Ever since the removal of the headphone jack, finding the best iPhone earbuds has been a little tricky. Either you have to deal with a dongle and not be able to charge your phone, or you have to go wireless. Apple obviously wants you to do the latter, and with that in mind, we figured we’d help you out a bit when it comes to choosing which pair is right for you. If you want the best iPhone earbuds then don’t overthink it, most people should just get the AirPods Pro.
Editor’s note: the article was updated on July 12, 2021, to include the Sony WF-1000XM4, Master & Dynamic MW08, and Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen), which replaced the Sony WF-1000XM3, Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 2, and Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2.
Apple’s new AirPods Pro is the best iPhone earbuds
With the release of the AirPods Pro, picking the best earbuds for iPhone users suddenly became a very clear choice. While there are other great options you can choose from later in this list, the seamless integration of the AirPods Pro with any iOS device gives them an obvious edge over the competition.
Apple AirPods ProFull Review
Like all other Apple headphones that come with the H1 chip such as the original AirPods or the Beats Solo Pro, pairing to these is as easy as hitting “Connect” on the card that pops up on your device. What sets the AirPods Pro apart from the pack is that Apple includes silicone ear tips and a software-powered ear tip fit test (iOS only) to ensure that you’ve found the right fit. You also get other nifty features like noise cancelling and a transparency mode. The latter uses microphones to help you hear what’s going on around you.
The case still charges via Lightning cable despite how the included cable is USB-C to Lightning. So close Apple, so close. Still, you can always throw them on any Qi wireless charger to juice them up which is nice. You can expect about 5 hours of battery life with active noise cancelling turned on.
Related: Apple AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM4
The long stem is much shorter now, and it’s actually functional now: you can squeeze it or long-press it to control playback and toggle active noise cancelling. Microphone quality is very good for a set of earbuds, but the mics can’t completely nullify wind noise.
Taking into account the ease of use, versatility, and reliable connectivity, Apple’s new AirPods Pro are unsurprisingly the best iPhone earbuds on the market. Say what you will about the one-trillion-dollar company, it knows how to produce products that play nicely with each other. And if you already own a handful of Apple products, the AirPods are the next logical purchase for seamless integration into your daily routine.
What you should know about the best Apple earbuds
There are a few things to pay attention to when picking out the best iPhone earbuds. None of it is rocket science, but minimal attention to detail gets you a long way with your iOS audio headset.
What Bluetooth codec matters most with iPhones?
Although there are plenty of Bluetooth codecs supported by a variety of devices, the only one that you need to care about with regards to the best iPhone earbuds is the AAC codec. Apple doesn’t support aptX or LDAC, so AAC is your only option. And while AAC isn’t CD quality it performs best with Apple devices.
Seeing as Apple is Apple and loves proprietary hardware and software, the AAC codec is the only one that’s compatible with the company’s products. If you’re looking at headphones that support aptX, aptX HD, or LDAC, that’s all well and good but won’t be of much help in your quest to find the best iPhone earbuds.
How much does battery life matter?
Music lovers: how long do you listen to your headphones each day?
— Android Authority (@AndroidAuth) August 7, 2018
Upon polling Android Authority readers, we found that a majority of you listen to your music between one and two hours a day. That’s significant, especially when accounting for the listed true wireless models. In order to test true wireless battery life, we use objective measures and subject the earbuds to an infinite loop of pink noise set at an output of 75dB(SPL). That way, we can consistently test each product, allowing for greater testing reliability and minimal variance.
What if you don’t like how studio-quality headphones sound?
We here at SoundGuys can type until our fingers go numb about the importance of neutral frequency response, but that isn’t what’s most pleasing to everyone. Yes, if you’re looking to hear the audio as the audio engineer intended, you should use studio headphones, because those products will have the closest thing to a Platonic, flat response. But most of us want our headphones to be fun and reproduce an “energetic” sound, not necessarily an analytical one.
When deciding on the best Apple earbuds, the importance of slightly emphasized low-end and treble was taken into account as the former denotes “liveliness,” while the latter facilitates a perceived increase in clarity; to get a better picture of this, read up on the equal-loudness contour.
The Beats Powerbeats Pro has the best battery life of any iPhone earbuds
If you like the idea of seamless integration with your iPhone but want a more secure fit when you’re exercising, then you should look into the Apple Beats Powerbeats Pro. These buds sport an ear hook design and actual nozzles that insert into the ear canal, which improves sound quality and stability.
Apple Beats Powerbeats ProFull Review
Battery life comes in at an insane 10 hours, 48 minutes before the earbuds need to be recharged, and even that’s a snappy process: 5 minutes of charging yields 90 minutes of playback. Just like AirPods Pro, combined battery life clocks in at more than 24 hours of listening.
AAC support and H1 chip integration ensure lag-free audio streaming. The updated chip also allows for hands-free access to Siri just like the new AirPods. The earphones have an IPX4 rating and can get through even your hardest workouts.
The Powerbeats Pro is loaded with sensors to streamline operation. Removing the buds from your ears automatically pauses playback, and accelerometers detect when you’re speaking to guide the microphone when you’re in a loud environment. There’s also a button and volume rocker on each earbud, too. If you’re a sporty iPhone owner, get the Powerbeats Pro.
Hush your surroundings with the Sony WF-1000XM4
Sony really thought this one through. The foam ear tips beget excellent noise isolation, which significantly improves the noise cancelling performance and sound quality. The ANC is among the best available in true wireless earbuds right now, so if top-notch noise cancelling is your main criterion, you can’t pass up the Sony WF-1000XM4.
Sony WF-1000XM4Full Review
The Sony WF-1000XM4 has a fairly accurate frequency response with de-emphasized treble notes. While you might want to adjust the equalizer settings if you’re not keen on the loud bass levels, Sony’s Headphones Connect app makes that a breeze. Tidal, Deezer, and Amazon Music HD users among you will get to enjoy spatial audio with Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 is a great pair of earbuds for everyday use. Its nearly 8-hour battery life will get you through almost a full workday of nonstop listening and the USB-C charging case can top you up two more times and some. You can even recharge the case wirelessly if you own a Qi power mat. The microphone is decent and the speech detection feature improves call quality further.
If you love taking your earbuds out and about, the Sony WF-1000XM4 won’t let you down. The IPX4 water resistance rating means you won’t have to worry when you get into a light rain, and wearing the Sony WF-1000XM4 while working out is no problem, either. Again, the foam ear tips save the day by providing an extra tight fit.
Stand out with the well-designed Master & Dynamic MW08
There’s more to the Master & Dynamic MW08 than unique design. These earbuds also impress passersby with excellent build quality, not least because they sport an IPX5 water resistance rating. You can’t take the MW08 for a swim, but intense workouts or light showers shouldn’t be a problem.
Master & Dynamic MW08Full Review
One of the best features of the Master & Dynamic MW08 is its call quality. Three microphones separate speech from background noise, producing a clear sound. While the playback sound quality is fine overall, it does emphasize bass levels, and there’s no way to adjust EQ settings. You can switch between different ANC modes in the Master & Dynamic Connect app, which also lets you activate the auto-off timer and in-ear detection.
The ANC is much better than in previous models, but it’s lacking in sub-bass frequencies. A tighter fit could have improved the noise isolation in the higher frequencies, as it does with the Sony WF-1000XM4, but the good thing is that you can easily upgrade your ear tips.
As an iOS user, you’ll only care that the MW08 includes AAC, but in case you do have an Android device kicking around, you should know that it also supports aptX and features Bluetooth 5.2.
Control your smart home with the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen)
You wouldn’t get a pair of Amazon Echo Buds if you didn’t want to use Alexa, or would you? Not only will you gain an in-ear digital assistant, but with ANC, IPX4 rating, and a battery of Alexa app features, these earbuds also happen to be quite affordable for what they offer. And you can set them to use Google Assistant or Siri, if you prefer.
Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen)Full Review
Let’s get the bad news out of the way: the sound isn’t great, but it’s good enough. You can fix it using the equalizer within the Alexa app. Here, you’ll also find the Ear Tip Fit Test, which helps you identify the best ear tips to use with your Amazon Echo Buds. Remember that a good seal improves sound isolation, which in turn improves sound quality.
Those tight-fitting ear tips help tremendously with blocking out environmental noise. ANC can take the edge off of whatever still gets through. With ANC enabled, the Amazon Echo Buds mute the kinds of background sounds you’re likely to encounter during your commute. You can toggle ANC settings using the capacitive touchpad on either earbud or the Alexa app.
The app is core to the Amazon Echo Buds. In addition to all the features mentioned above, you can use it to find your earbuds, enable wake words, customize tap controls, gather workout data, access live battery data, or switch to power-saving mode.
The one thing to be mindful of is that the battery life per charge is just under 5 hours. That’s enough for most people, but if you travel frequently or want to use your Amazon Echo Buds for more than just your commute, it might be a deal-breaker.
Ready to spend big? Get the Apple AirPods Max noise cancelling headphones
The Apple AirPods Max is the company’s debut over-ear noise cancelling headphones, and Apple is confident you’ll want to buy them. So confident, in fact, that they cost $549 USD. While this is certainly cost-prohibitive for many shoppers, those locked into the Apple ecosystem may find the H1 chip conveniences justify the high price.
You might like: Best noise cancelling headphones
This hybrid noise cancelling system rivals that of the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, Apple’s main competitors in the ANC headphones space.
The Apple AirPods Max house an H1 chip in each headphone to maximize processing power.
You also get access to features like Adaptive EQ and Spatial Audio with head tracking. The former is a technology we’ve seen from the Apple AirPods Pro, and it makes real-time adjustments to the sound profile depending on how well the headset fits. Spatial Audio, on the other hand, is Apple’s take on surround sound and supports 5.1, 7.1, and Dolby Atmos content, which is great for movie playback.
The cost is a hard pill to swallow, but if you want noise cancelling headphones that operate seamlessly with your Apple devices, perhaps the AirPods Max is worth the purchase.
Best iPhones earbuds: notable mentions
- Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2: This affordable set of true wireless earbuds has one of the best microphone systems around, outperforming those double the price.
- Apple AirPods: The original AirPods design works for plenty of people but if you’re going to pay for an Apple product, get the Pro model instead.
- Beats Flex: This is the successor to the BeatsX, equipped with Apple’s W1 chip for reliable connectivity, a 12-hour battery life, magnetic housings, and audio sharing with other Beats headphones or AirPods.
- Beats Powerbeats: You get nearly all fo the same features as the Powerbeats Pro for a more reasonable cost.
- Beats Studio Buds: Apple packed great sound quality into these great fitting and compact earbuds. The Beats Studio Buds also support quick pairing with Android devices and charge via USB-C.
- Bose Sport Earbuds: This is one of the latest true wireless earbuds Bose has to offer, featuring a sleek design, IPX4 water-resistant build, and intuitive touch controls.
- Bose QuietComfort Earbuds: This is Bose’s latest flagship true wireless earbuds—delivering excellent active noise cancelling in an IPX4 water-resistant build. These buds are essentially the in-ear version of the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.
- Jabra Elite Active 75t: Durability is the name of the game with these IP57-rated earbuds. Not only do they operate via Bluetooth 5.0, they also support multipoint connectivity. This means you can connect them to two devices at a time. Other features include quick charging, excellent mic quality, and automatic ear detection. If you’re willing to sacrifice some durability for a few bucks, the Jabra Elite 75t is also a great option.
- Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro: By far, the coolest feature of these earbuds is the AI-enabled TicHear and TicMotion technology. The former of which allows users to say, “Hey Tico” for hands-free access to Siri or Google Assistant. That’s right, Mobvoi worked out a clever way to sidestep H1 chip or Google Assistant integration.
- Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus: Samsung’s Galaxy Buds lead the true wireless pack in battery life and have much-improved microphone quality over the first-gen model. If you want AAC support, a whimsical design, and wireless charging for less, get these.
- Sennheiser CX400BT: If you like the idea of the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 2, but don’t want to pay a premium for noise cancelling, consider these earbuds instead. The CX400BT’s sound profile is identical to the MOMENTUM True Wireless 2 with a more urban design and cheaper price.
- Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 2: Among true wireless earbuds, it’s tough to top the sound quality, controls, and fit of the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 2.
- Sony WF-1000XM3: A great option for athletes and commuters alike. This well-designed pair of earbuds will isolate you from the world when you want it.
- V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex: Arguably some of the most durable headphones on the market, the Crossfade 2 Codex includes both aptX and AAC support. Plus, you can customize nearly everything about these cans, even the screws.
How we tested the best iPhone earbuds
We made sure to subject each candidate and pick to our battery of objective testing which includes isolation, frequency response, and battery life. We respect that listening is a subjective experience, while also acknowledging that sound can be measured and discussed objectively at the same time.
Learn more: How we test
Yes, our trio of tests are fundamental, but they analyze what consumers care about the most as it applies to the best iPhone earbuds and wireless earbuds in general. Regarding battery life readouts, your mileage will likely vary as it depends on how loudly you’re listening to your music. In order to combat this variance, we subject each unit to a constant 75dB(SPL) output. Additionally, in most cases, you can improve isolation by using third-party ear tips.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
Working at SoundGuys serves as each of our day jobs; yes, it is a dream. We get paid to listen and test as many products as possible while constantly researching, which means that our opinions aren’t influenced by the companies manufacturing them. If we don’t like something, we say it. Simple as that.
Additionally, each of us has several years involved in the audio community, and after having kept up with the audio industry for years, we’re able to easily tell the gimmicks from the goldmines. If you have the time or desire, feel free to read our full ethics policy here.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Beats Powerbeats Pro offer additional features over the standard Powerbeats, including a prolonged battery life, true-wireless design, and an IPX4 water resistance rating. This expanded feature set does come at a cost, putting both earbuds in two different price brackets. Make sure to read Lily's article for a more detailed comparison between the two earbuds.
Yes, any of the listed wireless products are also compatible with Android and any Bluetooth-enabled device. We selected our picks as the best iPhone earbuds because they have iOS-friendly features like AAC support or, in the case of the AirPods Pro, H1 chip integration.