When one is in the market for a pair of earphones, especially for fitness, cables are the last thing you’d want to fumble with. Especially while running, the sheer weight of earphones cables are what would make the earphones fall off. Samsung introduced the new Gear IconX which essentially lets you be free from all the fuss of cables.
What Is It?
The Samsung Gear IconX is a pair of fitness-oriented wireless earbuds that let you go about your daily fitness routines without cables holding you back. Be it running, working out in the gym, or even dancing, the Gear IconX stays on you, letting you freely move about.
In terms of hardware, the Samsung Gear IconX feature a heart rate monitor, accelerometer, as well as a capacitive touch sensor for gesture controls. Samsung also equipped the Gear IconX with ambient sound microphones and 4GB of internal storage.
There’s a 47mAh battery on the earbuds and it comes with a 315mAh charging case. The Gear IconX supports Bluetooth 4.1 but only on Android 4.4 devices and above, no support for iOS devices. For water (and sweat) resistance, the Gear IconX is coated with splash resistant P2i nano coating.
Ridding the need of cables, Samsung lets you truly be free with your audio for an asking price of RM699. Is that fair of a price for audio freedom?
Is It Any Good?
When I first got the Samsung Gear IconX, I immediately loved how small it was. The earbuds size was nice and compact, and the material was comfortable to the touch. After fitting the suitable wingtip and putting them on, I was welcomed with a gentle fade-in tone. There was also a voice prompt that notified me of the remaining battery level.
Comfort wise, I found that the Gear IconX was really easy to wear and the whole time I’ve been using them, they stayed on. To test how well they could stay on to my ears, I put on different genres of music. The Samsung Gear IconX managed to survive every test I throw at it from gentle-nod pop music to headbanging heavy metal. I’ve shaken my head left and right, up and down in the most violent of ways and the Gear IconX sticks like glue.
Samsung also included a charging case for the Gear IconX, which I feel is the best thing about the wireless earbuds. Not only does the case house the earbuds, it charges them while they’re being stored away. The clasp slowly releases the top lid of the case so the earbuds don’t fall out. On the front of the charging case, the two light indicators light up when the earbuds are being charged. Round the back there’s the microUSB charging port, so you could use any microUSB cable to charge up the case, even with a powerbank.
When it comes to audio quality, the Gear IconX had just the right amount of bass, but the treble was all over the place (we’ll get to that later). There is no noise cancellation on the Gear IconX, and to help you stay aware of your surroundings, the Gear IconX has an ambient mode where the microphone will pick up sound from your surrounding environment. It’s a pretty neat feature, but I had a hard time hearing what the people around me were saying (I don’t think that’s what the feature is meant for, though).
The Bad Stuff. Tell Me.
As mentioned above, the bass on Gear IconX sounds just right, but the treble was a little too much for comfort. Often times, I had to lower down the volume because the treble was so sharp that it sounded annoying to continue running or working out. To remedy this, you could just listen to your music at a lower or ‘safe’ level. Also, there’s this weird crackle that I hear from time to time. It’s not very noticeable, but if you really listen for it, you can hear it.
Being fitness-oriented wireless earbuds, I felt that the fitness tracking was rather iffy. Apart from connectivity issues, I felt that it was not accurate and the results are merely meant to be a reference. The heart rate monitor can also be a little wonky at times, and when it does work, it would keep giving you voice prompts about your heart rate in the middle of your favourite songs.
You can stream audio from your phone via Bluetooth, or load up your own music to the 4GB internal storage on the Gear IconX. However, transferring music to the Gear IconX requires me to connect the charging case with the earbuds in it to the PC via microUSB. The transfer can take quite a while and I would have preferred if you could just transfer your music from your phone via Bluetooth.
Another thing that upsets me is the fact that the Gear IconX constantly refuses to connect to my smartphone. For example, if my phone is connected to the Gear Fit2, it will not connect to the Gear IconX. And that’s odd, considering Bluetooth 4.1 standards allow for multiple connected devices.
Also, I was surprised to find that the Gear IconX only has a splash resistant coating. It would be nice if it was water resistant to be able to bring it for a swim or during showers. For that reason I had apprehensions rinsing the earbuds after each workout.
Voice prompts on the Gear IconX are very useful, but not if someone is spamming you with messages. By default, the Gear IconX is set to give voice prompts for every notification from your smartphone. So if you’re a chatty person on instant messaging apps, you might want to change the settings from the Gear Manager app.
Because of how small the Gear IconX is, battery life is limited. The most I could get on a full charge with Bluetooth streaming was one and a half hours of continuous usage. With the onboard storage, I could get two hours and fifteen minutes of music. With that, Samsung keeps its promise of providing one to three hours of battery life, but it means you’ll need to charge them after every workout.
The touch sensor on the Gear IconX is very responsive – almost too responsive at times. From the Gear Manager app, I could choose which side of the earbud was the main side to perform gesture controls. I could tap once to play music, swipe left and right to skip or go to a previous track, and more.
But here’s what I mean when I say the sensor is too responsive. To start a workout, I had to tap and hold on the touch sensor. Most of the time, it recognises the gesture wrongly and I would be standing there just playing and pausing music. But once I’ve got it right, a voice prompt would tell me a workout has been started, followed by a three-second countdown.
Should I Buy It?
After using it for two weeks, I would recommend waiting for the Gear IconX 2. Yes, it frees you from cables, it’s comfortable to wear, light, and comes with all the accessories you’d ever need, but connectivity issues and battery life are crucial in making a successful product.
Truly wireless earbuds are a relatively new product series, and to be honest, Samsung’s effort with the IconX is one of the better ones we’ve seen so far. The concept of wireless freedom remains one that isn’t fully fulfilled yet, but if Samsung improves on this first product, I can’t wait to see what the Gear IconX 2 would be like.