airpods pro on grey table next to iPhone
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Update, 01/23/2023: We’ve reviewed our recommendations and updated our best for travel pick with the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II.

How to Buy Earbuds for Your iPhone or iPad in 2023

Wireless earbuds have taken over in the years following Apple’s decision to omit a headphone jack on the iPhone 7. We’ve not only had several revisions of AirPods and a flood of affordable, third-party wireless earphones, many of which parrot the AirPods design.

The truth is, AirPods will always deliver a superior user experience to non-Apple branded headphones when paired with an Apple device. The same is true for Beats, which Apple purchased in 2014. These earbuds pair effortlessly with your iPhone or iPad and can be used across devices seamlessly. You can also locate them using Find My if they go missing.

Unfortunately, AirPods are also expensive. You’re paying for a user experience that no other earbuds can provide since Apple controls the ecosystem, but it can be a hard sell for those on a budget. Fortunately, there are plenty of good alternatives for the cash-strapped and AirPods averse.

Features like active noise cancellation, where ambient sounds are stripped out of the mix using microphones and software, are now much more commonplace and available on third-party earbuds. Many earbud models also support wireless charging and some can take advantage of fast charging to quickly provide an hour of listening from only a few minutes’ charge.

If listening to music in the highest possible quality is what you’re most concerned about, wireless earphones might not be the best choice. Or rather, music on your iPhone, in general, may not be the best choice. The iPhone doesn’t currently support high-resolution audio codecs like LDAC, which means any music sent to your earphones will be compressed.

For that reason, wired headphones still provide the best listening experience for audiophiles or anyone interested in streaming lossless music.

With that settled, let’s get into which wireless earbuds can give you the best experience on your iPhone and iPad.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I pair my wireless earbuds with my iPhone?
Your earbuds will have instructions for putting them in pairing mode, but in most cases just power them on and hold the power button until you hear a notification that they’re in pairing mode. On your iPhone, open Settings, tap on Bluetooth, then select your earbuds to pair them.
How do I pair my wireless earbuds with my iPad?
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Follow your earbuds manufacturers’ instructions to enter pairing mode or hold the power button after turning them on until you hear a notification. Open the settings app, go to the Bluetooth section, then select your earbuds to pair them with your iPad.
How do I charge wireless earbuds?
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Wireless earbuds usually come with a charging case. To charge your earbuds, simply place them in the case. To charge the case, plug it in via the port usually found on the bottom, or place them on a wireless charging pad if the case supports wireless charging.
How do I clean wireless earbuds?
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Wipe down the outside of the earbuds using a soft cloth and rubbing alcohol. You can clean the inside with something soft like a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol. A can of compressed air can also help clean dust off of earbuds. We have a guide on how to clean your earbuds if you need additional information!

Best Earbuds Overall: Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)

Pairing the Apple AirPods Pro 2
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek

Pros

  • Sound quality improved over the original
  • ANC is much more effective than the original AirPods Pro
  • Adaptive Transparency mode protects you from sudden loud sounds
  • Spatial Audio works well
  • Updated charging case charges every way you can think of
  • U1 chip helps you find your AirPods even easier

Cons

  • Still only available in white
  • Call quality isn't the best

When the non-Pro Apple AirPods got an update to the 3rd generation, it made the choice between the AirPods and the AirPods Pro a tough one. This didn’t last long, however, as with the release of the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation), it’s now obvious which is the best.

The new AirPods Pro might initially seem like an incremental upgrade, considering they look nearly identical to the original AirPods Pro. Inside, Apple improved several key components for better sound, and the new H2 processor makes for the best noise cancellation in a set of AirPods to date.

Apple’s pace-setting Transparency Mode is better than ever, with Adaptive Transparency lowing the volume of low sounds while letting you hear your surroundings. Thanks to the H2 chip as well as more and more Dolby Atmos mixes hitting streaming services, Apple’s Spatial Audio sounds much better than on the original AirPods Pro.

The charging case has some stealth improvements as well. It’s IPX4-rated water-resistant, as the AirPods Pro are, making for better weather resistance. The case also features a built-in speaker, making it much easier to find your AirPods if you set them down and forget them.

There’s only one real downside. While other companies are adding more color variations, and Apple is even doing this in other products, the 2nd-generation AirPods Pro are still only available in white.

Best Earbuds Overall

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)

Read How-To Geek's Full Review

The second generation of the AirPods Pro takes everything that was great about the original, adds superior ANC, and tweaks the transparent mode with a new feature that helps protect your hearing from sudden loud sounds.

Best Budget Earbuds: Skullcandy Sesh Evo

skullcandy sesh evo on pink background
Skullcandy

Pros

  • Decent, if a little bass-heavy, sound quality
  • Tile integration for finding lost earbuds
  • Passable battery life with USB-C charging and rapid charge

Cons

  • Sound quality falls short of pricier models
  • Quality control could be an issue with some reviewers reporting defective units

Cheap wireless earbuds are often plagued with issues like poor battery life and frequent audio dropouts, not to mention disappointing sound quality. The Skullcandy Sesh Evo manages to deliver solid performance and decent sound quality at around a quarter of the price of a pair of AirPods.

Skullcandy’s earbuds are basic but represent good value for money when compared with Apple’s offerings. You’ll get five hours of listening, with an extra 19 hours from the USB-C charging case. You can use each earbud solo, and each has a microphone for voice calling and talking to Siri.

Some reviewers report that the Sesh Evo earbuds tend to be a little bass-heavy, but that’s fairly normal for the Skullcandy brand and similarly priced models. At this price range, you miss out on features like noise cancellation, but for about $50, there’s not a lot to complain about.

One neat feature normally not seen at this price range is integration with Tile so that you can locate your earbuds if they go missing and a Tile user happens to walk past. That’s pretty neat, especially if you already invested in the Tile Bluetooth tracker ecosystem.

Best Budget Earbuds

Skullcandy Sesh Evo

The Skullcandy Sesh Evo earbuds are inexpensive and get the job done. Just don't expect all the features of more expensive models.

Best Earbuds for Travel: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II

Person pulling Bose quietcomfort earbuds our of case
Bose

Pros

  • Solid, effective noise cancelling
  • 24-hour battery life with quick charging
  • Included fit kit helps find the perfect fit and comfort
  • IPX4 water resistance

Cons

  • No wireless charge option for the case

Finding the right set of wireless earbuds for travel is tough. Especially for longer trips, you’ll need plenty of battery life, but if you’re flying or even taking public transit, you’ll probably want noise cancellation. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II offer great ANC and long battery life, all in a comfortable package.

For many years, Bose was the undisputed king of noise-cancelling headphones. While Sony and other companies have since caught up, Bose still knows its ANC tech very well. Bose uses DSP to tailor the noise cancellation to your ears, making it even more effective.

Travel means that you will likely encounter rain, snow, or sweat. While the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II don’t offer any dust resistance, they are IPX4 water-resistant. This means you’ll be safe wearing them during a light rainstorm, but you certainly don’t want to drop them in the sink.

Battery life is key for travel, and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II offer up to six hours out of the charging case. The included charging case brings the total playtime up to 24 hours, with a 20-minute charge getting you two hours of playback. The only downside is that the case only charges via USB-C, not wirelessly.

Bose put the word comfort right in the name of these earbuds, and that’s certainly an advantage. They’re comfortable out of the box, but the included fit kit means you’ll find the best fit. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are available in Triple Black and Soapstone color options.

If you don’t want to spend the asking price of the Bose earbuds, the Jabra Elite 85t is a great option that costs a little less. You get slightly less battery life per charge, but you still get 25 hours of battery, ANC, and a charging case that charges wirelessly.

Best Earbuds for Travel

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II

Read Review Geek's Full Review

Bose still knows how to work its ANC magic, and the QuietComfort Earbuds II back it up with improved sound quality and a better fit than the originals, with 24-hour battery life making them perfect for travel.

Best Workout Earbuds: Beats Fit Pro

Beats Fit Pro and charging case in multiple colors
Beats

Pros

  • Same Apple H1 chip as the AirPods for easy pairing and switching
  • Active noise cancellation and transparency mode
  • Adjustable ear hook for a snug fit
  • IPX4 sweat and water resistance

Cons

  • Hook design might not be to everyone's tastes
  • Beats can still be a little bass-heavy for some genres

Beats has been a subsidiary of Apple since 2004, which means that headphones like the Beats Fit Pro are effectively Apple headphones. They use the same integrated H1 chip as Apple’s AirPods so you only need to pair them once for them to work with all of your Apple devices since they sync over iCloud.

The Beats Fit Pro design relies on an adjustable ear hook to anchor the headphones in place, which should prevent them from slipping out even during vigorous exercise. They are much smaller than workout headphones that use a clip design, which makes them and the charging case pocketable. Since they’re designed for exercise, the headphones also have an IPX4 sweat and water resistance rating.

Like the AirPods Pro, the Beats Fit Pro earbuds have on-board active noise cancellation which means they can remove a lot of background noise. They also have a transparency mode, which allows you to hear the world around you without having to take them out of your ears—though you’ll still need to pause the music for this to work properly.

You’ll also get support for spatial audio since the Beats Fit Pro uses sensors to track your head position which makes listening to Dolby Atmos music, movies, and TV shows even more immersive. You’ll get around six hours of battery life on a single charge, with an extra 18 hours in a fully charged case. You can fast charge them for 5 minutes to get around an hour of playback in a pinch.

One alternative to the Fit Pro is the Powerbeats Pro which uses the same Apple H1 chip for simple pairing and switching between devices. Instead of an adjustable hook, a clip is used to secure these in-ear headphones in place. They’re quite a bit larger and they lack active noise cancellation and support for spatial audio, so they fall a bit short of the Fit Pro but they may still be a good option.

Best Workout Earbuds

Beats Fit Pro

Beats Fit Pro earbuds are great for working out with their built-in hooks, active noise cancellation, and IPX4 water and sweat resistance.

Best Noise-Canceling Earbuds: Sony WF-1000XM4

Sony XM4s on green background
Sony

Pros

  • Possibly the best active noise cancellation in this price bracket
  • Good battery life, even with ANC enabled
  • Good sound quality that can be customized using Sony's app
  • Water resistance on a par with AirPods Pro

Cons

  • Despite support for LDAC, iPhone users miss out
  • More expensive than AirPods Pro
  • No easy pairing or deep iOS integration

The Sony WF-1000XM4 offers best-in-class active noise cancellation at a price point to match. With the WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds, Sony combines its Integrated Processor V1 with earbud tips that make a tight seal with your ear to minimize external audio.

The earbuds support the high-resolution LDAC Bluetooth codec, though iPhone users will have to fall back on the lossy aptX until Apple adds support for the format (if that time ever comes). There’s also a bone-conducting sensor to make sure you can hear what’s going on, even in boisterous environments.

Sony promises 8 hours of battery life with ANC enabled, with an additional 16 hours in the case. The case charges wirelessly via USB-C, with fast charging for the buds (5 minutes for an hour of listening). An IPX4 water-resistant rating brings these in line with AirPods Pro, and you can even customize the sound profile with Sony’s free Headphones Connect app on iPad or iPhone.

Compared with AirPods Pro, Sony’s earbuds offer superior noise cancellation at the cost of user experience. There’s no simplified pairing process as seen on headphones that use Apple’s proprietary H1 chip, so expect a little more resistance when it comes to using these across devices.

Review Geek rated the Sony WF-1000XM4s 9.5 out of 10 in its review, complimenting the earbuds’ incredible sound quality, best ANC in its class, and an excellent Ambient Mode.

Best Noise-Canceling Earbuds

Sony WF-1000XM4

Read Review Geek's Full Review

The WF-1000XM4 earbuds have an integrated processor and special tips to take the ANC to the next level.

The Best Wireless Earbuds of 2023

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Soundcore by Anker Life P3
Best Wireless Earbuds Under $100
Soundcore by Anker Life P3
Soundpeats T3
Best Wireless Earbuds Under $50
Soundpeats T3
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
Best Wireless Earbuds for iPhone
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
Best Wireless Earbuds for Android
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
JBL Reflect Flow Pro
Best Wireless Earbuds for Workouts
JBL Reflect Flow Pro
Sony WF-1000XM4
Best Noise Cancelling Wireless Earbuds
Sony WF-1000XM4
Profile Photo for Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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Profile Photo for Kris Wouk Kris Wouk
Kris Wouk is a freelance tech writer and musician with over 10 years of experience as a writer and a lifetime of experience as a gadget fan. He has also written for Digital Trends, MakeUseOf, Android Authority, and Sound Guys. At MakeUseOf, he was Section Editor in charge of the site's Mac coverage.
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