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Article updated on April 9, 2024 at 6:00 AM PDT

Best Wireless Headphones and Earbuds for iPhone 12

Need a swanky new pair of the best earbuds for iPhone? We'll run through all the top options.

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
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Our Picks

$249 at Apple
Image of Apple AirPods Pro 2 (USB-C)
Best Apple noise-canceling wireless earbuds
Apple AirPods Pro 2 (USB-C)
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$80 at Amazon
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Best new budget wireless earbuds
Earfun Air Pro 3
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$180 at Amazon
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Best sports buds for everyday use
Beats Fit Pro
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$150 at JBL.com
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Best AirPods Pro alternative for less
JBL Live Pro 2
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$198 at Amazon
Image of Sony LinkBuds S
Best Sony compact mid-range wireless
Sony LinkBuds S
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$70 at Apple
beats-flex-10
Most affordable Apple headphone
Beats Flex
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$398 at Amazon
Image of Sony WH-1000XM5
Best new noise-canceling headphones
Sony WH-1000XM5
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$549 at Apple
Image of Apple AirPods Max
Best premium over-ear headphones for iPhone users
Apple AirPods Max
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$205 at Amazon
Image of Bose QuietComfort 45
Latest Bose
Bose QuietComfort 45
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$167 at Amazon
Image of Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3
New Sennheiser flagship earbuds
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3
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$149 at Amazon
Image of AirPods 3
Best open wireless earbuds
AirPods 3
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The iPhone 12 and newer iPhone models lack a headphone jack, so you'll need to invest in an adapter to use a wired headset with any of Apple's newer models. You don't need to bother with any of that if you opt for an entirely wireless option. The best earbuds for iPhones tend to be wireless anyway, so if you haven't already made the leap, now is a great time to pick up a pair of wireless earbuds. 

Apple offers earbuds and headphones under both its own brand and its Beats brand (yes, Apple owns Beats). We've included the AirPods 3, AirPods Pro 2 and Beats Fit Pro on this list, but plenty of non-Apple-branded Bluetooth headphones and earbuds offer a great listening experience and work well with iPhones. They are also compatible with other Apple devices and non-Apple devices, including Android smartphones and tablets. 

For those looking for budget AirPods alternatives, we've got a list of the best cheap earbuds and five true wireless earbuds worth buying for under $40.

$249 at Apple

Best Apple noise-canceling wireless earbuds

Apple AirPods Pro 2 (USB-C)

The new AirPods Pro (2nd generation) are powered by Apple's new H2 chip, which delivers more processing power while being more energy efficient, according to Apple. The new chip, combined with new low-distortion drivers, allows for improved sound that offers better clarity and depth. The noise canceling is also improved. Apple says the new AirPods have "double" the noise canceling of the original AirPods Pro. Additionally, the new AirPods add an extra hour of battery life, up from five to six hours with noise canceling on. Plus, a speaker in the case that emits a sound that helps locate your buds via Find My should they decide to hide from you.

$80 at Amazon

Best new budget wireless earbuds

Earfun Air Pro 3

Earfun has put out a series of wireless earbuds over the last couple of years with one important commonality: They're very good value, made more so by frequent discounts. The company's 2023 Earfun Air Pro 3 earbuds feature the latest Qualcomm QCC3071 system-on-a-chip with AptX Adaptive for Android and other devices that support the new LE Audio standard and LC3 audio codec, which is superior to the SBC codec (they also support AAC for Apple devices).

Lightweight and comfortable to wear (with a good seal) these aren't a huge upgrade over the Earfun Air S, but they are better. They have slightly larger wool-composite drivers (11mm versus 10mm), slightly improved noise canceling and better battery life; up to seven hours with noise canceling on, according to Earfun.

The Earfun Air 3 delivers strong performance for its modest price, with robust bass, good clarity and a relatively wide soundstage. They also pack in a lot of features, including a wireless charging case and "multidevice" connectivity. (I could pair them to two devices simultaneously but had to pause the music on one device and hit play on the other for the audio to switch.) They're IPX5 splash-proof and also work well (although not exceptionally well) as a headset for making calls. 

$180 at Amazon

Best sports buds for everyday use

Beats Fit Pro

While the Beats Fit Pro (on sale for $180) technically aren't AirPods, they're built on the same tech platform as the AirPods Pro (yes, Apple owns Beats). Unlike Beats' earlier and less expensive Studio Buds, the Beats Fit Pro includes Apple's H1 chip and has most of the AirPods Pro's features, including active noise canceling, spatial audio and Adaptive EQ. I'd venture to call them the sports AirPods you've always wanted. For some people, they might just be better than the AirPods Pro.

$150 at JBL.com

Best AirPods Pro alternative for less

JBL Live Pro 2

Over the years, JBL has put out some decent true-wireless earbuds, but nothing exciting enough to write home about. That's finally changed with the arrival of the Samsung-owned brand's new  and  buds. Both sets of buds -- the Live Pro 2 has stems while the Live Free 2 has a pill-shaped design -- offer a comfortable fit along with strong noise canceling, very good sound quality and voice-calling performance, plus a robust set of features, including multipoint Bluetooth pairing, an IPX5 splash-proof rating and wireless charging.

The Live Pro 2 and Live Free 2 are equipped with the same 11mm drivers, six microphones, oval tubes and oval silicon tips. Aside from the design, the biggest difference between the two buds is battery life; the stemless Live Free 2 is rated for up to seven hours, while the Live Pro 2 is rated for 10 hours. The Live Pro 2 is available in four color options.

Pros:

  • Very good sound and a comfortable fit
  • Good noise canceling and call quality
  • Multipoint Bluetooth pairing 

Cons:

  • Included ear tips might not get you a tight seal
  • Chrome accent on the stem is a bit gaudy
$198 at Amazon

Best Sony compact mid-range wireless

Sony LinkBuds S

Unlike the "open" LinkBuds, the LinkBuds S are traditional noise-isolating earbuds with tips that jam in your ears. They're more compact and lighter than Sony's flagship WF-1000XM4 and also feature Sony's V1 processor. While their sound and noise canceling don't quite measure up to the XM4s, they're close and cost less. They're the Sony buds for people who can deal with larger buds like the XM4 but want 80 to 85% of those buds' features and performance for $85 less.

$70 at Apple

Most affordable Apple headphone

Beats Flex

I didn't think I'd ever see a version 2.0 of Beats' once-popular BeatsX neckband-style wireless earphones, but it's arrived with a new name -- the Beats Flex -- and a much-cheaper $50 price tag, which is half of what its predecessor had been selling for. 

The Flex instantly becomes an affordable, Apple-friendly wireless alternative to the AirPods, which start around  (but will be selling for as low as $99 this holiday season). The good news is they sound better than both the original BeatsX and standard AirPods. They also work well for making calls and have better battery life than the original. The bad news? The design is passé in a world now dominated by true wireless earbuds.

$398 at Amazon

Best new noise-canceling headphones

Sony WH-1000XM5

When you have a product that a lot of people love, change can be risky. Such is the case for Sony's WH-1000XM5, the fifth generation of the 1000X series headphones, which were first released in 2016 as the MDR-1000X Wireless and have become increasingly popular as they've improved with each generation. Over the years, Sony has made some tweaks to the design, but nothing as dramatic as what it's done with the WH-1000XM5. Other than the higher $400 price tag most of those changes are good, and Sony's made some dramatic improvements with voice-calling performance as well as even better noise canceling and more refined sound.

$549 at Apple

Best premium over-ear headphones for iPhone users

Apple AirPods Max

Yes, they're expensive, but the AirPods Max delivers richer, more detailed sound than lower-priced competitors from Bose and Sony. They also feature arguably the best noise canceling on the market along with premium build quality and Apple's virtual surround spatial audio feature for video watching. While they're heavy, they manage to be surprisingly comfortable, though I did have to adjust the mesh canopy headband to sit a little more forward on my head to get a comfortable secure fit when I was out walking with them. They should fit most heads well, but there will be exceptions.

$205 at Amazon

Latest Bose

Bose QuietComfort 45

The QuietComfort 45 has virtually the same design as its predecessor, the QuietComfort QC35 II, which many people consider one of the most comfortable over-ear headphones, if not the most comfortable. It has the same drivers, according to Bose, and the buttons are in the same place. There are small but notable changes. First off, these thankfully have USB-C instead of Micro-USB.

Secondly, the microphone configuration is different. Not only have the mics been shifted on the headphones, but there's now an extra external microphone for voice pick-up, which means the QC45 has a total of six microphones, four of which are beamforming and used for voice. By contrast, the QC35 II has a total of four, two of which are used for voice. (The Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 also have six microphones total.)

These headphones are excellent for making calls. They're similar to the Bose Headphones 700 in that regard. They also include top-notch noise canceling and multipoint Bluetooth pairing, so you can connect them with a PC and your phone simultaneously. Read our Bose QuietComfort 45 review.

$167 at Amazon

New Sennheiser flagship earbuds

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3

Featuring excellent sound, improved noise canceling and voice-calling performance as well a smaller, more refined design that includes stabilizing fins (so the earbuds stay in your ears more securely), the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 were among the best new true-wireless earbuds last year. They're also one of the best true-wireless earbuds overall, giving the Sony WF-1000XM4 a run for the money.

$149 at Amazon

Best open wireless earbuds

AirPods 3

Take one look at the new design of the third-gen AirPods ($179), and the first thing you'll probably think is: "Those look like the AirPods Pro without ear tips." You wouldn't be wrong. While they're more fraternal than identical twins, the AirPods 3 are shaped like the AirPods Pro, with the same shorter stems and pinch controls as those of the Pro. Aside from the design change, which should fit most ears better than the AirPods 2nd Generation (although not very small ears), the biggest change is to the sound quality: It's much improved. Also, battery life is better, and the AirPods 3 are officially water-resistant.