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IFA Berlin '17: Look ma, no wires!

While Apple isn’t usually the first to unveil a totally new technology, they’re often either the perfecters or tone-setters. When it was revealed that the iPhone 7 would come sans headphone jack, bluetooth earbuds went from a nice-to-have to a must-have for many. And though AirPods weren’t the first totally wireless ear buds to hit the market, Apple’s moves have forced its rivals and competitors to jump directly into the wireless ear bud game.

At IFA Berlin 2017—Europe’s biggest consumer electronics show—wireless ear buds seem to be everywhere. Everyone from Samsung to Sony to B&O have unveiled new entries into the space. AirPod sales have been strong, and will only get stronger as more and more people upgrade to iPhone 7s and beyond and have a need for Bluetooth headphones. Apple’s competitors, as usual, are trying to up their games and differentiate their products from the standard bearers (Apple already has another strong advantage given that it owns Beats, one of the most popular headphone brands out there).

Samsung revealed its Gear Icon X wireless ear buds, flaunting 5-hour streaming audio on a full charge and five additional hours from the charging case. They also come with Bixby voice assistant capability, granted, of course, the ear buds are paired with a Galaxy device. B&O made an interesting choice in their reveal this week. The E8 ear buds will come in priced at $299, twice the price of AirPods. B&O is hoping that the odd-to-some look of AirPods will urge some to splurge for the E8’s sleeker look, as well as the company’s reputation for sound quality. They only last 4 hours on a charge, and that’s one more hour than Sony’s WF-1000x, also revealed at IFA this week. But Sony is clearly hoping to catch the audiophile audience, as they come with full or partial noise cancellation technology.

It remains to be seen how successful these competitors and others are to infiltrating the wireless ear bud space. When more and more phones follow Apple’s trail and come without a headphone jack, more folks will have to go wireless. We don’t yet know what the masses will look for in their wireless ear buds. Will it be audio quality? Price? Battery length? Design and look? If IFA 2017 is any indication, consumers will soon have plenty of options to test out.

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