Getting fit usually means wristbands and watches, but a handful of companies are trying out ears. Samsung is now in the fitness earphone game with the Gear IconX, debuting later this year. They're small buds that combine fitness tracking with Bluetooth earphones that also can store music locally.
Other companies have done this before, but Samsung's buds are also completely, independently wireless. Two separate buds, no connecting wire or neckband necessary. They nestle in their own charging case, which tops off the battery life twice. The IconX battery life is estimated at 3-ish hours on its own as a fitness tracker and music player, or an hour and a half when paired and streaming from a phone.
I tried a prerelease prototype pair of IconX buds on for a few minutes, and they sounded pretty good. Samsung throws a handful of ear tips in the package, and they sounded better to me than other Bluetooth fitness buds I've recently worn. They also come with an ambient sound passthrough mode, which let me hear things around me.
Onboard heart rate monitoring tracks activity, and a touch button on the earphones can be used to start and end workouts. I wasn't able to go outside for a run, but holding my finger down on the IconX's earbud button gave me some audio feedback on how I was doing. I found it hard to navigate the menu with one-finger touch controls, though.
IconX earbuds will sync with Samsung S Health, but also pair with Endomondo, MapMyRun, Runkeeper and Strava as a Bluetooth heart rate monitor. They'll work with anyone who has an Android 4.4 phone -- sorry, no iOS support -- but the music playback part of the Icon X is limited to storing MP3s, or streaming music from your phone.
At $199 in the US (equivalent to £138 in the UK, or AU$275), the Gear Icon X are not outrageously priced for what they offer. But the battery life definitely seems on the low end compared to other options. And if I'm already interested in fitness and Samsung products, I'd probably be more inclined to get the Gear Fit 2 and a standard (less expensive) pair of wireless headphones. But we'll have a better opinion on them when they debut later this year. Samsung says "Q3," which means sometime between July and September. We'll get a better idea of how they work when we get a final review unit then. Working out without a screen isn't easy, but the convenience of these little buds might be worth it.