What do you get when you take an audio device, give it touch controls, make it as small as humanly possible and stick some fitness tracking functions on it? The Samsung Gear IconX.
The Samsung IconX is, in essence, Samsung’s attempt to cut the cord and make a rather futuristic pair of earbuds that is a step into a compact, yet wire-free future for fitness devices. You could compare it to say, Apple’s Airpods, but it’s quite different in its own right, in not just form but function. It’s just as much a fitness device as it is a set of earphones.
The IconX is pretty tiny as far as earbuds go. They’re about the size of a 20 sen coin and features three sizes of earbuds and rubber wings to keep them wedged in snug.
In terms of looks, they may not sport the same sleek looks as Apple’s Airpods, but for what they lack in sexiness they make up in size and function. These earbuds don’t only house their own internal storage of 4GB, they’re also home to an accelerometer and a heart rate sensor.
Considering how small the earbuds are, they could have a tendency to get lost if you don’t carry the case around with you at all times, so you’ll have to be aware of that.
You also get a small storage case that also acts as its battery charging dock and a battery case of sorts, which you use to charge the IconX. The front has two LED indicators that will tell you the state of each earpiece, showing green when it is full and red when it’s charging. This case, in turn, is charged via a microUSB slot at the rear which has its own power indicator.
This is also the method which you transfer your music from your computer to the unit’s internal storage. Each earpiece has 4GB each, with about 3.5GB usable storage, though it’s stated that you cannot store more than 1,000 songs as any additional music would not be detected.
Also, if you want to listen to the stored music, make sure that both earpieces are loaded with the same songs, else, it will only play from one side. If you’re too lazy to do it manually, the IconX PC Manager will handle it for you.
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As far as comfort goes, the IconX is quite nice to wear. The options for the wings and the earbuds themselves are nice to have as my ears are not only small but are also different on both sides yet I managed to get a good fit.
They also provide a good seal against the outside word, but given the amount of battery life it has, you probably won’t be having them on for very long.
However, if you’re worried that they’re blocking the world out too much, Ambient mode will ensure you can hear your surroundings while you exercise.
Performance and battery life
Being sans buttons, the whole thing is operated via touch controls, which can be issued from either side of the IconX.
Tap it once to play or pause, tap twice to go to the next track and triple tap to listen to the previous song. To get to the menu readout, tap and hold to bring up exercise mode and ambient mode. To increase or decrease volume, you swipe.
You can use the IconX to control your music on your smartphone too, though tapping to pause the device does have a bit of lag when responding. When you’re done, just put it down and it will automatically go inactive, no off buttons needed.
As for the battery, the device really doesn’t have much in the way of battery power. Sporting just 47 mAh in each earbud and the cradle itself possessing only 315 mAh, we didn’t expect it to last particularly long. The good news is, the cradle can be used to charge your earbuds to full at least twice before needing a recharge.
In terms of general longevity, when playing straight from its storage it lasted about 2 hours and 30 minutes while streaming from our phone or the Gear Fit2 only gave us about an hour and a half of listening time.
The good news is, the cradle can be used to charge your earbuds multiple times. We do find that our right side tended to discharge a bit faster than the left, but it’s not incredibly substantial. When the power is getting low it will shoot voice prompts at you so that’s great.
We did, however, have some issues with the connection when it was connected to my ASUS ZenFone Selfie. The connection frequently dropped while I was using it over Bluetooth and it didn’t play nice with the S-Health app till I did a manual software update using the IconX manager.
For a mobile device, it is rather silly that you still need to run it through a PC just to get software updates.
However, it didn’t seem to have the same problems when being used with a Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, so it might be some slight compatibility issues if you’re not a Samsung user. Samsung says it will work on any Android 4.4 device but it will work best on a Samsung device.
As for the fitness functions, the IconX does have a fitness mode which will not only track your heart rate and distance to your S-Health app, but it will also tell you your progress at set intervals. Ambient mode, on the other hand, lets you listen to your music while still letting you be aware of your surroundings and that works fine too, though it amplifies some of the ambient noises a little.
In terms of sound quality, the IconX comes off sounding rather average.
Generally speaking, it sounds clear and the mids and highs are alright but it’s lacking in bass. Obviously being a fitness gadget it won’t measure up to your best pair of dedicated earphones but at least it’s decent.
Perhaps when (and if) they produce the next gen of IconX earbuds, they’ll sound a lot better.
Everything considered, we pretty much see this as a device you’ll whip out only when you’re ready for a workout. The battery life is also a bit of a disappointment, but given how much they’ve managed to cram into a small space we suppose it’s forgiven.
On a Samsung device, it should work best, though if you’re running a different brand expect some possible compatibility issues. You also need to run it through a PC to do updates so it can be rather inconvenient at times.
For the price of RM699, it’s a bit steep for a Bluetooth headset, considering you can get something similar out of a Jabra or a Sony headset for less. While it probably won’t be great as your daily driver, it still is one of the most unobtrusive bits of audio kit we’ve seen so far.
Samsung Gear IconX Images