Earplugs are a recurring expense that you are not prepared for

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Smartphones were once the popular product that every manufacturer jumped on, but now everyone is making pretty good earbuds. Chances are you have one in your pocket right now. But you may not have realized that you will soon have to buy another one.

If you look at things a little cynically, manufacturers have moved to another product with better churn than phones, and they’ve found that in earbuds, much to your detriment as a consumer. Whether they’re high-end, mid-range, or budget buds, chances are they’ll last a little over a year. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to make good use of it for a few more months. But after the two years, we bet they won’t last long.

Earplugs can’t fight science

AirPods 3rd generation in the case.

Sam Smart / Android Authority

All wireless open-ear headphones and earbuds contain small batteries. Since you use the earbuds regularly, the battery drains and recharges when you put the earbuds back in the case. By design, there is no point where your earbuds are not part of a charge or discharge cycle.

With each charge cycle, the battery may hold a little less charge than it once did. Add up these cycles over the year and you’ll find that your earbuds just don’t work that long.

What may have started with five to six hours of battery life now becomes just three or four hours. Give it a few more months, and your earbuds won’t last through a full workout session or half a movie, and you’d be forced to buy a new pair. If you disproportionately prefer the left or right earbud for fast-paced tasks, you should also brace yourself for uneven discharge and the premature demise of just that one earbud.

With small batteries and fiddly parts, earbuds just aren’t designed to last.

You can replace a smartphone’s battery, but that’s not really possible with earbuds. Earbuds are designed to focus on sleek aesthetics and a compact form factor rather than longevity. Generous amount of glue is needed to make them this small, and that glue makes it very difficult to replace the battery or do any kind of repair. For almost all OEMs, replacing a faulty earbud with a new one under warranty is more economical than trying to break off the tiny earbud, repair the problem, and reassemble it.

In all of these cases, if you’re out of warranty, which will probably be at the end of the first year, you’re out of luck.

Earplugs can’t fight your bad luck either

AirPods Pro 2nd Generation Water

Lily Katz / Android Authority

For argument’s sake, let’s assume that you won’t experience battery degradation and that your earbuds have an infinite battery status. So the challenge is to make sure you don’t carelessly lose or misuse your earbuds over the years you plan to keep them.

Far too many people around me have left their earbuds in their jeans, only to discover them after a thorough washing and drying. If they’ve never done that before, it’s often their dog chewing on an earplug. There are many other ways bad luck can track your earbuds, such as leaving them in a cafe, dropping them out of your ears during an outdoor workout, and so on.

The thing is, earbuds are very easy to damage and just as easy to lose. Their diminutive size is inversely proportional to their doomed fate in the hands of the average user. If you’re not particularly careful, you’ll quickly cycle through a few pairs.

When life hands you a lemon, hope it’s not an out-of-warranty earbud!

If you have an impeccable sense of responsibility and take good care of your gadgets, there is always the possibility that the manufacturer will hand you a lemon.

Earbuds have the same manufacturing flaws as other electronics, and despite excellent build processes and quality controls, you may end up with a pair that breaks. If you’re out of luck, this will happen once your warranty has ended. It’s a hardware lottery at the end of the day, and someone is bound to pick the short stick.

Of course, some manufacturers do not have excellent construction processes and quality controls. Sometimes the product even has one design flaw that could cause it to break open longer than one year. Your good luck lasts while the warranty lasts, provided you can prove it wasn’t normal wear and tear that caused this untimely demise.

How long did your last earbuds last?

88 votes

A good warranty is more important than ever

The Google Pixel Buds Pro earbuds outside the open case and next to a Pixel 6 phone.

Lily Katz / Android Authority

As with most gadgets, it’s important that you stick to brands with a reputation and an enforceable warranty. You’d probably spend a little more, but the peace of mind is worth the extra dollars. It may even be beneficial to purchase an extended warranty for your earbuds, depending on the cost and availability of favorable terms.

For EU buyers, the deal is sweeter. The EU gives a minimum of two years warranty on all products, including earplugs. EU consumers, while paying a higher price for the same product, know they can enjoy it for at least the next two years. For me, that two-year warranty opens up the possibility of buying high-quality earbuds, as I’ve been promised a working pair for at least two years.

OEMs should also offer a two-year warranty in other parts of the world, but that will not happen until legislation forces them to do so. So pay extra attention to the warranty in regions outside the EU at the time of purchase.

I am convinced that earbuds are an annual hardware subscription

AirPods Pro 2nd generation water-removing silica gel

Lily Katz / Android Authority

I’ve used a ton of earbuds over the years and I’m more convinced than ever that they’re practically an annual subscription to hardware.

No matter how careful I am, there is bound to be an accident with my earphones that won’t last more than a year and several months. The same is actually true for everyone around me. It is quite difficult to use earphones for more than two years at the moment.

My advice to people buying earplugs is to consider their short life expectancy. I’m hesitant to recommend top-tier earbuds to most people these days. The Airpods Pro 2 and the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro sound great and have tons of features. However, people often stretch their budgets to afford one, not realizing that they will soon have to walk the same path again.

What is your annual earbud budget?

Wireless Earbuds OnePlus Buds Pro 2 Google Pixel Buds Pro Apple AirPods Pro 2 Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Galaxy Buds 2 Pro 3

Lily Katz / Android Authority

Can you really afford a $200-$300 earplug every year? That’s a question more people should be asking themselves before spending a top pair. You are going to buy earplugs more often than you should buy a smartphone.

Think of earplugs as an annual expense and mentally brace yourself for surprises. With that in mind, you should probably opt for a cheaper pair that wouldn’t hurt your wallet if they fell out of your ear and down the drain.

Fortunately, the mid-range for earbuds has matured quite a bit. You can opt for good earbuds around $100-$150 and receive an experience quite comparable to the top of the range. Yes, some features will be missing; you don’t have the best sound signature, you don’t get the best ANC, and so on. But you do get a good enough product to jam to some tunes and take all those phone calls.

What is your annual earbud budget?

43 votes

I’ve been using the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 as my primary earbud recently and I’m satisfied enough not to look elsewhere, even though my Galaxy S23 Ultra would be a better match for the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. I’m also impressed with the Nothing Ear 2 and the OPPO Enco X2; they also go on my recommendation list. Samsung users can stick with the affordable Galaxy Buds 2 and be well served.

When (and not if) my OnePlus Buds Pro 2 no longer meets all my needs, I’ll consider spending in the same ballpark and opting for a mid-ranger. Because at this rate I need a pair of earplugs every year. And probably you too.

$99.99 at Amazon

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2


Samsung Galaxy Buds 2

Compact design
In-app earbud fit test
Sound quality

$179.99 at Amazon

OnePlus Buds Pro 2

OnePlus Buds Pro 2

Support for next-gen codecs
Fast charging
Tuned for bass fans

$149.00 at Amazon

No ear 2

No ear 2

Very comfortable earplugs
Squeeze controls
Bluetooth Multipoint

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