Samsung's New Earbuds Have A Built-In "Coach" That Motivates You When You Exercise

They come packaged in this cute little pill-sized case.

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Samsung has released the follow-up to its Gear IconX, a pair of wireless Bluetooth earbuds which saw its first iteration launched in 2016

First generation Gear IconX.

Image via CNET

In 2016, the original ones took a fitness-first approach. It also had a heart rate sensor. But the sensor also meant less room for battery. And if there’s any one thing that wireless earbuds need to nail – it’s long battery life.

So, the South Korean tech giant decided to concentrate on the basics for this new iteration. They removed the heart rate sensor to accommodate better battery life - amongst other new features.

Samsung had sent us the new earbuds to try out. Did the new IconX live up to expectations? Read on to find out.

First impressions:

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Design-wise, it looks pretty much identical to its predecessor.

The new IconX measures 21.8 by 18.9 by 22.8 mm, compared to the 2016 version at 18.9 mm by 26.4 mm by 26.0 mm. It's pretty amazing how Samsung managed to fit so much tech into this small little thing.

The Gear IconX arrive packaged in an unassuming cylindrical charging case that can fit easily into a pocket or purse. Popping the case open reveals the two earbuds, each designed with a minimalistic touch and nestled into their respective charging docks.

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As indicated by markings on the inside of the case, there's one for your left and right ear. There are LEDs on the case to indicate the charging status of the earbuds.

Rating: 4/5.

The fit:

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You'll get a mix of tips and wings in the box to get the right fit and I've had no problems keeping a good seal even when running.

The earbuds stayed in place, even when they came in contact with sweat. They feel comfortable and snug as well, partly due to its traditional earbud design.

While the new IconX no longer tracks heart rate, it still measures speed and distance data from runs. Beginner runners would appreciate this as a "personal coach" that helps you through workouts like a 30-minute brisk walk, in which a female voice gives you encouragement: "Way to pick up your stride!"

Rating: 5/5.

There are no on or off switches located on the Gear Icon X. In fact, there aren't any buttons whatsoever.

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The wireless earbuds work by tapping, swiping, and speaking.

If you want to switch songs, double-tap the earbud. When a call comes in, you can also double-tap to answer and start talking. Bixby or Google Assistant are also at the ready if you long-press on an earbud’s touchpad. Both digital assistants do the same things they do on your phone, but here they’re speaking directly into your ears.

As nifty as it was, it took me awhile to get used to the haptic touchpad. 

Rating: 3/5.

The battery life:

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Streaming music from Spotify on a Samsung Galaxy Note 8, the IconX lasted almost five hours on a single charge. Interestingly, there were times where the IconX lasted a few minutes more!

Samsung has added a clever little trick to charge these earbuds faster - the USB Type-C connector found on the case. A 10-minute charge in the IconX gets you approximately an hour of listening time.

Rating: 4/5.

Sound quality:

The sound coming from the wireless earbuds was better than expected. While it doesn't come across as immersive, there was a good balance between treble, bass, and acoustics.

The sound isolation works well. I couldn't hear anything else apart from music during my runs, which I feel is a little bit dangerous. But Samsung offers an ambient-noise setting in the app that opens up the speaker and amplifies environmental noise.

Rating: 4/5.

Who would appreciate using the IconX the most:

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Audiophiles might find the sound quality somewhat lacklustre. But for casual listeners, it's definitely up to par. In fact, it sounds great! There's no distortion or over-powering bass and acoustics; vocals are crisp while the mids and highs are clear.

The IconX really shines through when it comes to pairing with fitness. The fit ensures a snug and comfortable fit for runs and workouts in the gym. You won't have to worry about them slipping out from your ears due to its ergonomic design.

The built-in "coach" is surprisingly useful, especially when the tough gets going. Sometimes all you need is a quick word of encouragement to finish the last 100m, right?

Overall rating: 4/5.

The new Gear IconX is now available at Samsung retailers nationwide. It comes in black, pink, or grey - with a retail price of RM799. More details here.

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