1 year after releasing the first Samsung Gear IconX, Samsung launched a version and calls it IconX 2018. When IconX was initially launched, true wireless earbuds are not popular, but this year, several brands have launched their own wire-free earbuds.
I’ll jump right in and share with you what’s new and what’s improved.
The major improvement is the battery life, from below 2 hours (Bluetooth) to over 5 hours. This makes IconX 2018 one of the longest lasting TWE in the market. You get even longer if you listen music from the internal storage – 7 hours.
Heart Rate Monitor Removed
The HRM is removed, which I thought was a right move, since the other Gear accessories like Gear Fit2 Pro and Gear Sport also has HRM.
Just like the first-generation IconX, the 2018 version operates via touch on the panel, which supports tap, hold, and swipe. When holding the touch panel, the voice prompts will cycle through the menu items, and if you want to select the item, lift the finger off the touch panel. The menu items can be re-ordered from the Samsung Gear app.
The IR sensor on each earbud senses if you are wearing the earbuds and will cut off audio to save battery. When both earbuds are remove, the audio pauses automatically. There is no power button, so in the event that the earbuds go to sleep, insert them back to the charging case to wake them up.
The IconX 2018 remains to be the only TWE with internal storage. It is a liberating thought that one can simply listen to music on the IconX, wire-free, and device-free. Each earbud comes with 3.4GB usable storage but both earbuds must contain the same audio files (only MP3, M4A, AAC, WAV, WMA formats) or else the music won’t play correctly. Audio files must also be stored in the MUSIC folder without subfolders.
Alternatively, you can use them to store any files, and by plugging the earbuds via the charging case to a computer, you can see both earbuds as individual storage drives.
And since we’re at that, the IconX is the first wireless earbuds that uses the new USB Type-C port. Kudos to Samsung for standardising, but I guess since the rest of the earphones brands do not sell smartphones, it doesn’t make sense for them to switch to USB Type-C for now.
Built-in Running Coach
Even without connecting to smartphone, the IconX 2018 is able to keep track of workout stats and provide in-ear coaching. You can start the workout session from the earbuds but if you want to select the type of workout, you can only do so via the Samsung Gear app.
Samsung added ambient sound mode on the IconX 2018, but it is not as well-implemented as other brands. The ambient sound lacks the natural openness. Second, there is no shortcut to enable the ambient sound. Tip: re-order the menu options from the Samsung Gear so that the ambient sound is the first on the list.
Samsung Scalable Codec
IconX only supports this and the SBC, and based on pairing tests on several devices, the IconX 2018 fares poorly in audio quality with distortion resulting from lossy streaming due to proprietary codec. Only with Samsung smartphones would the IconX achieve CD-like quality.
With Samsung smartphones, the IconX delivers clean frequency reproduction. Audio balance is improved over the first IconX, producing satisfying clear treble, responsive bass, roomy instrumental placement that motivates my workout. There may also be occasional audio interruptions between the earbuds, which recovers promptly without much fuss.
To choose listening to music either from the Bluetooth device or the IconX, use the Samsung Gear app, which also allows user to pick songs into the workout playlist. If you select to listen music in IconX, the audio will be disconnected from the Bluetooth device, even though the Bluetooth connection remains active. Hence, you will not be able to pick up incoming calls.
Not Water Resistant
No mention of this point in Samsung website, so I would assume the IconX 2018 did not go through any water certification.
Samsung has a truly differentiated product that could attract a sizable segment of users who like the idea of true-wireless zero-device music enjoyment. I see parallel to Sony’s MP3 earphones series, which prove to be quite popular and unique on its own due to its waterproof capabilities. I would highly recommend the IconX as a standalone music player with an amazing 7-hour battery life. And if you have a Samsung smartphone, you can stream quality audio to the IconX. For non-Samsung phone users, the audio quality is poor and I would prefer you pay a little more for the Jabra Sport Elite with water resistant properties, built-in heart-rate monitor, and more punchy sound quality to motivate me more.
Retails at S$268, and for the amount of tech, it’s a price that is hard to beat. Available at major consumer electronics stores, authorised mobile retailers, Samsung Experience Stores and online retailers Lazada Singapore, Hachi, Amazon and Rack85.