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Surface Earbuds: Microsoft's answer to Apple's AirPods

The new true wireless Surface Earbuds are arriving later this year for $249.

The Surface Earbuds will ship later this year for $249.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Update, May 6, 2020: The Microsoft Surface Earbuds are now available to preorder, for less than previously announced: $200 (£200, AU$320). Our original story from October 2019 follows.

Last year Microsoft released a pair of Surface noise-canceling headphones. This year it's jumping on the true wireless bandwagon with its new cord-free Surface Earbuds. While we're awaiting more info and a full list of specs, what we do know is that they'll be released in time for the holidays and cost $249. At its Surface Event in New York on Wednesday, the company touted the Surface Earbuds' comfortable fit, tap-and-swipe controls that allow you to access Spotify playlists without touching your phone (for Android users) and on-the-fly translation capabilities, with support for 60 languages. 

The event also saw the launch of the Surface Duo dual-screen Android phone, Surface Neo dual-screen tablet and Windows 10 X software for dual-screen devices. More conventional new products included the Surface Laptop 3, Surface Pro X and Surface Pro 7 tablets and the SQ1 custom Arm chip.

Now playing: Watch this: Microsoft's Surface Earbuds are touch-friendly

As far as the Earbuds go, they have an open design, much like Apple's AirPods, but look almost like earrings on the outside with a disc-shaped exterior -- think Pixel Buds, but without the cord. They also feature integration with Microsoft Office apps.

As for battery life, Microsoft says the Surface Earbuds deliver a healthy 8 hours of battery life from a single charge and the charging case (with USB-C charging) provides an additional three charges. They're slash-resistant, with an IPX4 rating.      

Last week, Amazon announced its new true wireless Echo Buds ($130) with integrated Alexa support. The Surface Earbuds' $249 price tag puts them in premium territory, so they better sound very good and be stellar for making calls. According to Microsoft, each earbud is equipped with "custom-designed drivers that are precisely tuned to deliver an exceptional acoustic experience" along with two microphones to "deliver exceptional voice recognition and call quality."

I'll post a full review of the Surface Earbuds when they're released later this year.