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Samsung Icon X 2018: AirPod alternatives get a battery boost

In addition to much better battery life, the newest version of Samsung's fully wireless headphones also gain Bixby support.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Samsung beat Apple to the punch when it unveiled its first "truly wireless" headphones back in June 2016. And unlike the AirPods ($219 at Amazon), the original Icon X headphones included heart rate monitoring, too. But the first-gen models were a nonstarter thanks to one bad spec: Battery life was a meager 90 minutes between charges in the included battery case.

Thankfully, Samsung has corrected the battery issue with an updated model, announced Wednesday at IFA in Berlin. The new Icon X 2018 now has 5 hours of battery life when streaming audio from a phone, and the battery case -- itself chargeable with the included USB-C cable -- can deliver a full recharge to the buds, effectively doubling that. 

In fact, the Icon X headphones can deliver an extra hour of playback time in "standalone" mode. Instead of pairing them to your phone, you can load digital music files onto the internal storage (4GB per bud). Another plus for runners: tapping the headphone activates the Running Coach feature, which provides aural feedback on your progress.

The new Icon X headphones also add support for Samsung's Bixby assistant -- tap and hold the earbud to access voice control on your paired Galaxy phone. 

That said, don't expect to use Bixby on your iPhone: Like their predecessors, the Icon X 2018 headphones are designed to work only with Samsung phones running Android 4.4 and above. (We suspect you'll be able to stream audio from any Bluetooth device, however.)

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The 2018 Icon X refresh will be available in black, gray and pink. 

Exact release dates and pricing for the Icon X weren't immediately available. We'll update this story once that changes.

In addition to the Icon X, Samsung also announced a watch and a fitness band: the Gear Sport and the Gear Fit 2 Pro.

See CNET's complete coverage of IFA 2017.

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