If you've ordered one of Apple's new iPhone 12 models, you may have heard that Apple is no longer including earbuds — or any sort of headphones — in the box. The 3.5mm headphone jack has been missing from the last few iPhone iterations, and now that the wired EarPods are no longer included, shifting to wireless headphones feels like even more obvious option.
Apple will be glad to sell you its AirPods, AirPods Pro, or the Powerbeats Pro from its Beats subsidiary. And sure, those those models are on this list, but the idea here is to give plenty of alternative iPhone 12 headphone options (https://www.cnet.com/news/best-headphones-and-wireless-earbuds-for-iphone-12/#ftag=CAD187281f), including some good budget models that are highly affordable. Since these are Bluetooth headphones, they do work with other Bluetooth-enabled devices as well, including Android smartphones.
If you're looking for AirPods alternatives but don't want to spend much money, we do have a list of best true wireless earbuds that cost less than $50 (https://www.cnet.com/news/best-true-wireless-earbuds-under-50-for-2020/#ftag=CAD187281f) as well as a list of best true wireless earbuds under $100 (https://www.cnet.com/news/best-cheap-true-wireless-headphones-top-airpods-alternatives-for-less/#ftag=CAD187281f).
Best all-around headphones
CNET TAKE: Sony's earlier WH-1000XM3 model was great. But if it had a weakness, that was its voice-calling capabilities, particularly in noisier environments. The new WH-1000XM4 (https://www.cnet.com/news/sony-wh-1000xm4-review-a-nearly-flawless-noise-canceling-headphone/#ftag=CAD187281f) improves in that area and also adds multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can connect to two devices — such as your phone and PC — at the same time. This means that if a call comes in while you're using the headphones with your computer, the audio will switch to your phone when you answer the call.
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 probably still have the edge for voice calls, but the 1000XM4 headphones are arguably a tad more comfortable. They also have some other improvements to noise cancellation and sound, making this model a great all-around choice.
Excellent-sounding true wireless
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
CNET TAKE: The second-gen Momentum True Wireless 2 (https://www.cnet.com/reviews/sennheiser-momentum-true-wireless-2-review/#ftag=CAD187281f) aren't cheap at $270, but they're better all around than the originals, with a slightly smaller, more comfortable design, active noise canceling that rivals that of the AirPods Pro, improved battery life (up to 7 hours versus the original's 4) and better noise reduction during calls. And, if you don't like them in black, a white version is now available. Most importantly, though, the Momentum True Wireless 2 have the same stellar sound — for true wireless earbuds, anyway — offering clearly superior sound quality to the AirPods Pro. That makes them arguably the best true wireless earbuds on the market today and earns them a CNET Editors' Choice Award.
These use Bluetooth 5.1 with support for the AAC and AptX codecs (for devices that have AptX, such as Samsung's Galaxy smartphones).
Most affordable Apple headphone
CNET TAKE: We didn't think we'd ever see a version 2.0 of Beats' once-popular BeatsX neckband-style wireless earphones, but it's arrived with a new name — the Beats Flex (https://www.cnet.com/news/beats-flex-review-not-true-wireless-earbuds-but-a-good-50-airpods-alternative/#ftag=CAD187281f) — and a much-cheaper $50 price tag, which is half of what its predecessor had been selling for.
The Flex instantly becomes an affordable, Apple-friendly wireless alternative to the AirPods, which start around $130 for the standard version with a wired charging case (but will be selling for as low as $99 this holiday season). The good news is they sound better than both the original BeatsX and standard AirPods. They also work well for making calls and have better battery life than the original. The bad news? The design is passe in a world now dominated by true wireless earbuds.
They're available in black or yellow at launch, with gray and light blue arriving in early 2021.
The following CNET staff contributed to this story: Executive Editor David Carnoy and Copy Editor Jim Hoffman. For more reviews of personal technology products, please visit www.cnet.com.
(c)2020 CNET Networks, Inc., a CBS Company. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.