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Headphones

Return of the Samsung Gear IconX wireless earbuds for $79.99

These sold out quickly last time, but they're back! Plus: Need an inexpensive wired headphone for your iPhone 7? You got it!

CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page. And find more great buys on the CNET Deals page.


The Samsung Gear IconX employs a carrying case that also recharges the 'buds.

Samsung

Quick note about yesterday's deal: Although the vendor had over a thousand units in stock, Cheapskate readers quickly snatched them up, leaving only the medium, not-on-sale, version. Sorry if you missed out, but rest assured I'll share the deal again once there's more inventory. If it helps, even I missed out!

I'm also sorry about the Best Buy TV deal -- that was my bad. By the time I posted, inventory was apparently limited to local stores, and few (if any) actually had any units in stock. Usually I pay much closer attention to that kind of thing, but yesterday I failed to.

Speaking of sellouts, today's deal is a straight up rerun, because it sold out quickly last time and I wanted to give you another chance to get it.

You've heard of Apple's AirPods, right? Announced last September, they offer totally wire-free audio. And no doubt you've also heard of Samsung's Gear IconX, a similar product announced roughly six weeks earlier?

Yeah, me, neither. Guess Apple is better at getting people to... wait for it... listen when it announces new products. Eh? Listen?

The IconX went on sale last August with a retail price of $199, but reviews were decidedly mixed. At this price, however, you might be more inclined to overlook a few flaws.

What price? For a limited time, and while supplies last, TechRabbit once again has the Samsung Gear IconX cord-free fitness earbuds for $79.99 shipped when you apply promo code CNSAM50 at checkout. Make sure you select the New - Hassle-Free option as the code won't work for the others. If it's not available, that means that SKU is sold out. Again.

These are new, not refurbished, and sell elsewhere for at least $123. Apple's AirPods, incidentally, run $159.

Let me note straight away that although the IconX can pair with an iPhone, only Android users can leverage the heart-rate monitor and fitness-tracking features. Yep: These earbuds are like a Fitbit for your ears.

'X,' man

Because of the aforementioned reviews, and because CNET hadn't contributed an opinion, I asked TechRabbit to loan me an IconX to test. Which I did, primarily with a Galaxy S6. Sure enough, this is a flawed product. It's also a great one, at least in some respects, and well worth considering at this price.

First, the flaws:

  • Initially, they sounded weak and tinny, largely because the medium-size eartips didn't make a good seal in my ear canals.
  • The range is poor. I walked two rooms away from the phone and experienced serious dropouts.
  • The earbuds' touch controls are very sensitive and easy to graze by accident.
  • Battery life is a paltry 1.5 hours, though that's if you're streaming from your phone and using the fitness features. Leave the phone and fitness out of the equation and you can get closer to 4.5 hours.
  • As with many Bluetooth audio devices, there's a slight sync delay with video sources. So these aren't great if you're planning to, say, watch Netflix on the treadmill. (Actually, I don't have this issue with my Shadow Wireless earbuds.)
  • Some kind of wired connection (to either your phone or your PC) is required if you want to copy music to the earbuds.

Now, the good stuff:

  • Once I swapped the medium eartips for the large one, I got a perfect seal, and the audio quality went from "meh" to "excellent."
  • Like Apple's AirPods, the IconX comes with a travel case that's also a charger. Similarly, the earbuds automatically turn on and connect when inserted into your ears, and pause playback when removed.
  • With 4GB of onboard storage, the IconX can hold up to 1,000 songs. That means you can enjoy music even without your phone.
  • If you do bring your phone, built-in microphones allow you to take calls. Cooler still, you can activate them to allow ambient sound to pass through. I tried watching TV while listening to music. There was no delay at all between the onscreen images and what I was hearing.
  • Heart-rate monitoring! And activity-tracking! I didn't have time to test either feature at length, but I did verify that they work. Whether or not you're better off with a fitness band of some kind -- something you can wear full-time -- is open for discussion.
  • They're splash- and sweat-resistant. (Don't wear them in the shower.)
  • These don't look nearly as goofy as the AirPods. Just saying.

So there you have it: My "review" of the IconX. Would I pay $199 or even $129 for it? Nope. But $80? If you're in the market for completely cord-free earphones, this is worth a look. Do your homework, though, and read other reviews.

Bonus deal: Now let's look at the opposite of wireless. If you bought an iPhone 7, you may be experiencing headphone remorse -- by which I mean you find yourself longing for the simplicity of wired earbuds, at least sometimes. I can't give you back your headphone jack, but I can give you this: TechRabbit (yes, today is unofficial TechRabbit Day) has the Apple Earpods with Lightning connector for $14.99 shipped when you apply promo code CNAPL5 at checkout. Regular price: $19.99. Apple's price: $29.99. It's just my two cents, but I've always liked the Earpod design.

Bonus deal 2: This isn't a deal in the traditional sense, but Apple just introduced new 9.7-inch iPads with a starting price of $329 and 32GB of storage. Now we're getting somewhere? This is a pretty big move for Apple, lowering the price and doubling the storage. My question for you: Does this make you more inclined to buy an iPad? I mean, for once, the pricing is at least competitive.