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Samsung Galaxy Buds: AirPod alternatives with wireless charging arrive March 8 for $130

Wireless charging through the Galaxy S10, always-on Bixby and they're cheaper than AirPods.

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Buds charge on the phone.

Jason Hiner/CNET

Samsung's new Galaxy S10 phones have brand-new wireless earbuds, and they charge right off the back of the phone. Are they Samsung's answer to Apple's AirPods? Well, kind of. But also, they're an evolution of Samsung's existing fitness earbuds, too.

Apple wasn't the first company to make wireless earbuds. In fact, Samsung beat Apple to the punch several years ago with the Gear Icon X fitness earbuds, which had onboard fitness tracking and music storage. Samsung's newest wireless buds are more colorful, focus on music fidelity instead of fitness and aim for an AirPods-undercutting price of $130, arriving March 8. (Converted, that's about £100 or AU$180.) Here's what you need to know about Samsung's new Galaxy Buds from our early look.

Wireless charging, through the phone: These earbuds' coolest trick is that their contactless charge-enabled case works with Samsung's new Wireless PowerShare charging on the back of the Galaxy S10 phones. Drop them on your phone, and they'll charge up, at the equivalent of 5W (a rough estimate of a fully dead case to fully charged would be an hour). The case can also charge via USB-C.

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Black and yellow.

Jason Hiner/CNET

Smaller than previous Samsung earbud cases: Samsung says the Galaxy Buds are 30 percent smaller overall than the Gear Icon X earbuds. According to Samsung, dropping onboard music playback from the Gear Icon X helped shrink these new Buds. (The Buds in their case still end up being a bigger package overall than AirPods.)   

Five to 6 hours of battery life in buds, an extra 7 hours in the case: Samsung estimates these will last for 5 hours of talk time, or 6 hours of music. That beats AirPods, which get about 2 hours of talk time and 5 hours of music. The case should contain the equivalent of another full charge plus an hour or so.

Sound by AKG: Samsung's acquisition of Harman means AKG branding on these earbuds. We'll see how they sound, but these are technically Samsung's first wireless Qi audio devices that are AKG-tuned. Samsung also promises better audio quality through amplified dual microphones. There's an outer and inner mike per bud, and they help filter out noise during calls.

Bluetooth 5, and improved connections to multiple devices: These earphones should have greater range thanks to Bluetooth 5, which isn't in AirPods yet. Samsung also promises a new between-device connection feature called Connection Shift, which will swap between a watch and phone faster. According to Samsung, this will even work on non-Samsung wearables.

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Jason Hiner/CNET

One-tap Bixby (or Google Assistant, or Alexa): Bixby is on by default so you can control your phone via the Galaxy Buds, but yes, you can have it use Google Assistant instead, or whatever voice assistant you choose on the phone to be the default. Bixby (or another assistant) can be commanded by a tap, like in previous Gear Icon X earbuds. Among the things Bixby can do, if you're curious: make calls, send texts, check battery, advance to the next song. Bixby coaching, a previous fitness-focused feature, is gone.

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Tap controls: There are tap-sensitive spots on the Buds to use as controls, too, but stay tuned for specifics.

You can use just one earbud: Like an AirPod.

Color choice: Black, white or yellow. Samsung doesn't have any coral-pink Buds, but the yellow ones do seem pretty striking. At least there's a choice in color.

Free for Galaxy S10 preorders: Samsung's tossing in Galaxy Buds with early preorders of the S10 phones before March 8. It's not a bad extra to have, and probably beats previous bonuses like a Gear VR headset for utility.