It sometimes feels as if the tech world is obsessed with the AirPods ($178 at Walmart), the first-ever wireless headphones to be released under the Apple brand. But the iPhone maker was not the first company to release a so-called "truly wireless" headphone -- models that feature standalone left and right earpieces, unencumbered by a connecting wire, and charge up in an included battery case. Such pioneers in the category as Earin, Kanoa and Bragi were showing off models as early as January 2016, eight months before the AirPods were unveiled alongside the iPhone 7 ($550 at Boost Mobile) by Tim Cook.
Bragi was arguably the nascent category's first flagbearer. The German startup had a highly successful Kickstarter for its first totally wireless "smart" earphone called The Dash that shipped in early 2016. The $300 Dash (roughly £225 or AU$395) was also laden with sensors, so it could double as a fitness wearable. It got off to a rocky start, garnering some critical reviews, but has improved with subsequent software upgrades.
The company is back with a second headphone that it simply calls "The Headphone." (OK, then.) It, too, is completely wireless and consists of two wireless earbuds and a charging case. It's much more affordable than The Dash, carrying a list price of $149 (roughly £110 or AU$195).
The Headphone is essentially a stripped down version of the $300 Dash -- both in terms of features and materials. Gone are the Dash's fitness tracking functions, on-board MP3 player and waterproofing. The Headphone is all plastic, and its included charging case is made of plastic instead of metal. It also doesn't have a built-in battery for recharging the earphones, which is a bit of a problem.
But let's start with the positives. The Headphone works -- and by that I mean the two earbuds maintain a steady connection and they also paired and re-paired with my phones without a problem. (I use anand in my tests.) They're lightweight and fit in my ears well and stayed there.
I also thought the integrated microphone worked pretty well for making calls -- at least in quieter environments.
With the step-up Dash, which has upgradeable firmware and touch controls, there's an app to control a set of advanced features, but these wireless earphones have no app and their firmware isn't upgradeable.