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Microsoft’s $199 Surface Earbuds to take on Apple’s AirPods on May 12

·Technology Editor
·4-min read
In this article:
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After months of waiting, Microsoft (MSFT) will finally release its AirPods competitor, the Surface Earbuds, on May 12. What’s more, the company has revised pricing for the wireless earbuds from its original price tag of $250 to $199.

That’s a significant price drop and more in line with what earbuds without active-noise cancelling technology from competitors like Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG, GOOGL), and Amazon (AMZN) are offering. The big difference for Microsoft is its Office 365 functionality and unique design.

The company is also launching its second-generation over-the-ear headphones, the Surface Headphones 2. The active-noise cancelling headphones will also launch May 12 and cost $250.

Microsoft's Surface Earbuds start start $199. (Image: Microsoft)
Microsoft's Surface Earbuds start at $199. (Image: Microsoft)

Surface Earbuds

  • Unique design with touch controls

  • Office 365 integration

  • 8 hours of listening on a single charge

  • Charging case adds an hour of listening in 10 minutes

  • $199

Surface Headphones 2

  • Over-the-ear headphones

  • Office 365 integration

  • Active-noise cancelling technology

  • 20 hours of listening on a single charge

  • $250

Surface Earbuds

The Surface Earbuds with their distinctive design will likely steal the show. From the outside, the buds look like small white saucers sitting in your ears. It’s sure to get plenty of looks from passersby who, by now, are more used to seeing the look of Apple’s AirPods, which look more like Q Tips.

The Earbuds’ design isn’t just for show, though. That flat surface also supports touch inputs including tapping to pause and play music and swiping to raise and lower the volume.

The first true-wireless earbuds from Microsoft, the Earbuds don’t push into your ear, but rather sit on the outside of the opening anchored by four touch points. The buds also come with three different silicone tips to ensure you’re able to get the best fit possible.

Microsoft's Surface Earbuds have a distinct design that is sure to catch people's eyes. (Image: Microsoft)
Microsoft's Surface Earbuds have a distinct design that is sure to catch people's eyes. (Image: Microsoft)

Microsoft says the buds will use the company’s Surface Omnisonic profile, and you can launch Spotify instantly, on Android phones, by triple-tapping the buds. The company doesn’t say whether that will work with Apple’s iPhone.

Interestingly, Microsoft is also including dictation capabilities for its Office 365 suite of apps, including the ability to listen to and delete emails in Outlook.

The buds are listed as splash resistant, and, according to Microsoft, offer 8 hours of continuous listening before needing to be dropped into their charging case. A 10-minute charge gives you an hour of listening.

As far as pricing goes, the Surface Earbuds line up nicely with Apple’s base AirPods, which start at $159 with a standard charging case and $199 with a wireless charging case. The AirPods Pro, which offer active-noise cancelling technology, cost $249.

Google’s new Pixel Buds, meanwhile, start at $179.

Headphones 2

Then there are the Surface Headphones 2, which start at $250, and offer over-the-ear listening for people who aren’t fond of in-ear earbuds. The Headphones 2 also get Microsoft’s dictation and Surface Omnisonic technologies, and feature 13 levels of noise cancelling, so you’ll be able to adjust how much of the world you want to tune out.

The Surface Headphones 2 feature noise-cancelling technology, and 20 hours of battery life. (Image: Microsoft)
The Surface Headphones 2 feature noise-cancelling technology, and 20 hours of battery life. (Image: Microsoft)

The biggest design change for the Headphones 2 is that the cans now twist to lie flat around your neck when you take them off, rather than sitting upright and picking your chin. It’s a more comfortable design, and certainly welcome.

The Headphones 2 will also feature touch controls, and, according to Microsoft, get a whopping 20 hours of battery life on a single charge, even with active-noise cancelling turned on.

We’ll see how they stack up to the competition when they hit stores May 12.

More from Dan:

Got a tip? Email Daniel Howley at danielphowley@protonmail.com or dhowley@yahoofinance.com, and follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

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