One of the best reasons to choose Apple or Google’s wireless earbuds is that you can use either company’s always-listening voice assistants to control your music playback, without ever having to touch anything. Other wireless earbuds require you to tap a button first to make Siri or Google Assistant pay attention, which is less convenient, and why Skullcandy is introducing its own voice commands.
Is reaching up to your ear to tap or press a small button on your wireless earbuds that much of an inconvenience? Not necessarily, but for users who struggle to get wireless earbuds to stay put, even a tiny button tap can dislodge a bud, requiring a readjustment for a solid fit again. The task is further complicated if your hands are otherwise occupied, like when carrying groceries, wrangling a child, or steering a bicycle. It sounds like a small feature, but having wireless earbuds that are always listening for a voice command is actually incredibly useful, and a legitimate reason to opt for Apple’s or Google’s headphones over the competition. For those on tighter budgets, however, Skullcandy is finally bringing that functionality to buds that cost less than $100.
Available starting today, Skullcandy’s $100 Grind Fuel and the $80 Push Active both feature the company’s new Skull-iQ voice control functionality. Like the Apple AirPods or the Google Pixel Buds, the two new additions to Skullcandy’s lineup are always listening for voice commands, instead of requiring a button press first. That means that common functions like controlling music playback, adjusting the volume, turning on ambient sound modes, and even launching Spotify, can all be accessed by simply asking for them. The only downside? Instead of saying “Hey Siri” or “Hey Google,” you’ll have to say, “Hey Skullcandy” out loud. That might garner some odd looks from those around you—after all, Skullcandy isn’t really as well-known as Siri or Google.
Both sets of earbuds also offer the ability to customize the shortcuts triggered by button taps on the side, even using one as a remote shutter trigger for a connected smartphone’s camera. There’s also a fun Share Audio feature which allows two pairs of the Skull-iQ-equipped earbuds to both connect to the same wireless audio stream, making it easier to share a song or for two people to watch a video on a single device, as long as they’re no more than 15 feet apart. And for those prone to constantly losing their earbuds, Skullcandy also includes Tile tracking functionality making it easier to locate individual buds.
As for the differences between the first two pairs of Skull-iQ earbuds? The $100 Grind Fuel buds feature an overall smaller design with nine hours of battery life on the earbuds alone and an extra 31 hours when paired with their charging case, as well as the ability to tweak and adjust the headphone’s sound profiles through a free accompanying mobile app. The $80 Push Active feature a slightly larger design that pushes battery life to 10 hours on buds alone, and an extra 34 hours with the charging case. That’s paired with an adjustable over-the-ear support arm for a more secure fit that’s potentially more comfortable for some users.
Skullcandy is promising additional functionality will be added to the Skull-iQ feature through future software updates, but it has no plans to make it as robust as Siri or Google Assistant currently are. So if you have a random question you want answered, you can also ask Skullcandy to trigger your smart voice assistant of choice to help you out.