I was a long time user of LG’s Tone series of Bluetooth headphones, but last time I was in the market for a replacement I found that my local big box stores no longer carried them. That’s when I discovered that Anker was making wireless headsets now. I have always been a fan of Anker’s products, so I didn’t hesitate to buy the Anker headset that seemed similar to the LG Tone Pro.
After a few months of use, I’ve found a few annoying issues with the Soundbuds Life that have left me searching for a new headset once again. I thought I’d share my thoughts here, in hopes that Anker might see them and keep them in mind for future designs.
- The ‘storage’ position for the earbuds (magnetically attached back to back) is bothersome. In some cases, it makes them harder to get to, particularly if I’ve pulled on a jacket or overshirt and the headphones are inside the shirt. On the LG headphones, the earpieces were stored in a little recessed area at each end of the neckband, where they were more protected and out of the way, but still readily accessible. The earbuds also seem to catch on things quite a bit when dangling like this, which brings me to…
- The rubber earpieces come off too easily. I think a large part of this is that with the earpieces dangling, they get caught on shirts, coats, seat belts, or whatever else they might brush up against.
- No support for multiple connected devices – I’d gotten so used to this over the years, I thought it was pretty much standard on Bluetooth headsets anymore. I should be able to connect the headset to two devices at the same time. For example, I could connect them to my laptop and my mobile phone, so that I can listen to my PC audio, but if a call comes in on my mobile it will interrupt and let me answer the call. Or I could connect to both my iphone and apple watch at the same time. With the soundbuds life, it can pair with both, but it will only connect to one at a time. To switch between two, I have to either turn off BT on one device and power cycle the headphones, or go into the settings on the device and manually tell it to connect to the headphones.
- too few buttons - The + and - buttons on the soundbuds life serve dual purposes, both adjusting the volume and manipulating position/tracks within the audio. This sounds simple, but in reality makes things more complicated because when I want to use them I have to stop and remember whether to press and release, or hold the button down, to get what I want. Even if I don’t mean to hold it down, I sometimes end up losing my place in the audio because I tried adjusting the volume and did something wrong. And heaven help me if I need to figure out how to put them back into pairing mode…
- Tones instead of voice prompts - the Soundbuds Life play tones to let you know when certain things happen, such as turning on or off, or when a device connects, or when the battery gets low. The tones are too similar, and it’s hard to tell what they mean. It took me a while to figure out that the tone playing in my headphones meant the battery was low, and not that they had just disconnected or reconnected. I’d much prefer voice prompts or at least more distinctive tones.
Here’s what I’d love to see changed in a future version:
Earpieces that attach to the neckband when not in use, preferably sheltered in some way from my shirt/coat collar. (I LOVED the retractable earbuds feature on the LG Tone Ultra and above. Still, even magnetically attaching to the ends like the LG Tone Pro would be much better than the current design.)
Rubber tips that attach a bit more securely to the earpieces.
Better quality rubber tips, maybe the kind filled with foam to better fit & block outside sound.
Dedicated << and >> buttons, in addition to volume up and down. (And the <</>> buttons should do both FF/RW and Skip tracks)
Add support for having 2 devices connected at the same time
Either replace the tones with voice prompts, or switch to some more distinctive tones to better indicate their meaning.
With some of these changes, I think a future version could be truly great.