Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds are blatant AirPod clones in both form and function

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Alongside its latest folding phones and wearables, Samsung is introducing the new Galaxy Buds 3 Pro and Galaxy Buds 3. As leaks (and early sales) confirmed, the company has moved away from the subtle in-ear design of past generations to a stemmed look that gives these an AirPods-esque look and feel — especially in white. Both earbuds also come in a gunmetal gray finish that, combined with the angular “blade” design, makes me think of Tesla’s Cybertruck. But there’s no denying the overall similarities to Apple’s massively popular AirPods.

Samsung’s press release says the switch was the direct result of “a variety of collected statistical data” that showed a stem form factor produces better comfort and in-ear stability. So, here we are. I’ll miss the vibrant purple Buds 2 Pro, not to mention the bean-shaped Buds Live.

To see Samsung’s design team go so far in the other direction and settle on such a familiar, same-y design here is rather disappointing, though it’s possible the end product will be significantly better because of it. The Galaxy Bud controls are also now basically identical to those of the AirPods Pro, with pinch gestures for play / pause / track and swipes.

Old and new. The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro at left with the Galaxy Buds 3 Pro (and their blade lights) on the right.

The $249.99 Buds 3 Pro do have one standout aspect of their design: on each earbud is a thin “blade light” that can illuminate to indicate Bluetooth pairing status, and you can also set the lights to stay on at all times. I was hoping the light lines would be able to reflect the battery charge level for each earbud, but no such luck.

The Pro earbuds have an in-ear fit with silicone tips, while the regular Buds 3 ($179.99) go with an open-style design for people who don’t like the feeling of having their ears plugged up. Both earbuds offer active noise cancellation, though I wouldn’t expect any miracles from ANC on the Buds 3 since there’s no seal to work with. Audio performance in general should also be a step up on the Buds 3 Pro since they include two-way drivers in each earbud, whereas the standard Buds 3 have just single drivers.

The Buds 3 Pro now include adaptive noise cancellation, so the ANC will automatically be adjusted based on your surroundings. When the earbuds detect important sounds like sirens, they’ll temporarily dial back the noise cancellation to let those through.

Both sets of earbuds are rated IP57 against dust and water, and they also both support wireless charging. Samsung’s proprietary Bluetooth codec is now capable of wirelessly streaming up to 24-bit / 96kHz audio so long as you use the Buds 3 / 3 Pro with one of the company’s recent phones, but as usual, Samsung continues to exclude LDAC. Multipoint also remains absent; these buds only offer automatic switching between Samsung devices.

The earbuds share a lot in common, but the Buds 3 Pro get Samsung’s best audio quality and ANC performance.
Image: Samsung

The Pros eke out slightly longer battery life, lasting for up to six hours on a charge with ANC on or a total of 26 hours including case recharges. The Buds 3 can hit five and 24 hours, respectively — or six and 30 hours if you leave ANC off, which I suspect people often will.

Both pairs of earbuds are being released alongside the Galaxy Z Fold 6 and Flip 6.

Samsung claims that voice call quality has substantially improved across the lineup thanks to the inclusion of super wideband, a feature that has already come to competing earbuds like the Pixel Buds Pro.

Both the Buds 3 Pro and Buds 3 are available for preorder today and go on sale July 24th. My full review will be coming soon, so stay tuned to find out whether Samsung’s shift to the stem was a worthwhile change.

Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge