 1m – swimming, with automatic lap counting.

Their lack of GPS means distances for rides and runs is often a bit out, but if you aren’t too worried about absolute accuracy, you can leave your phone at home and the Dash Pros will sync with your phone when you’re back. There’s even 4GB of onboard storage for saving playlists to the Dash Pros themselves, and an impressive 5hr battery life for longer activities.

Touch controls on the earbuds give you access to all of the Dash Pros’ functionality without reaching for your phone, but they can also detect gestures, so you can control them using only head movements. You’ll look a bit daft, but it works, and allows you to go entirely hands free when you need to.

By the time you’ve discovered everything these buds can do, you’re wondering if how they sound even matters. The good thing is they don’t sound bad at all, offering a pretty even-handed balance, with a decent amount of space, plenty of clarity and just enough bass that you won’t feel short changed.

There’s a slight hardness to the treble at volume though, and we’d like the dynamics to be more expressive too.

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