Not only Apple announced new products on Tuesday: The company’s Beats subsidiary also presented the latest wireless headphones, the Beats Flex. The new model is available for pre-order today for $ 50 at Apple.com and ships on October 21st.
The Beats Flex are the successor to the BeatsX, which the manufacturer released in 2017. Like this pair, the Flex wireless headphones are neckband style. That means they connect via Bluetooth, but they are not completely free of cables like Apple’s AirPods or Beats’ own Powerbeats Pro. Instead, the Flex’s earbuds attach with a cable that extends behind your neck and has built-in modules for the microphone and call / music control.
Beats promises improved sound quality compared to the BeatsX with the help of a redesigned driver, more clarity when making calls and a design that is 8 percent lighter. (For reference, the BeatsX weighed only 0.05 lbs.) The earbuds can still be magnetically linked when not in use, and Beats says the whole thing now supports auto-play / pause so they will automatically stop or resume your audio whenever they do it. removed or reinstalled.
Beats rates the Flex’s battery life at 12 hours, an increase over the 8-hour estimate for the BeatsX, and a solid, if unspectacular number in general. The earbuds now also charge via USB-C instead of Lightning, which makes them more suitable for iPads and Android devices.
However, the Flex continues to use Apple’s W1 wireless chip, which gives iPhone and iPad owners a simplified pairing process and the ability to quickly switch between devices that are synced to an iCloud account. The Flex also supports Apple’s audio sharing feature when used with AirPods or other current Beats headphones. In addition, there is a Class 1 Bluetooth radio that is designed to help maintain a stable connection over longer distances. (This was previously a strength of the BeatsX.)
It’s worth noting, however, that the W1 isn’t Apple’s newest wireless chip for audio products: this would be the H1 that the company launched in March 2019 and has since implemented in the latest AirPods, AirPods Pro, and several other Beats headphones Has. The Flex lacks Siri hands-free support, battery efficiency and the chip’s faster connection times. Likewise, Beats didn’t mention the Flex’s ability to pair with multiple devices at once, and it didn’t give an IPX rating for sweat resistance. As such, they may not be ideal for workouts.
Still, Beats hopes the Flex’s relatively low price tag is enough to make up for any tradeoffs. At $ 50, the headphones are well below the BeatsX’s original $ 150 MSRP and are technically the cheapest product made with Apple Audio silicon. Beats headphones have generally been more open to Android users than AirPods as they have a companion app on the platform.
Personally, I rated the BeatsX positively at the time it was introduced. I found them pleasant with a respectable bass-first sound and strong passive noise isolation. However, a few users have reported reliability issues with this pair over time, and the neckband design is harder to forget than true wireless headphones.
In general, Beats remains in a somewhat uncomfortable position as the parent company is increasingly investing in personal audio. The headphones are still very popular, but the range of products now competes directly with Apple-branded devices such as the AirPods and AirPods Pro. The company first made its name known by selling expensive – some would say overpriced – headphones backed by high-profile marketing. With the Flex, however, Beats is in the rare position of addressing price-conscious buyers explicitly. With the latest iPhones eliminating the need for their boxed earbuds, the Flex may appeal to those who want Apple-made headphones but don’t want to go for AirPods.
Listing image from Beats
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