Samsung Gear IconX (2018) - wireless earbuds that sound great

The Samsung Gear IconX (2018) is the successor to the original IconX wireless in-ear headphones that was launched in 2016.

It comes in three colours: pink, grey and black (the version tested). Like the original, there is no cable connecting the right and left earbuds.

It not only streams music from a smartphone, but its 4GB internal storage also stores and plays music. It also tracks workouts.

To ensure a good fit, it comes with three earbud tips and three wing tips in different sizes. I managed to get a really snug fit for my runs and workouts.

The earbuds look very much like its predecessor. They slot neatly inside the included pillbox-shaped case that doubles as a charger.

This charging case is smaller than its predecessor's and has a USB-C charging port at its rear instead of the original's micro-USB port.

Beside the charging port is a Bluetooth button. Press it to start the pairing process with the smartphone.


    PRICE: $268

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth


    WEIGHT: 8g (per earbud), 54.5g (charging case)


    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5




    OVERALL: 4/5

The earbuds have to be inside the case and the Samsung Gear Android app is needed for the pairing to work. With iOS devices, the features are limited to just music playback only. For this review, the IconX was paired with a Samsung Galaxy Note8.

The first thing you need to do with the Gear app is to select one of the earbuds for tracking workouts. While users can use both earbuds for the touch controls, only one earbud can be designated to start tracking a workout.

There is an ambient sound mode with this app, which when turned on, allows users to hear what is happening around them when wearing the earbuds.

The app also lets users transfer music from a smartphone to the IconXvia Bluetooth or using a USB-C cable. With Bluetooth though, they can transfer only one song at a time.

The cable option is much better, as it allows the transfer of a bunch of songs at one go. I am able to transfer 70 songs from the Note8 to IconX in four minutes and 27 seconds using a USB-C cable. In comparison, it takes around two minutes to transfer just one song using Bluetooth.

Once paired, the IconX will automatically connect to the smartphone when the earbuds are put into the ears. Remove one earbud when talking to your friends and the music will still play.

Take both earbuds out and the music will stop. However, the earbuds will not automatically shut down when idle. To turn them off, put them into the case.

The earbuds do not have any physical buttons. But both have a small touchpad for touch controls. Swipe up and down to control volume, tap once to play or pause a track, double-tap to play the next track, and triple-tap to play the previous track. However, the earbuds sometimes register my swipes as taps and pause or play the next track.

Thankfully, activating the workout mode is easy. Just tap and hold to start tracking a workout and do the same at the end of the workout. Wearing it for a jog on my usual 5km route, I find the distance tracked by the IconX to be only about 500m more than the actual distance. Not bad for a device without GPS.

Audio quality is also much better than its predecessor. Vocals sound more detailed. I hear a more powerful bass compared with the original.

Its predecessor's major bugbear was its poor battery life, at around 45 minutes when streaming music from a device. The new IconX is said to have a five-hour battery life. The battery lasts around four hours during my tests - much better than its predecessor.

Verdict: The Samsung Gear IconX (2018) is a huge improvement over its predecessor in terms of battery life and audio quality. It would have been perfect if its tap controls are more intuitive.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2018, with the headline 'Samsung Gear IconX (2018) - wireless earbuds that sound great '. Print Edition | Subscribe