Samsung’s New Galaxy Buds Live Earbuds Are Beans for Bixby Fans
Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds Live earbuds bring a unique shape and a focus on devices with the Bixby voice assistant. The bean-shaped hearables arrive just six months after the Galaxy Buds+ debuted, highlighting how competitive the market is becoming and serving as an upgraded alternative for fans of Samsung smartphones, the first with hands-free Bixby activation.
The Galaxy Buds Live nestle in the ear in a deeper fit than Apple AirPods, but without the protrusion of AirPods Pro and other designs. They include a couple of options to change their size but may not fit every ear comfortably. One former user told Voicebot she had to return her earbuds because it wasn’t possible to make them small enough to fit into her ears, for instance.
While the Galaxy Buds Live can connect to any Android or iOS smartphone, it’s only on Samsung devices that they reach their full potential. Wearers can turn on Bixby Voice, which skips the wake word and allows users to simply state their request or question without any preamble, as illustrated above. Otherwise, “Hi Bixby” can be a hands-free wake word as the Apple AirPods, Google Pixel Buds 2, and Amazon Echo Buds do with their respective voice assistants. On non-Bixby devices, other voice assistants can be awakened by customizing what a long press or up to three taps on the earbuds does.
Bixby’s centrality to the new hearables suggests the voice assistant is not on the point of vanishing. Reports that Bixby was on the verge of execution emerged last month during rumors of a deal between Google and Samsung to promote Google Assistant on Samsung devices, possibly eliminating Bixby. The rumors were bolstered when Voicebot reported that Adam Cheyer had left Samsung. Cheyer co-founded Viv Labs, which provided the foundation for Bixby. If Bixby is truly on its way out, then starting sales of a product aimed especially at Bixby users right before pulling the plug would be a terrible way for Samsung to retain the loyalty of its consumer base.
Samsung also upgraded the audio software for its new earbuds with an active noise cancellation feature. By design and because of the earbud’s shape, this isn’t the complete blockage of sound that the AirPods Pro or other earbuds may offer, though. Samsung claims the Galaxy Buds Live can eliminate background noise while allowing any important sounds through, so a fan may be blocked, but a car horn will be as loud as ever. The connected app can even adjust the noise cancellation to allow more noise in if the wearer wants. The battery lasts eight hours if Bixby Voice and noise cancellation are turned off, dropping to 5.5 hours with both on at the same time, although the case provides another 21 hours when fully charged.
The new earbuds are $169, $20 more than the Buds+ cost, and further highlighting the strange release timeline for the newer product. Samsung appears to be aiming both versions to compete with the $159 Apple AirPods, $179 Google Pixel Buds 2, $150 JBL earbuds, and Amazon’s $129 Echo Buds. They are still far cheaper than the $249 AirPods Pro or Microsoft Surface Earbuds. One reason for the decision to bring the new earbuds out now might be because the pace of the market is faster than Samsung had previously predicted. The Galaxy Buds Live do offer some signs of hope for Bixby’s future, at least for a little while.
“Wearables are among the fastest-advancing technology sectors, and the pace of progress is only accelerating,” Samsung Electronics president and head of mobile communications business TM Roh said in a statement. “In recent months, we’ve seen immense growth in the market as people turn to smartwatches and earbuds to help them thrive in the ‘Next Normal.'”