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

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

Priced at $199, the Samsung Gear IconX may be the most expensive earbuds you ever buy. But the story here isn’t audiophile-caliber music quality. No, Samsung is pushing the IconX as the ultimate earbuds for workout fanatics, thanks to a completely wireless, design, onboard music storage, and built-in sensors for tracking steps and heart rate.

I used the IconX for about five minutes during the same Samsung demo that revealed the Gear Fit2 wristband, and found the earbuds to be hit-or-miss—awesome in some respects, a bit lacking in others. I’ll withhold final judgement until my official review, but at this point I can say that Samsung is on to something with the IconX. Indeed, if you require music and exercise data during your workouts, you’ll definitely want the feature set that Samsung is offering when the Gear IconX goes retail in the third quarter of this year.

Icon GearX: How it works

Other wireless earbuds, like the LG Heart Rate Earphones, are wired to each other, as well as to a control pod. LG’s control pod connects to your smartphone over Bluetooth—and that’s what makes the system wireless. But the Gear IconX are completely wire-free. They’re not even wired to each other. Instead, Samsung uses a special Bluetooth protocol to connect one earbud to the other, all while maintaining perfectly synced stereo sound.

iconx 1 Samsung

The outward-facing edge of the Gear IconX earbud is a touchscreen. Tap and swipe to advance through tracks and adjust volume.

What’s more, you won’t necessarily need to bring your smartphone with you when you’re exercising, as the Gear IconX boast 4GB of storage for onboard music. Just drop the earbuds into their charging case, and then connect that to your computer. Now you can transfer tracks from your music collection to the ‘buds.

Battery life is rated for 3.6 hours of continuous use if you only listen to onboard tracks (MP3, WMA v9, WAV, AAC, and M4A are all supported). If you choose to stream music from your phone, battery life drops to 1.5 hours.

I found the IconX incredibly easy to insert in my ears, and they wouldn’t pop out no matter how violently I shook my head. Unfortunately, Samsung’s system for controlling volume and pause/play/track advance wasn’t quite so trouble-free. Each earbud includes a capacitive touchscreen to control these functions, and while swiping to control volume was easy enough, I never mastered the tap methods for playback control during my brief time with earbuds.

iconx 2 Samsung

The Gear IconX come in three colors. You know, for ear fashion.

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.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags samsungfitness

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jon Phillips

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?