The Beats Studio Buds were one of Apple’s worst-kept secrets, having been leaked several times until its June 14 release.
From months before, we knew how the Studio Buds would look, what colors they’d come in, and what active noise cancellation they’d sport.
Little did we know that they would be the first Beats headphones (and by extension, the first Apple headphones, as the tech giant owns the brand) to support One-Touch pairing with Android phones as well as iOS devices.
They don’t come with the H1 headphone chip (nor its W1 predecessor) that’s seen in the AirPods range of headphones and wireless earbuds. Is Apple drawing distance between its own audio devices and the Beats brand? It definitely looks like this.
Whether you’ve used Beats headphones or not, you’ve almost certainly heard of the brand. It was founded in 2006 by rapper Dr. Dre and record producer Jimmy Iovine, and quickly became a leading company in the world of personal audio.
Its huge market share and cool branding are likely what attracted Apple, which acquired Beats in 2014 for an astonishing $3 billion.
Since then, with Apple working hard to improve Beats’ reputation for rolling out overly bassy headphones that no real audiophile would go anywhere near, the sporty Powerbeats Pro veered toward a well-balanced soundstage. .
The Powerbeats Pro also came with the same H1 headphone chip found inside the Apple AirPods and AirPods Pro, allowing for faster pairing times and the ability to summon Apple’s AI assistant Siri with your voice alone.
Aside from the name and design, the Powerbeats Pro is essentially a pair of AirPods, which come with all the functionality you’d expect from a pair of Apple headphones — and that includes customization with iOS devices.
it’s all in the chip
However, the Beats Studio Buds are different. Instead of coming with the H1 headphone chip, they sport a proprietary Beats chip – and this allows for one-touch pairing with Android devices as well as iOS devices.
This is a first for any pair of Beats headphones, and suggests that Apple is taking a different approach with the brand than its own headphones, which are traditionally ‘locked in’ into the Apple ecosystem.
Sure, you can use a pair of AirPods with an Android phone, but you miss out on a lot of quality-of-life features, like automatic switching between devices and the ability to listen with a single earbud.
The Beats Studio Buds bring back some functionality, like built-in controls, the ability to check your battery level, and firmware updates via the Beats app — and that all-important one-touch pairing feature.
However, the use of the Beats headphone chip means you’re missing out on some AirPods features; For example, they don’t support iCloud device syncing or multipoint pairing.
Hence, they cannot be called the best Beats headphones for Apple devotees, especially if you like to be able to switch between your MacBook Pro and your iPhone with minimal fuss. But, they may be the best Beats headphones for Android users – and by extension, the best Apple headphones for Android.
a different perspective
Does this mean that Apple is shifting its products away from Beats headphones? We can’t know for sure, but the fact that the Studio Buds work exactly the same way for Android as they do for iOS suggests as much. After all, Apple isn’t exactly known for being OS-agnostic.
Also, the Studio Buds cost significantly less than other Beats and Apple headphones. They cost $149.99 / £129.99 / AU$199.95, which is much cheaper than the Apple AirPods Pro. Admittedly, it’s not cheap for a pair of true wireless earbuds, but it’s certainly not on the high end of the price scale either.
Apple has surprised us in the past with low prices – just look at the $99 / £99 / AU$149 HomePod Mini – but it’s not in the tech giant’s nature to buck the competition.
So, it’s possible that the Studio Buds represent a new focus for the Beats brand — to offer more affordable, less Apple-focused versions of their owner’s audio products. We’ll have to wait and see what Beats does next, but don’t be surprised if we see a pair of AirPods Max-style over-ear headphones with Android compatibility and an affordable price tag in the near future.