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Hands-on with Samsung's Gear IconX: Wireless earbuds with step and heart-rate sensors

Jon Phillips | June 3, 2016
Look closely, because this may be the future of mobile music playback: Completely wire-free earbuds with built-in data tracking.

I’m a masochist when it comes to audio volume, and IconX delivered the decibels I need. That said, the earbuds seemed to have poor bass response. Of course, I’ll need to use the IconX with my own music selections to really determine bass quality, but based on the EDM track that Samsung played during my demo, I wasn’t hearing much thump. 

Steps and heart-rate data

The IconX have an onboard heart-rate monitor, as well as an accelerometer to collect step data. I didn’t get a chance to experience either sensor in action, but the concept is pretty simple: A Voice Guide feature provides audio reports on your exercise progress and heart rate, directly through the earbuds. The LG earphones boast a similar feature, and while it certainly works, I personally find the interruptions to be annoying.

Luckily, the Gear IconX can also pair with your phone, so you can look at real-time step and heart data directly on any modern Android device via Samsung’s S Health app.

Unfortunately, you can’t stream IconX sensor data to the just-announced Gear Fit2 wristband. That’s a shame, because I’ve found that heart-rate data produced by ear-based sensors is more accurate than heart-rate data collected by wristbands.

All in all, the Gear IconX look really interesting, and should bring a whole new approach to fitness tracking for mainstream users. I’m concerned about bass response, and I’m also worried about losing the buds themselves. Wired earphones may not be ideal when you’re running outside, or jumping from machine to machine at the gym. But those wires do make old-school earbuds easier to find—at the bottom of gym bags and on cluttered countertops.

So if you buy the IconX when they go on sale during the third quarter of this year, you’ll definitely want to keep them in their charging case. It might be just large enough to keep from getting lost.

 

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