Review: Samsung Gear Icon X

A closer look at Samsung’s new wireless earbuds



Coinciding with the launch of the Samsung Note7, the manufacturer has released an interesting piece of kit, The IconX.

These completely cord-free earbuds are designed to be the ultimate workout companion, offering a combination of audio output and fitness tracking in an extremely portable and lightweight package.

If there is one thing that Samsung has succeeded with in its recent device line-up it is aesthetics. This is perhaps best reflected in the IconX’s smooth pill case, which doubles up as a charging station and USB connection point.

The buds themselves also feel premium with a mixture of rubber and plastic and automatically switch on when you remove them from the case and switch off shortly after being removed, which is a nice touch.
Unfortunately though, the process of actually connecting them to a non-Samsung device feels less streamlined in comparison and will require the installation of the Gear app and a specific plugin prior to your first use.

Once you are ready to go though, it is clear some thought has been put into the earbud design. They fit comfortably in the ear and stay there even during an intensive run or workout, addressing a common failing of their wired peers.

Still, this is not an entirely flawless package with one noticeable frustration initially being the touch panels on the earbuds. These allow you to raise and lower the volume by swiping up and down, play or pause with a tap and go back or forward a track by double or triple tapping. But in practice this feels clunky and often unresponsive, even if it does save having to reach for your smartphone.

Another shortcoming is the sound quality itself, which is adequate for workout purposes but lacks some of the oomph you would expect at this price point (Dhs699). Fiddling with the volume is often also required to match your track, although the included ambient mode is nice if you plan on heading outside.

Moving on to the other side of the IconX package, Samsung has clearly made an attempt here to replace the trusty smartband with included step and heart rate monitors.

This does have its advantages. Rather than having to look at your smartphone to chart your progress, the device will give you audio updates, meaning less disruption to your workout. But there are also some limitations, most noticeably with the step counter, which appears not entirely accurate over longer distances. This, and the noticeable lack of GPS tracking, means runners may want to stick to their smartband or watch.

Another trick the IconX has up its sleeve is its stand-alone functionality. There is 4GB of on-board storage (3.5GB after you count the inbuilt software) to fill with your favourite tracks for your workout. So leaving your phone at home is an option.

However, in practice this feels as necessary as it does useful because the battery life when connected to you phone is surprisingly poor. Samsung estimates the device will last just one and a half hours of music playback when connected via Bluetooth compared to three hours as a standalone music player.

This means you will more than likely find yourself having to use the standalone mode if you plan on anything more than a short workout or don’t want to charge the earbuds religiously after use.

Overall, this is an interesting new concept from Samsung, especially considering the lack of wire-free earbuds on the market. But clearly the battery life is a major limitation and perhaps should have been prioritised over some of the other functionality.

There is certainly some potential in the concept though if the battery life issue can be addressed.