The Bluetooth headphone market is huge, with over ear, on ear, and earbud styles all prevalent. One newer style of Bluetooth headphones is the totally wireless earbud, and Samsung is one of a handful of companies trying its hand at that style with its Gear IconX (2018) earbuds.
- Earbud size: 18.9 x 21.8 x 22.8mm
- Case size: 73.4 x 44.5 x 31.4mm
- Earbud battery: 82mAh, up to 7 hours standalone or up to 5 hours using Bluetooth
- Case battery: 340mAh
- USB-C charging for case
- 4GB of storage
- Bluetooth 4.2
- Accelerometer, IR, capacitive touch sensors
- 5.8pi Dynamic Driver
- Compatible with devices running Android 4.4 or later with 1.5GB of RAM or more, also compatible with iOS
- Price: $199.99
- Where to buy: Amazon, Best Buy, Samsung
The basic design of the Gear IconX (2018) is similar to any other earbud that you’d see, but it has a wingtip on top to help the earbud stay in your ear. The outside of the earbud is also home to a capacitive touch panel. On the inside of each earbud is the IR sensor and charging pins.
The Gear IconX (2018) includes small, medium, and large size wingtips and eartips to help you find the perfect fit.
The charging case for these wireless earbuds is shaped like a small pill. You can easily throw it in a bag or purse, but because of the thickness of the case, putting it in your pocket might result in a bulge.
There are charging indicators on the front of the case to let you know when the earbuds inside are charging, and around back is the USB-C charging port. The backside is also home to a Bluetooth button that you push and hold to pair the Gear IconX (2018) to your phone.
When you insert the Gear IconX (2018) into your ear, you want to stick it in and then twist up to help the wingtip get in place. After doing so, I found that the earbuds stay in my ears very well, including while lifting weights and running.
Wireless headphones are great for exercising because they let you get free of your phone and get annoying wires out of your way, and wireless earbuds like the Gear IconX are even more freeing because there’s no wire sitting behind your head or band on top of it. Totally wireless headphones are great for activities, too, like wrenching on a car, doing housework, and walking the dog.
On the topic of working out, the Gear IconX (2018) includes an Exercise Coach to help you workout. There are several different workouts available, including Brisk Walking Coach, Endurance Jogging Coach, and Speed Increasing Coach.
During these workouts, a voice will tell you when to warm up and cool down, when to speed up, and when you’re going at a good pace. It’ll also occasionally interject with motivational phrases. The Exercise Coach could be helpful for beginners, but those who are used to working out regularly may not get as much benefit.
The Exercise Coach settings can be controlled in the Samsung Gear app, which also let you choose which earbud you want to hear the coach in. Your workouts can also be synced with the Samsung Health app, which stores your time, distance, and calories burned.
Another notable feature of the Gear Icon X (2018) is the capacitive touchpad. Each earbud has a touchpad that you can use to control playback, volume, and more. Tapping once will pause and play, double tapping will play the next track or answer a call and triple tapping will play the previous track. You can also touch and hold to decline a call or read the menu options, which includes calling up the Google Assistant, Bixby, or Siri.
The earbud touchpad takes a bit of getting used to, both in terms of learning the controls and how to avoid accidentally triggering them; I paused my music a couple of times when I didn’t mean to while working out. The good news is that a recent Gear IconX (2018) update brought with it the ability to lock the touchpad to prevent unwanted inputs. You can either lock them after 30 seconds without input or have them locked during workouts. To unlock them, just touch and hold the touchpad.
For their small size, the Gear IconX (2018) impressed me with their sound quality. I tested a variety of music, including rock, hip-hop, and dance music, and it all sounded good. You’re not going to get thundering bass with these earbuds, which isn’t surprising considering that they’re so small, but the overall sound is satisfying.
If you do need more bass, you can use the equalizer that Samsung added to the Gear IconX (2018) with its most recent update. Using the Samsung Gear app, you can choose between Bass boost, Soft, Dynamic, Clear, and Treble boost if you want to tweak the sound for whatever style of audio you’re listening to.
The Gear IconX (2018)’s most recent update also added an improved Ambient Sound feature that lets you control how much outside audio you want to let in. This can come in handy when you’re outdoors and need to hear what’s going on around you. There’s also a Voice Focus toggle that you can flip that focuses on boosting the voices of those around you.
Samsung says that you’ll get up to 5 hours of battery life using the Gear IconX (2018) to listen to audio over Bluetooth, and in my use, that was right around what I got. If you exclusively listen to music stored on the earbuds themselves, Samsung says that you can get up to 7 hours of battery life on a single charge.
The case that comes with the Gear IconX (2018) can give the earbuds nearly another full charge. If you need some extra juice in a hurry, you can get an hour of playtime from 10 minutes of plug-in time, which can come in handy when you need to take your Gear IconX (2018) to the gym but forgot to charge them normally.
The case itself charges over USB-C, which is nice to see now that more and more devices are coming with USB-C charging ports. There are lights on the front of the case, one on the left and one on the right, that display red when the earbuds are charging and turn green when fully charged.
It’s worth noting that there’s no way to power off the Gear IconX (2018) unless you place them in their case. That could be a problem if you forget to place them back in the case and come back later to find the battery lower than you expected.
Samsung Gear app
The Samsung Gear app for Android gives you access to a lot of features for the Gear IconX (2018). You can use the app to toggle the notifications that come in to your earbuds as well as decide whether you want a summary of the notifications that come in for each particular app or if you want the full notfication.
The Gear app also shows the battery level of both earbuds, the touchpad settings, the toggle to choose whether you want to hear music from your phone or your earbuds, and more.
You can use the Samsung Gear app to transfer music to your Gear IconX (2018). Previously you’d have to place the earbuds in their case, connect the case to your computer, and use the Gear IconX Manager app on your computer to transfer music to the Gear IconX (2018), but the most recent update allows you transfer music wirelessly from your phone to your earbuds. I tested this feature and, while it wasn’t a super fast transfer, it worked as advertised and allowed me to get music onto the earbuds without having to download the Gear IconX Manager app and physically connect the earbuds to my computer. It’s very handy.
Unfortunately, the Samsung Gear app for iOS doesn’t currently support the Gear IconX (2018), so iPhone owners don’t have access to all of the features that their Android brethren get. There is a Gear Manager app for Mac so that you can transfer music to the Gear IconX (2018) earbuds, which is good.
The Samsung Gear IconX (2018) are a great pair of wireless earbuds. The sound is good, especially considering their size, and the battery life isn’t too shabby either. Beyond just being earbuds for listening to music, you can use them when exercising to track your workout and get some motivation in your ear.
There are some minor issues with the Gear IconX (2018), like the touchpad that takes some getting used to. It’d also be nice to see some more features available to Android users offered to iOS users. Those are small complaints, though, especially if you’re going to be using these earbuds with an Android device. If you’re in the market for a new pair of Bluetooth headphones, Samsung’s Gear IconX (2018) are definitely worth a look.