Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024


Apple removed the iPhone’s headphone jack in September 2016 and followed up by announcing AirPods. But AirPods aren’t the only wireless earbud option for iPhones or iPads. Here are our top picks for some that pair perfectly with Apple devices.


UPDATE: 09/06/2023

We’ve reviewed our recommendations and updated our selection for the best noise-cancelling earbuds you can buy for the iPhone and iPad.

How to Buy Earbuds for Your iPhone or iPad in 2023

Wireless earbuds have taken over in the years following Apple’s decision to omit a headphone jack on the iPhone 7. We’ve not only had several revisions of AirPods but also a flood of affordable, third-party wireless earphones, many of which parrot the AirPods design.

The truth is, AirPods will always deliver a superior user experience to non-Apple branded headphones when paired with an Apple device. The same is true for Beats, which Apple purchased in 2014. These earbuds pair effortlessly with your iPhone or iPad and can be used across devices seamlessly. You can also locate them using Find My if they go missing.

Unfortunately, AirPods are also expensive. You’re paying for a user experience that no other earbuds can provide since Apple controls the ecosystem, but it can be a hard sell for those on a budget. Fortunately, plenty of good alternatives exist for the cash-strapped and AirPods-averse.

Features like active noise cancellation, where ambient sounds are stripped out of the mix using microphones and software, are now much more commonplace and available on third-party earbuds. Many earbud models also support wireless charging, and some can take advantage of fast charging to quickly provide an hour of listening from a charge of only a few minutes.

If listening to music in the highest possible quality is what you’re most concerned about, wireless earphones might not be the best choice. Or, rather, music on your iPhone, in general, may not be the best choice. The iPhone doesn’t currently support high-resolution audio codecs like LDAC, which means any music sent to your earphones will be compressed.

For that reason, wired headphones still provide the best listening experience for audiophiles or anyone interested in streaming lossless music.

With that settled, let’s get into which wireless earbuds can give you the best experience on your iPhone and iPad.

How Did We Research

Models Evaluated

Hours Researched

Reviews Analyzed

25

15

17

How-To Geek’s product recommendations come from the same team of experts that have helped people fix their gadgets over one billion times. We only recommend the best products based on our research and expertise. We never accept payment to endorse or review a product. Read More »

Pairing the Apple AirPods Pro 2
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek

Pros

Cons

Sound quality improved over the original

Still only available in white

ANC is much more effective than the original AirPods Pro

Call quality isn’t the best

Adaptive Transparency mode protects you from sudden loud sounds

Spatial Audio works well

Updated charging case charges in every way you can think of

U1 chip helps you find your AirPods even easier

When the non-Pro Apple AirPods got an update to the 3rd generation, it made the choice between the AirPods and the AirPods Pro a tough one. This didn’t last long, however, as with the release of the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation), it’s now obvious which is the best.

The new AirPods Pro might initially seem like an incremental upgrade, considering they look nearly identical to the original. Inside, Apple improved several key components for better sound, and the new H2 processor makes for the best noise cancellation in a set of AirPods to date.

Apple’s pace-setting Transparency Mode is better than ever, with Adaptive Transparency lowering the volume of loud sounds to let you hear your surroundings. Thanks to the H2 chip as well as more and more Dolby Atmos mixes hitting streaming services, Apple’s Spatial Audio sounds much better than on the original AirPods Pro.

The charging case has some stealth improvements as well. It’s IPX4-rated water-resistant, as the AirPods Pro are, making for better weather resistance. The case also features a built-in speaker, making it much easier to find your AirPods if you set them down and forget them.

There’s only one real downside. While other companies are adding more color variations, and Apple is even doing this in other products, the 2nd-generation AirPods Pro is still only available in white.

apple-airpods-pro-2nd-generation

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)

Best Earbuds Overall

The second generation of the AirPods Pro takes everything that was great about the original, adds superior ANC, and tweaks the transparent mode with a new feature that helps protect your hearing from sudden loud sounds.

Person wearing Skullcandy Sesh Evo on colored wall
Skullcandy

Pros

Cons

Decent, if a little bass-heavy, sound quality

Sound quality falls short of pricier models

Tile integration for finding lost earbuds

Quality control could be an issue, with some reviewers reporting defective units

Passable battery life with USB-C charging and rapid charge

Cheap wireless earbuds are often plagued with issues like poor battery life and frequent audio dropouts, not to mention disappointing sound quality. The Skullcandy Sesh Evo manages to deliver solid performance and decent sound quality at around a quarter of the price of a pair of AirPods.

Skullcandy’s earbuds are basic but represent good value for money when compared with Apple’s offerings. You’ll get five hours of listening, with an extra 19 hours from the USB-C charging case. You can use each earbud solo, and each has a microphone for voice calling and talking to Siri.

Some reviewers report that the Sesh Evo earbuds tend to be a little bass-heavy, but that’s fairly normal for the Skullcandy brand and similarly priced models. At this price range, you miss out on features like noise cancellation, but for about $50, there’s not a lot to complain about.

One nice feature normally not seen at this price range is integration with Tile so that you can locate your earbuds if they go missing and a Tile user happens to walk past. That’s pretty neat, especially if you already invested in the Tile Bluetooth tracker ecosystem.

skullcandy sesh evo

Skullcandy Sesh Evo

Best Budget Earbuds

The Skullcandy Sesh Evo earbuds are inexpensive and get the job done. Just don’t expect all the features of more expensive models.

Person pulling Bose quietcomfort earbuds our of case
Bose

Pros

Cons

Solid, effective noise-cancelling

No wireless charge option for the case

24-hour battery life with quick charging

The included fit kit helps find the perfect fit and comfort

IPX4 water resistance

Finding the right set of wireless earbuds for travel is tough. Especially for longer trips, you’ll need plenty of battery life, but if you’re flying or even taking public transit, you’ll probably want noise cancellation. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II offers great ANC and long battery life, all in a comfortable package.

For many years, Bose was the undisputed king of noise-cancelling headphones. While Sony and other companies have since caught up, Bose still knows its ANC tech very well. Bose uses DSP to tailor the noise cancellation to your ears, making it even more effective.

Travel means that you will likely encounter rain, snow, or sweat. While the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II don’t offer any dust resistance, they are IPX4 water-resistant. This means you’ll be safe wearing them during a light rainstorm, but you certainly don’t want to drop them in the sink.

Battery life is key for travel, and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II offer up to six hours out of the charging case. The included charging case brings the total playtime up to 24 hours, with a 20-minute charge getting you two hours of playback. The only downside is that the case only charges via USB-C, not wirelessly.

Bose put the word comfort right in the name of these earbuds, and that’s certainly an advantage. They’re comfortable out of the box, but the included fit kit means you’ll find the best fit. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are available in Triple Black and Soapstone color options.

If you don’t want to spend the asking price of the Bose earbuds, the Jabra Elite 85t is a great option that costs a little less. You get slightly less battery life per charge, but you still get 25 hours of battery, ANC, and a charging case that charges wirelessly.

bose quietcomfort earbuds

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II

Best Earbuds for Travel

Bose still knows how to work its ANC magic, and the QuietComfort Earbuds II back it up with improved sound quality and a better fit than the originals, with 24-hour battery life making them perfect for travel.

Person holding Beats Fit Pro case
Beats

Pros

Cons

Same Apple H1 chip as the AirPods for easy pairing and switching

Hook design might not be to everyone’s tastes

Active noise cancellation and transparency mode

Beats can still be a little bass-heavy for some genres

Adjustable ear hook for a snug fit

IPX4 sweat and water resistance

Beats has been a subsidiary of Apple since 2004, which means that headphones like the Beats Fit Pro are effectively Apple headphones. They use the same integrated H1 chip as Apple’s AirPods, so you only need to pair them once for them to work with all of your Apple devices since they sync over iCloud.

The Beats Fit Pro design relies on an adjustable ear hook to anchor the headphones in place, which should prevent them from slipping out even during vigorous exercise. They are much smaller than workout headphones that use a clip design, which makes them and the charging case pocketable. Since they’re designed for exercise, the headphones also have an IPX4 sweat and water resistance rating.

Like the AirPods Pro, the Beats Fit Pro earbuds have onboard active noise cancellation, which means they can remove a lot of background noise. They also have a transparency mode, which allows you to hear the world around you without having to take them out of your ears—though you’ll still need to pause the music for this to work properly.

You’ll also get support for spatial audio since the Beats Fit Pro uses sensors to track your head position, which makes listening to Dolby Atmos music, movies, and TV shows even more immersive. You’ll get around six hours of battery life on a single charge, with an extra 18 hours in a fully charged case. You can fast charge them for 5 minutes to get around an hour of playback in a pinch.

One alternative to the Fit Pro is the Powerbeats Pro which uses the same Apple H1 chip for simple pairing and switching between devices. Instead of an adjustable hook, a clip is used to secure these in-ear headphones in place. They’re quite a bit larger, and they lack active noise cancellation and support for spatial audio, so they fall a bit short of the Fit Pro, but they may still be a good option.

beats fit pro

Beats Fit Pro

Best Workout Earbuds

Beats Fit Pro earbuds are great for working out with their built-in hooks, active noise cancellation, and IPX4 water and sweat resistance.

Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds

Pros

Cons

Smaller and better fit than the previous model

Touch controls aren’t for everyone

Among the best-sounding earbuds in their range

No LDAC support on iPhone or iPad

Solid battery life

Excellent call quality

For years, Sony sat at the top when it came to noise cancellation in headphones and earbuds. Recently, the original king of the hill, Bose, has been aiming to get back on top, but Sony’s overall offerings are so good that Bose hasn’t quite managed to top them yet. If you’re looking for excellent sound and effective noise cancellation, the Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds are the current true wireless earbuds to beat.

Sony’s ANC tech in the WF-1000XM5 tops the already great feature in the Apple AirPods Pro, while it stands roughly toe to toe with the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II. This technology also comes into use when you’re making calls, as the microphones use beamforming to dramatically reduce background noise. To ensure your voice comes through loud and clear, the XM5s supplement the microphone with bone conduction for even better call quality.

The drivers in the Sony WF-1000XM5 are 8.4mm, which is noticeably larger than the 6mm drivers in the WF-1000XM4. This makes for even better sound than the preceding model, with the larger drivers being capable of delivering more bass frequencies. It’s not just the bass either, as the overall sound of the earbuds feels larger than much of the competition.

Somewhat unusually, while the drivers are larger, the XM5s are smaller than their predecessor. These earbuds are 25 percent smaller than the previous model, which helps make them easier to fit, in addition to keeping them from weighing down and falling out of your ear.

Battery life could be an issue on the WF-1000XM4, with buyers finding it difficult to predict how long the battery would last. That doesn’t seem to be an issue with the XM5s, which offer up to eight hours of playback time on a single charge, with 16 more hours in the charging case. In case you’re in a hurry, a three-minute charge can get you up to an hour of additional listening time.

The XM5s are available in Black and Silver color varieties. For more information, see our review of the Sony WF-1000XM5.

Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds
Source: Sony

Sony WF-1000XM5

Best Noise-Canceling Earbuds

The Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds are about 25 percent smaller than the WF-1000XM4, making for a more comfortable listening experience while retaining great sound quality.

FAQ

How do I pair my wireless earbuds with my iPhone?

Your earbuds will have instructions for putting them in pairing mode, but in most cases just power them on and hold the power button until you hear a notification that they’re in pairing mode. On your iPhone, open Settings, tap on Bluetooth, then select your earbuds to pair them.

How do I pair my wireless earbuds with my iPad?

Follow your earbuds manufacturers’ instructions to enter pairing mode or hold the power button after turning them on until you hear a notification. Open the settings app, go to the Bluetooth section, then select your earbuds to pair them with your iPad.

How do I charge wireless earbuds?

Wireless earbuds usually come with a charging case. To charge your earbuds, simply place them in the case. To charge the case, plug it in via the port usually found on the bottom, or place them on a wireless charging pad if the case supports wireless charging.

How do I clean wireless earbuds?

Wipe down the outside of the earbuds using a soft cloth and rubbing alcohol. You can clean the inside with something soft like a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol. A can of compressed air can also help clean dust off of earbuds. We have a guide on how to clean your earbuds if you need additional information!



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By John P.

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