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Galaxy Buds Plus unveiled: Better battery life, sound, call quality and more Apple-friendly

Samsung's new AirPods competitor look the same as their predecessors, but they're improved on the inside. They'll cost $150.

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The Galaxy Buds Plus will come in four color options (red not shown).

Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung has a new set of true wireless earbuds that looks a lot like its old set of true wireless earbuds. But the Galaxy Buds Plus, launched Tuesday alongside the company's new trio of Galaxy S20 and Galaxy Z Flip smartphones, have some improvements on the inside that are designed to boost performance significantly.

Alas, while they feature the same noise-isolating design, they don't offer active noise-cancellation like Apple's AirPods Pro do. But their battery life is rated at 11 hours for music playback (up from six), they have improved drivers for better sound and an additional microphone in each bud to help with external noise reduction while making calls. At $150, they cost $20 more than the Galaxy Buds, but rumor has it that those who preorder the Galaxy S20 Plus and S20 Ultra will get them for free. (UK and Australian prices are TBA.)

Cosmetically, the Galaxy Buds Plus look identical and have the same dimensions as their predecessor. However, they do weigh 6.3 grams (0.2 ounces), or 0.7 grams more than the Buds. That's because they have a larger battery and two-way drivers (with a woofer and tweeter) as opposed to a single driver. The battery case, which charges via USB-C, is also equipped with a larger battery. 

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The other noteworthy changes are multidevice pairing -- an often overlooked feature that many people appreciate -- and an iOS app geared to make the Galaxy Buds Plus more friendly to iPhone owners. That app launched last week and has already garnered many negative reviews from current Galaxy Buds owners because it doesn't appear to be compatible with the Buds, only the Buds Plus. 

At a preview event, CNET's Scott Stein got a chance to try the new earbuds. They fit fine, he said, "just like the previous Galaxy Buds." But Samsung didn't allow him to listen to any audio, so we can't tell you how much better they sound. See more from Scott in the video embedded above.

When I reviewed the original Galaxy Buds, I thought they sounded decent but lacked the richer sound and more powerful bass of some competing models. The new two-way drivers should help there. And the added external microphone for better noise reduction during calls should help correct the earphones' biggest weakness. 

The buds look the same as their predecessor but weigh slightly more, thanks to new components on the inside.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Galaxy Buds Plus keep the same touch controls. Highlighting Samsung's partnership with Spotify, you can now launch the music-streaming service from the buds themselves without touching your phone -- a small feature upgrade.

Like the Galaxy Buds, the Buds Plus have an IPX2 rating for water-resistance (they can resist water that hits the product at 15% angle or less). The also have the same "ambient aware" mode that allows you hear the outside world. 

The Galaxy Buds Plus will be available online on February 14 and in stores on March 6 in black, white, blue and red. We'll have further first impressions, including comments on how they sound, as soon as we get our hands on a working sample. I don't think these will slow the sales of AirPods, but the original Galaxy Buds have a lot of fans and this new version, while not a game-changer, seems to be a worthwhile upgrade.