Just when you thought Amazon already was doing the most, the tech giant reached a whole new level of extra when it dropped eight new Echo devices yesterday, including a ring, glasses, and earbuds — so now you can literally wear Alexa on your hands, face, and ears. The most practical of the bunch are Amazon's new Echo Buds, Alexa's first foray into headphones.
In addition to all the normal hands-free wireless headphone fixings and fare, what differentiates these buds from other options already on the market (and specifically, Apple's AirPods) is their noise-reducing feature — made possible with Bose Active Noise Reduction Technology — which can be turned on when the user wants to drown out surrounding noise, a technology previously reserved for more heavy-duty over-ear headphones.
As far as battery life, you get five hours of music or four hours of call time with a full charge of the Echo Buds, as compared to AirPods' five hours of music and three hours of call time. But after just a 15-minute charge, you get up to two hours of juice on the Buds and up to three hours of music and two hours of talk time with the AirPods. Meanwhile, the Echo Buds charging case holds up to 15 hours of music or 12 hours of talk time, while the AirPods charging case holds up to 24 hours. TLDR: on the charging front, the two are pretty comparable.
The Echo Buds case is larger than that of the AirPods (and more similar to the bulky PowerBeats Pro case), so it won't fit as inconspicuously in a pocket, but the buds themselves are small and sleek. Like AirPods, they can also connect to Siri via your phone, but they can also connect to Google Assistant, and, of course, Alexa (and her 90,000 skills) via your phone's Amazon Alexa app. Also, later this year, users will be able to ask Alexa specifically about what Whole Foods has in stock and what aisle to find it in (because that's a thing we all need to be able to do?).
In terms of pricing and availability, Echo Buds are currently available for pre-order for $129.99 and will start shipping in October. By comparison, AirPods with the wireless charging case come in at $199, while the ones with the normal case cost $159, and Apple's PowerBeats Pro will set you back $249.95.
Time will tell if the Echo Buds will give AirPods a run for their money, though they'll probably entice those who haven't yet gotten bit by the AirPods bug with their slightly lower price and noise-reducing feature. But old habits die hard. In a hilarious twist of fate, Amazon exec Dave Limp spoke to press yesterday about the new Echo Buds while wearing a single AirPod, and it all felt so very 2019.