Technology



By Samantha Gonzales


Tech review: Samsung Gear IconX




Posted on August 18, 2016


Huzzah! Completely wireless earphones finally exist in the mainstream market. No longer a Kickstarter dream, Samsung launched the Gear IconX priced at P7,990. Comfortable to wear and convenient to take (and use) anywhere. It’s marketed as a fitness companion and tracker rather than a music tool which is possibly due to the weaker battery, but works pretty well as either when not connected to a phone. It’s certainly not perfect but it’s a great addition to the market and will surely serve as inspiration for (but really more like pressure on) the competition.

DESIGN
The IconX consist of a pair of rubber and plastic wireless earbuds housed in a capsule case that also functions as a charging dock. The in-ear buds have three sizes and what Samsung calls “wingtips” that enables them to fit snugly in your ear. They will stay put through workouts and a bunch of head tilts and angles -- very good if you’re totally feeling your routine (or your music). They are controlled with taps and swipes, which is not a giant behavior leap to make if you already use a smartphone. They automatically turn on and off when worn and taken out. A single tap will play or pause music, a double tap will change the track or answer or end calls, a triple tap will play the previous track, swipes will control the volume, and a tap and hold will initiate a menu readout. Despite its brilliance and convenience, it tends to get gestures wrong at times. Swipes will turn out to change the track, pausing will inadvertently repeat the track, and so on. It’s kind of confusing at first but as with any new technology, you get used to the gestures after a while. The best part, however, is that the buds are able to function together, separately, with or without a smartphone.

FUNCTIONS
Compatible with smartphones that run Android 4.4 with 1.5GB RAM and up, the IconX functions primarily as a fitness tracker. It is able to do the usual tasks of walking, running, and heart rate tracking and results will be relayed through voice feedback (which was pretty pleasant and human-like) or by syncing the buds with Samsung’s Gear manager and S Health apps. They can also be used in tandem with other Samsung Gear like the Gear Fit2, making it easier to read results without having to check your phone. I do wish they were compatible with other phones or laptops because I really need to binge watch things at 2AM and not disturbing people who are sound asleep. Hopefully, Samsung expands its compatibility range in the future or with the inevitable newer Gear releases.

As wireless earphones they are surprisingly good. The sound quality is above average with balanced treble and bass. Volume control is appropriate and the addition of a mic to take calls is appreciated. Noise reduction is excellent and very helpful with focusing on whatever task is at hand (or yaknow, not focusing on the world’s white noise). However, should you wish to keep background noise on for safety purposes, its ambient sound sensors can be activated via the readout menu (tap and hold -- you see, I just wrote a couple of paragraphs and totally forgot how to do it and had to look it up).

STORAGE
You have to store music in both buds by putting them in the pill and connecting that via micro USB 2.0. The good thing about it is that it can store 3.5GB (4GB is the advertised internal memory but Samsung notes that 3.5GB is usable) worth of music or roughly 1,000 songs -- plenty of space for workout music or select playlists. The music lover will be able to wirelessly connect their earbuds to their Samsung phones to access more music. Of course, syncing the IconX with your smartphone will reduce battery life by half; not cool if you want to shut the world out and be alone with your tunes.

BATTERY
Unfortunately, at this point in the game, completely wireless earbuds won’t be perfect, and this imperfection is manifested in the paltry battery life. Each bud is equipped with a 47mah battery and while the pill can recharge them, they also just have 315mah, which is supposed to get you two full charges but really typically gives you one. I suggest using each one separately to maximize their function. Here’s hoping for significant battery upgrades in the future. However, if you are just using them for workouts and only sync them when you analyze your data, you can get roughly 4 hours of use. Plus, they charge really quickly due to the small capacity. You win some, you lose some.

BEST PARTS
• comfortable to wear
• convenient to carry around
• ample storage for casual music listening
• great as wireless earphones
• voice feedback is pleasant and helpful
• charges quickly

WORST PARTS
• tap and swipe controls are too sensitive or inaccurate
• pitiful battery