Best Bluetooth Headphones for Apple Watch in 2018

Best Bluetooth Headphones for Apple Watch in 2018

Want to jam out to your favorite tunes or epic games and don’t want any wires holding you back? Bose QC 35 is the best Bluetooth headphones to do exactly that.

Best overall:
Apple Beats X

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On a walk or most all-purpose activities with just an Apple Watch as a companion, I’d rock Apple’s Beats X headphones. The combination of battery life, lightweight fit, W1 chip for easy connectivity, customizable fit, and lack of necessary accessories (like a charging case) make them an easy sell. And with Amazon frequently selling pairs around $100, they’re cheaper than other great wireless headphones in the genre.

Bottom line: For the best fit and finish while paying a reasonable price, Apple’s Beats X headphones are hard to beat.

Status: Released February 2017; no successor.

The best all-purpose headphones for Apple Watch.

Picking a set of headphones for your Apple Watch is a bit different than your iPhone or Apple TV. If you’re planning on listening to music directly on your watch, chances are you’re out and about with your iPhone either at home or inaccessible. That could mean a walk around your neighborhood or a quick workout session at the gym; either way, you’ll want headphones that are light, sound-isolating without completely drowning out the outside world, fit well, connect to your Apple Watch easily, and have enough battery life that you can enjoy your adventure without fretting that your devices will cut out.

Apple’s $149.95 Beats X hit all of these criteria and more, providing an instant connection to your Apple Watch and its music through the company’s W1 chip. Though the buds are still attached to each other by a wire and two weighted remotes, the Beats X headphones are more comfortable and last longer than Apple’s equally great AirPods (our wire-free pick).

They also charge via Lightning cable — no micro-USB needed — and stay safe around your neck (or your wrist) while not wearing them by the earbuds magnetically snapping together.

Given their size and shape, the Beats X doesn’t have the best sound quality in the world — sound tends to be a little tinny and bass-heavy, and you can’t tweak the sound on an Apple Watch the way you might on your iPhone.

But losing a little in sound quality is worth it for a rock-solid Bluetooth connection and super-easy pairing process. They also benefit from having a noise-isolating fit, thanks to customizable earbuds. Though they’re not machined as smartly for your ears as any number of wingtip-bud systems, they fit much better than most buds of their size — without making your ears exhausted from weight or girth.

Beats X aren’t sweat-proof or waterproof, and we have gym-specific recommendations below. I have used them on a number of occasions while skating or lifting without issue, but knowing Apple’s issues with its actual sweat-resistant PowerBeats, I haven’t risked anything too sweat-intensive. (I’m not going to bring them to hot yoga, for instance.)

I’ve been using the Beats X for just under a year since their release in February 2017, and I frequently choose them for everyday adventures over my AirPods, sport headphones, and even heavy-duty over-ear headphones. I’ve even used them in lieu of my noise-cancelling headphones on a plane when my packing space was at a premium; they weren’t perfect, but they were a great deal better than my AirPods would have been.

Making these headphones an even better deal is their frequent price discount on Amazon — I haven’t seen them sold above $110 in the last year, and often as low as $100.

In short: If you want a set of headphones that plays nicely with your Apple Watch and works well in most every environment and in most every ear shape, Apple’s Beats X are the ones to buy.

Best wire-free headphones:
Apple’s AirPods

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If Apple’s EarPods mold fits your ears and you don’t mind a bit of noise bleed, the AirPods are an incredible set of ultra-portable headphones for your Apple Watch — and the best set of wire-free buds on the market, period.

That dental floss-sized case may have been mocked across the Internet, but it’s perfectly-sized to slip into a jeans pocket (or adorable leather clip-on case); I carry the AirPods with me almost everywhere I go, and it’ ensures that I always have a good set of headphones when I need them.

They don’t last as long as Apple’s Beats X headphones (4-5 hours vs 8), nor do they have as precise a fit. But if they work for you and your Apple Watch needs, they’ll be one of your best purchases.

Bottom line: Don’t care about noise bleed and EarPods fit your ears? Check out Apple’s AirPods.

Status: Released 2016. No current successor, though Apple is planning on releasing a Qi wireless-charging case for the AirPods in early 2018; it’s as of yet unknown whether it will ship with new AirPods purchases, or be a separate add-on.

Best on a budget:
Aukey Latitude Wireless Headphones

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If you don’t have a big budget for listening to music on your Apple Watch, Aukey’s $25.99 Latitude Wireless buds offer a great entry point. The headphones not only offer an 8-hour play time, but they’re sweat-resistant, making them a great choice for the gym. They also use magnetic clasps (like the Beats X) to magnetically snap around your neck.

Bottom line: Aukey’s Latitude Wireless headphones provide quality far above their price point for everyday use and at the gym.

Status: Released 2017; no successor.

Best for working out:
Jaybird X3 and RUN

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Jaybird’s wireless headphones have long been a favorite of the iMore staff and workout fiends alike, and the X3 is no exception. The $129.99 wireless neck-cord set offers 8 hours of play time for your Apple Watch, along with a fifteen-minute quick charge to boost up to an hour of play time. It has both a slightly better fit and better audio quality than our budget pick, though that better fit comes at the expense of a custom charging clip.

For the cord-free, Jaybird’s $179.99 Run earbuds offer a reduced four hours of playtime, but can charge an extra hour with just five minutes in their attached case. For most users, the Run won’t beat the AirPods in overall convenience, but if you’re a gym nut who doesn’t like wires on your neck, the Run buds may be right up your alley.

Worth noting: Unlike the AirPods, which can function independently of each other, the Bluetooth connection is solely in the Run’s right earbud — so you can’t use the left one alone if the right one dies. Original Run pairs suffered from connectivity issues due to this configuration, but Jaybird claims to have fixed the issue in subsequent pairs; for what it’s worth, I haven’t had any issues with my test pair.

Bottom line: Jaybird’s X3 and Run earbuds are solid options for gym rats and workout fiends alike.

Status: Released October 2016 (X3) and September 2017 (Run); no successors.

Best for noise-cancellation:
Bose QuietControl 30

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While I wouldn’t outright recommend the Apple Watch as your typical music player for noise-cancelling headphones, it could prove useful on long flights where saving your iPhone’s battery life might be crucial. In those instances, you’ll want to find a great noise-cancelling headphone set to bring along, and there’s no greater compact set than Bose’s QuietControl 30.

The admittedly-pricey $299 headphones are best in their class thanks to Bose’s top-tier noise cancellation technology and above-average sound; unfortunately, those electronics are packed into a plastic neck ring, which can make its user look a bit like a science-fiction character.

Bottom line: Need noise-cancellation with your Apple Watch? Pick up Bose’s QuietControl 30.

Status: Released September 2016; no successor.

Headphones on the horizon

CES 2018 is dropping a number of interesting headphone entrants, including Libratone’s first in-ear wireless option, TRACK+, and the budget Sennheiser CX 6.00BT. Anker’s audio brand, Zolo, is also coming out with Jaybird RUN-style buds called the Liberty and Liberty+ in the fall; their cases boast 24-48 hours of playback, but the buds only carry 3.5 hours of battery life at a time.

Other headphones we considered

  • Bose SoundSport Free, $249: While Bose’s sound quality remains unparalleled, connectivity and battery issues plague this product and we can’t recommend it.
  • Bose Soundsport, $129: These aren’t bad workout headphones for fans of Bose’s sound, but several of our neck-wired picks have battery life that far surpasses the 6-hour charge, in a smaller package.
  • Bose SoundSport Pulse, $179: Most users won’t need pulse-reading headphones when using an Apple Watch, and the buds are giant.
  • Bose Soundwear, $299: Bose’s “toilet-seat” portable speaker has its fans at iMore, but it’s not practical enough for an everyday set of Apple Watch headphones.
  • [Bragi Dash Pro], $:
  • Erato Apollo 7, $249.99: These are some of the smallest wireless in-ear headphones on the market and have great sound. Unfortunately, they’ve been plagued with long-term battery issues, with the case ceasing to charge, buds failing, and more.
  • Jabra Elite Sport, $149.99: I’m a huge fan of Jabra’s budget headphones, but I had major trouble getting these to fit correctly — and I’m not alone, as Wirecutter testers had similar issues.
  • JBL Free, $149.95: As is common with many of the free-standing buds on the market, the Free has major connection and battery issues.
  • Plantronics BackBeat FIT, $122: These are fantastic wireless workout headphones; they’re just a bit on the big side for Apple Watch carrying compared to our primary pick. If you don’t mind the size, however, they’re still a great option.
  • PowerBeats 3, $199.99: Oh, PowerBeats. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with these over-ear-clip headphones for a year; sadly, their W1 connectivity and lengthy battery life isn’t enough to save them from the cut list. (They’re just not as comfortable, nor do they withstand sweat long-term as well as our primary pick.)
  • Sony Premium Noise Cancelling True Wireless Headphones, $198: Terrible battery life and a bad fit made this a non-starter.
  • Urbanears Stadion, $99: I wanted to like these budget wireless headphones, but they’re not really comfortable for my head type, and details (like the micro-USB charging cover) feel a bit too flimsy.

You can’t beat Beats X!

See at Amazon

On a walk or most all-purpose activities with just an Apple Watch as a companion, I’d rock Apple’s Beats X headphones. The combination of battery life, lightweight fit, W1 chip for easy connectivity, customizable fit, and lack of necessary accessories (like a charging case) make them an easy sell. And with Amazon frequently selling pairs around $100, they’re cheaper than other great wireless headphones in the genre.

Bottom line: For the best fit and finish while paying a reasonable price, Apple’s Beats X headphones are hard to beat.

Status: Released February 2017; no successor.

What’s your favorite?

Sound off in the comments below!

Best Bluetooth Headphones for Apple Watch in 2018

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