The AirPods 3 and Galaxy Buds 2 are both the middle children in their respective wireless earbud families, offering good sound quality and a nice mix of features for relatively affordable prices. And while choosing between the two may seem obvious — get the AirPods if you’re on iPhone, get the Galaxy Buds if you’re on Android — there are a few key features that make both buds worth considering regardless of what platform you’re on.

Fortunately, we’ve spent many, many hours with both the AirPods 3 and Galaxy Buds 2 in our ears, and are ready to make that decision easy for you.

A great choice for Apple fans

Get the AirPods 3 if you want a pair of good-sounding earbuds that work especially well with iPhones, iPads and Macs.

Excellent ANC buds for Android

Get the Galaxy Buds 2 if you have an Android phone or just want active noise cancellation at a great price.

You should get the AirPods 3 if…

You’re in the Apple ecosystem
As with any set of Apple earbuds, you’ll get the most out of the AirPods 3 if you own an iPhone. These buds pair instantaneously to Apple devices, and let you take advantage of Apple-exclusive features such as hands-free Siri control and Find My tracking for locating your AirPods in the event you lose them.

iPhone owners can also take advantage of the AirPods 3’s spatial audio feature, which allows you to enjoy immersive 360-degree songs on supported content (including lots of Apple Music tracks). The AirPods 3 will still work with an Android phone — they paired just fine to our Galaxy Note 10 — you’ll just have to live with a much more basic set of features.

You want reliable controls
Like the AirPods Pro, the AirPods 3 have pinch-based controls that allow you to toggle music playback and summon Siri by quickly squeezing or holding the stems. We’ve found this to be a much more reliable solution than the Galaxy Buds 2’s tap-based controls, which can be overly sensitive at times and have caused a fair amount of accidental inputs in our testing. If you’re looking for consistent controls that won’t cause you to automatically skip your favorite song, the AirPods 3 are the winners here.

You want (slightly) longer battery life
The AirPods 3 and Galaxy Buds 2 both have pretty solid battery life, but Apple’s buds lasted slightly longer in our tests. The latest AirPods endured a strong 6 hours and 10 minutes of continuous listening, which is about 30 minutes longer than what we got from the Galaxy Buds 2.

We’ll note that active noise cancellation was engaged during our Galaxy Buds 2 test, so your mileage may vary based on whether or not you’re using the buds’ various modes. Both buds are rated for a similar level of battery life when you factor in the charging case (30 hours for the AirPods 3; 29 for the Galaxy Buds 2), but we were able to eke just a bit more out of the AirPods.

Key specs:

  • Price: $179 (currently discounted to $149.99)
  • Colors: White
  • Special features: Spatial audio, adaptive EQ
  • Water resistance: IPX4 on earbuds and case
  • Wireless charging: Yes
  • Size and weight (case): 2.14 x 1.83 x 0.84 inches, 1.34 ounces

You should get the Galaxy Buds 2 if…

You have an Android phone
Much like the AirPods are ideal for iPhone owners, the Galaxy Buds 2 have the most to offer for folks with Android phones. Most of the Buds 2’s special features live in the Android-only Galaxy Wearable app, where you can toggle noise modes, customize your sound with various equalizer settings, locate your earbuds and even perform an earbud fit test to find the right ear tip size.

The Galaxy Buds 2 worked just fine on our iPhone 12 Pro, but there’s no app support for customizing them. As such, iPhone owners will be limited strictly to toggling active noise cancellation and ambient noise using the buds’ on-ear controls.

You want active noise cancellation 
The Galaxy Buds 2 sport active noise cancellation (ANC) as well as an ambient noise feature for amplifying the outside world, which are two features you won’t find on the more-expensive AirPods 3. The Buds 2’s active noise cancellation feature is pretty subtle compared to what you’ll get on more premium earbuds such as the AirPods Pro or Galaxy Buds Pro, but it still does an OK job quieting the everyday racket of city living.

But these earbuds really shine when it comes to ambient noise, which made it very easy to stay aware of nearby cars and pedestrians even while jamming out to music. Keep in mind that you’ll be able to utilize these two features on both Android devices and iPhones — you’ll just have to toggle them using the buds’ onboard controls if you’re on the latter.

You want a more secure, comfortable fit
We’ve worn both the AirPods 3 and Galaxy Buds 2 for days on end without issue, but we think Samsung’s buds are the more comfortable option by a long shot. The Buds 2 have silicone tips and an extremely lightweight and ergonomic design, which nestled into our ears for a fit that feels softer and more secure than what the latest AirPods offer. We also appreciate that the Buds 2 come with three swappable sets of ear tips, which give you more flexibility than the one-size-fits-all design of the AirPods 3.

You want multiple color options
If you’re tired of plain white earbuds, the Galaxy Buds 2 are for you. Samsung’s earbuds come in a choice of graphite, olive, white and an especially attractive violet, giving you plenty of options for matching your phone (or your favorite outfit). By comparison, the AirPods 3 are only offered in the usual Apple white.

Key specs:

  • Price: $149 (currently discounted to $107.11)
  • Colors: Graphite, white, violet, olive
  • Special features: Active noise cancellation, ambient noise
  • Water resistance: IPX2
  • Wireless charging: Yes
  • Size and weight (case): 1.96 x 1.98 x 1 inches, 1.45 ounces

Bottom line
In terms of what you get for the money, the Galaxy Buds 2 are the winners here by a long shot. They’re more comfortable than the AirPods 3, have lots of useful features (including active noise cancellation) and even sound a bit better. And while both of these earbuds see frequent discounts, the Galaxy Buds 2 can be had for as low as $107.11 right now — that’s much cheaper than the AirPods 3’s current sale price of $149.99.

But just because the Galaxy Buds 2 are better on paper doesn’t mean they’re better for everyone. The AirPods 3 are still preferable for folks in the Apple ecosystem, thanks to their seamless pairing and iPhone-exclusive features like spatial audio and hands-free Siri control. We’d argue that the AirPods Pro and Beats Fit Pro are both better buys for those tied to the Apple side of things, but that’s a whole other story.