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Galaxy Buds 2 add new features: 8 must-know tips for Samsung's new wireless earbuds

From setup and basic touch controls to pairing Buds 2 with an iPhone and checking for a proper fit -- we cover it all.

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Galaxy Buds 2 come in all sorts of fun colors. 

Drew Evans/CNET

Samsung unveiled a whole bunch of new hardware at its Galaxy Unpacked event this week. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 are finally official, and there are two new smartwatches -- the Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic -- that run Google and Samsung's hybrid wearable OS, and then there are the Galaxy Buds 2. These $149 completely wireless earbuds come in several different colors, have active noise cancellation and boast impressively long battery life. 

The Buds 2 go on sale Aug. 27, so you still have a couple of weeks before you can get your hands on the new earbuds. That said, it's never too early to start getting acquainted with new and improved features. Below I'll walk you through several tips and tricks to help you get the most out of Samsung's Galaxy Buds 2.

Before you start using your Galaxy Buds 2 with any Android phone, tablet or watch, you'll need to install the Galaxy Wearable app from the Play Store. 

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How to pair your Galaxy Buds 2

To pair your Buds 2 to your Android phone, place the Buds 2 case (with the buds inside it) next to your phone. Open the lid and wait a second or two. A prompt will show up on your phone letting you know it has found the earbuds and ask if you want to connect them to your phone. Tap Connect and then follow the rest of the prompts, which likely includes downloading a Buds 2 plug-in for the Wearable app. 

If you don't see the prompt, you can either close the case for a second or two and try again or manually pair the Buds 2 to your phone. To do that, open the Wearable app and then select Add new device and then follow the prompts. Either method works and is impressively quick. 

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Use the touchpads on the side of each earbud to control playback. 

Drew Evans/CNET

Get to know the Buds 2 touch controls

There's a giant touchpad on each earbud that you can use to play or pause music, skip tracks or change listening modes without having to use the Wearable app. 

You can turn off touch controls altogether in the Wearable app if you want, but I find them useful, and I'm sure after using them for a few days you will too. Here are the basic controls you can use:

Tap: Play/Pause Double-tap: Play next track Triple-tap: Play previous track Touch and hold: Switch between active noise canceling and ambient sound

To turn any of the touch controls on or off, or to customize the touch and hold gesture, open the Wearable app and select Touch Controls

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Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Adjust active noise cancellation and ambient sound mode

The Buds 2 are some of the cheapest wireless earbuds to offer both active noise cancellation and an ambient sound mode. ANC comes in handy when you're working in a noisy environment and want to focus on the task at hand. Ambient sound mode is nearly the exact opposite of ANC -- when in use, you can still listen to music, but the earbuds will let in some of the background noise. I've personally used this kind of mode when ridging a bike on a street so I can hear as cars approach, or when in an airport and I'm waiting for boarding instructions. 

You can switch between ANC and ambient with a long press on either earbud, or you can open the Wearable app to make the change. When you use the app you're given extra control over ambient sound mode. To test it out, open the Wearable app on your phone and select Ambient sound from the Noise controls section. Once selected, you'll see a slider show up underneath the controls -- that slider makes it possible to control how much ambient sound is let through. 

How to check battery life

Checking the current battery life status of your earbuds and/or the case is as simple as opening the Wearable app and looking for the charge percentage of each device at the top of the screen. If you don't see the battery status, make sure your earbuds are connected to your phone. 

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There's a new proper fit tool that makes sure you're using the right ear tips. Use it. Trust me. 

Drew Evans/CNET

Make sure your Buds 2 have a proper fit

Samsung built a new tool for the Buds 2 that helps you find the right fit with the changeable ear tips that come in the box with your Buds 2. Out of the box, the Buds 2 have the medium ear tips installed, and you can easily change them just by pulling them off and then pushing a different size on. 

Before you do that, though, open the Wearable app and tap Earbud settings. On the Settings page, find Earbud fit test and select it. With both earbuds in your ears, tap Start. You'll hear a chime sound as the progress bar moves across your phone's screen. Once it's done, the app will tell you if you have the right fit or if you need to change tips. The test took less than 5 seconds to run and confirmed that the default tips are the right size for my ears. 

Dive into the Settings of your Buds 2

While you're in the Settings section of the Wearable app, take a few minutes to check it out. It's in the Settings section where you can adjust how the earbuds sound, select which apps the earbuds will read your notifications to you from, enable Bixby or update the Buds 2 software. 

If you game a lot on your phone, go to Settings > Labs and turn on Gaming Mode. With Gaming Mode turned on, your Buds 2 and phone will reduce the latency when transmitting audio and should do a better job of matching the sounds to what you see on your phone's screen. 

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The Galaxy Buds 2 can work with non Android devices, it just takes a little more effort. 

CNET

Pair the Buds 2 with a Windows PC

The Galaxy Buds 2 listing page on Samsung's website states that you'll need an app to manage and control the Buds 2 on a Windows PC, but I can't find it in the Microsoft Store. I tried the Galaxy Buds app, but it doesn't recognize the Buds 2. Perhaps Samsung will release an update prior to the Aug. 27 launch. 

However, you can easily pair the Buds 2 with a Windows PC just by opening the case near your computer. They work with Swift Pair in Windows 10. That means when you open the case and your PC recognizes the Buds 2 are nearby, an alert will show up on your screen asking if you want to pair the earbuds to your PC; a click of the mouse later, your Buds 2 and PC are connected and ready for use. 

How to pair Buds 2 with an iPhone or Mac

You can use your Buds 2 with an iPhone, Mac or another device that's not powered by Android, but it's a little tricky to get set up. Samsung isn't going to update its Galaxy Wearable app for iPhone to support the Buds 2, so you'll lose out on quick setup, tweaking settings, updating firmware or checking battery levels. And to complicate things, there isn't a physical button on the Buds 2 charge case that triggers pairing mode. 

Instead, you'll need to place the Buds 2 in the charging case and then long-press each earbud's touchpad for three seconds. The indicator light will start to blink red and green, letting you know the Buds 2 are in pairing mode. 

With the buds in pairing mode, go through the normal Bluetooth pairing steps on your phone, tablet or computer to connect the Buds 2. Remember, though, without an official Samsung app, you're not going to have total control over the Buds' settings. You can still use the touchpad to play, pause or skip through an album, and you can even trigger ANC or Ambient Mode with a long-press.

Want to know more about the Buds 2? Check out our full review. As for the new foldable phones, well, you can preorder those right now. Here's what you need to know. We also have more information about the new Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic if a new smartwatch is in your future.