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What’s the Difference Between Wireless and True Wireless Earbuds

True wireless earbuds seemed like a fad a few years ago. But today they are one of the most popular ways of listening to music among users. 

And for good reason. 

Not only are they stylish, but they’re convenient. All you have to do is pop one wireless earbud into each ear, and you are good to go. You can now enjoy your favorite music while working at home, training at the gym, traveling on the train, or relaxing by the pool.

And let’s not forget wireless earbuds. They’ve been around for many years and other than wireless headphones, were the preferred method of wireless listening.

But, with these two forms of wireless listening, what’s the difference between true wireless earbuds and wireless earbuds?

In this post, we discuss what wireless earbuds and true wireless earbuds are. We also highlight the differences between the two, as well as their pros and cons.

Let’s get started.

What Are True Wireless Earbuds?

True wireless earbuds are cordless earbuds that not only connect wirelessly to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth connectivity the buds themselves also connect wirelessly together. Which means no more tangled wires in your pockets.

True wireless earbuds come with a charging case, and on a single charge, they can deliver roughly 5 hours of listening and talk time. Some models have a quick charge feature, which will enable you to charge the earbuds a good amount in 15 minutes.

Because these buds have no wire to house the playback controls, you’ll now find these functions on the buds themselves in either a touch sensitive option or as a physical button on the buds. These playback controls will vary by model.

These earbuds will allow you to make and receive calls, control music playback, and access smart assistants like Siri or Google Assistant.

Examples of popular True wireless earbuds include Apple AirPods, Samsung Galaxy Buds, and Beats Powerbeats Pro.

What Are Wireless Earbuds?

Wireless earbuds are also Bluetooth enabled earbuds that allow you to listen or receive calls wirelessly. But unlike True wireless earbuds that have no wire connecting the two buds, wireless earbuds do.  

The wire connects both buds and acts as a pathway for transmitting sound between the buds. It also houses the earbud’s controls, such as volume and a microphone. One similarity between the two – true wireless and wireless earbuds – is that neither have a cord connecting the earbuds to the audio source.

Wireless earbuds also make listening to music and talking on the phone, on the go easy, because they are of high quality and built to last. They work by pairing or connecting with Bluetooth enabled devices via Bluetooth technology.

As such, they have a tiny chip inside the earbuds containing Bluetooth radio and software. Bluetooth technology has improved drastically. Many people complained of poor connectivity in their early days. Today Bluetooth connectivity is of high quality.

When shopping for wireless earbuds, it’s important for you to know that there are three main types of wireless earbud designs. The first design are wireless earbuds like the Beats Powerbeats3 where the cable rests on the back of your neck with a cable tightener to secure the cable as tight or as loose to your liking. The second design are earbuds like the Jaybird x4 wireless headphones where the cable rests on the back of the neck with a longer cable and looser fit. The last earbud design is the neckbud design which are wireless earbuds such as Samsung Level U with a solid neckband that keeps the wire in place. 

What’s the Difference Between Wireless and True Wireless Earbuds?



There are four main differences between TWS and wireless earbuds: charging, battery life, automatic connectivity and built in smart assistants.

Charging Method

True wireless earbuds have a charging case that allows you to charge the earbuds and case via USB cable. The charging case also acts as a portable power bank to recharge your earbuds without the use of a cable. Some cases can recharge the earbuds anywhere from one time to up to four times depending on which truly wireless earbuds you get before having to recharge the case.

Wireless earbuds on the other hand have a built-in battery, but to charge the battery, you need to connect a USB charging cable directly and not via a charging base. 

This leads into the next difference…

Battery Life

Wireless earbuds have roughly 8 hours or more of battery life on a single charge. When it comes to true wireless earbuds, they have a battery life of up to 3 hours (talk time) and 5 hours (listening time) on a single charge. But with the added charging case that comes with TWS earbuds, you can add up to an additional several charges boosting the overall playback time to almost 15 to 20 hours.

Automatic Connectivity

Truly wireless earbuds oftentimes have the ability to integrate with devices such as smartphones and tablets. This gives the ability to automatically pair true wireless earbuds like the Samsung Galaxy Buds or Apple’s AirPods to compatible devices when you take them out of their case without having to manually pair them through Bluetooth. 

This isn’t the case for all true wireless earbuds so it’s important to do some research to find out which models do. 

Wireless earbuds don’t have this feature.

Built in Smart Assistants

True wireless earbuds support AI assistants such as Siri and Google Assistant. As such, you can search the internet or perform other functions using voice commands like scheduling appointments, setting reminders, or making phone calls giving you a more hands free experience.

What Are the Pros and Cons of True Wireless Earbuds?

Now that you know the main differences of these types of earbuds, now let’s talk about the pros and the cons of True Wireless Earbuds.

Pros

  • Wire Free – The biggest pro for TWS earbuds is the design. You can put the buds in your ears and you don’t have to worry about wires getting in the way of anything. You can turn your head and not have to worry about a wire tugging at the earbud and eventually pulling it out. It’s really freeing when you get a pair.

    You also don’t have to worry about wires snagging on things or tangling up when bundled into your bag or pockets.

  • Excellent sound quality – If you read my post on noise cancelling vs noise isolation, I mentioned that active noise cancelling earbuds take a bit of a hit in sound quality. While there is a bit of difference in sound quality, true wireless earbuds still make for a solid option. My personal favorite at the moment are the Sennheiser Momentum true wireless earbuds. They come from a great brand who always focuses on getting the best sound quality out of their headphones and earbuds.

  • Quick Pairing – When you pair true wireless earbuds to your smartphone or other bluetooth enabled device, you won’t have to worry about connecting them again the next time you use them. Most true wireless earbuds will automatically pair to your device the next time you turn them on. 

  • Charging Case – Wireless headphones, and many other headphones as well, need to be plugged into a cable when the battery is low or dies, and have to wait for them to charge before taking them with you anywhere. With true wireless earbuds, once the battery dies, you can just throw them into a charging case. Also, you can put the case in your bag or pocket, and pull them out again when you’re ready to use them again while on the go. 

Cons

  • Easy to misplace – Because these earbuds have no wires to connect them, it makes it that much easier to lose one or both of them, if you don’t habitually place them back in their case. It can be hard trying to find one of these tiny things if they happen to go missing. 

  • Requires Regular Charging  – This can be a major downside if you’re the type of person who likes to listen to music for long periods of time. TWS earbuds themselves get up to three to five hours of playback time on a single charge. While you can toss them back into the charging case, you have to wait a bit before they’re charged enough to listen to again. This can be a bit of an annoyance having to constantly recharge your earbuds again and again after long listening sessions. I’m a frequent listener of music and with the true wireless earbuds I own, I can’t make it through a full day on a single charge. 

  • Bulky Design – There are a lot of features packed inside of true wireless earbuds with limited space. Because of this, true wireless earbuds are actually a bit larger than regular wireless earbuds. Larger buds in your ears can make for uncomfortably long listening sessions depending on the design and your ear size.  Also, some cases can be pretty big which makes pocket carrying more noticeable and slightly uncomfortable.

  • Less Intuitive Playback Controls – Wireless earbuds have the advantage of locating playback controls on the wire connecting the two earbuds. However with true wireless earbuds, they have to fit everything on or inside the earbud themselves. This sometimes makes for annoying button controls such as volume buttons on the top of the earbud or one single button on the surface of the earbud that controls everything from play/pause to skipping tracks and adjusting volume levels. Some designs feel like you’re pushing the bud deeper inside your ear when you press, and others have touch controls that sometimes don’t register the intended action. 

  • Fairly Expensive – You can find wireless earbuds at decent prices nowadays however true wireless earbuds are more expensive to come by. Take Apple’s AirPods for example. The MSRP is $159.99 before tax and the AirPods Pro which is a step up in quality is $249.99; an extra $90. Sure you can find true wireless earbuds for cheaper and you may be able to find some hidden gems around the $100 mark, but generally the quality isn’t as good as the pricier options. As the old saying goes… you get what you pay for.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Wireless Earbuds?

Pros

  • Freedom of movement – Wireless earbuds offer freedom of movement. because they have no wires connecting the earbuds to the audio source making it easy to engage in different activities. For example, you can work out at the gym, cycle around your neighborhood, answer calls from your smartphone, or relax by the pool listening to music.

  • Affordable – Unlike true wireless earbuds, which are expensive, wireless earbuds are affordable. Since the arrangement of components and features are different between truly wireless earbuds and wireless earbuds, It doesn’t cost the manufacturer as much to make. Savings on the cost to make wireless earbuds is also passed along to consumers.

Cons

  • Battery life drops significantly – Since rechargeable batteries also power wireless earbuds, the battery life drops drastically. As such, you have to recharge the batteries several times in a single day to continue enjoying the wireless experience.

  • Lack of good Sound Isolation – Earbuds generally sit on the ear. Because of this, the buds don’t create a nice seal in the ear to block out any ambient noises in your surroundings. This leads to less enjoyable listening experiences when you’re walking down the street or on an airplane.

  • Durability – Some wireless earbuds aren’t as durable as truly wireless earbuds. A lot of true wireless earbuds nowadays are built with waterproof and dustproof materials allowing longer use. You don’t see as many waterproof wireless earbuds. Also the wire connecting the earbuds together can short out after a while preventing either earbud from making sound.

The Last Thing You Need to Know about True Wireless and Wireless Earbuds

At the end of the day, it’s important for you to know the difference between True wireless and wireless earbuds. Knowing the pros, cons, and major differences can not only help influence your buying decision, but can also help you determine the use case for your next pair of earbuds.

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