The 15 Best Wireless Headphones for Everyone

Whether you’re listening to the latest episode of the Get WIRED podcast or hitting the trail with the new Gorillaz album, the right pair of wireless headphones can make or break your day. Problem is, there are a lot to choose from. WIRED’s Gear team is constantly trying out new models, to help those tired of using wires and dongles. The following are the best wireless headphones we’ve tested, and we explain why you might be interested in each pair.

Be sure to check out our other audio guides such as Best Wirefree Earbuds, Best Workout Earbuds, Best Smart Speakers, and Best Bluetooth Speakers for more music nirvana.

Updated October 2020: We’ve added the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, Jabra Elite 45H, and Marshall Mid ANC.

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How to Shop for Halloween Costumes in This Bizarre Year

There are many kids who use wheelchairs or walkers, and have varying sensory or medical needs. None of them should feel left out on Halloween. Thankfully, a few stores, including Target, now offer adaptive costumes for all ages. (I maintain that you are never too old to dress up.)

Wheelchairs become part of the costume with kits like this rocket ship or flying witch from Target. The Disney Store has impressive options too, like Cinderella’s Coach and the Incredimobile. Spirit and Amazon also have wheelchair covers, but they’re much more expensive and not as nice.

Other adaptive costumes are designed to be easy to get in and out of and comfortable for the wearer, like this unicorn with accessories that can be removed as needed. The Disney Store has a Cinderella dress and Incredibles outfit to complete wheelchair sets, plus a Buzz Lightyear costume. All of them have discrete front openings for medical access, too.

You Can Also Do It Yourself

As easy as it is to buy a costume that comes with all the accessories, my favorite Halloween costumes are the ones I made myself.

Homemade costumes don’t need to be cosplay-level perfection. Throw on that flannel and long coat you already own for Bender from The Breakfast Club. Or if you are a perfectionist, go all out in a red gown (bonus points if you paint spirals on it) as the Martian Madame from Mars Attacks. I’m particularly proud of my light-up soda-bottle jet pack for my Space Cadet costume; I sewed space patches onto a military-style blazer I already owned but no longer wore, and then bought a cheap silver outfit. That costume cost me between $30 and $40, and I wore it two years in a row.

If you’re going to make something yourself but you’re not sure where to start, Google and Pinterest are your friend. If you’re thinking about it, there is probably already a blog about with a how-to.

When scouring Goodwill or local thrift stores, the key is to keep an eye out for unusual things that can work—I turned a faux fur collar into a Where the Wild Things Are monster tail, which was cheaper than buying fur from a craft store. I’m not a professional sewer either, I just use a needle and thread. If I can do it, so can you.

TJ Maxx, the Dollar Store, and Five Below are good for inexpensive bits and pieces. Amazon wigs tend to be better than Party City’s plasticky ones. You can also find great offerings at Etsy, like this DIY fox mask.

There are plenty of homemade possibilities for wheelchair costumes, like these incredible renditions of Beetlejuice and Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Halloween is my favorite holiday, but it’s a wasteful one. Costumes are typically made to be worn once and discarded. But with fashion being an environmental nightmare as it is, try to reuse anything you can for a one-night-a-year event.

If you have more than one child, switch costumes between them. They can pick new accessories to put their own spin on it. Same goes for yourself; reimagine old costumes or ask friends and relatives if you can switch with them.

Goodwill and Salvation Army typically have Halloween sections, too. Did you know you can shop Goodwill online? It and other thrift stores can be goldmines for decades-old clothes. You can always re-donate after the holiday if you’ve bought something you don’t think you’ll use again. Facebook’s Marketplace could be helpful depending on your area.

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The iPhone 12 Finally Gets Magnets Right

Avi Greengart, consumer technology analyst at Techsponential says that modular designs appeal to engineers, rather than the typical consumer. “You start with a base slab and then you can add things to it, but it doesn’t match how consumers purchase products,” he explains. “The phone itself needs to be something that they want to buy right now and use by itself.”

The primary use of the magnets in the back of the iPhone 12 is to offer iPhone owners an easier way to charge the device. Accessories are just an additional perk. And even then, Apple is starting out very simply on the accessories front—with just a charger, a wallet and a magnetic case.

Of course, established Apple accessory/case/strap makers will be ready to jump on the new functionality. Teoman said he can’t wait to see “the innovative way” that MagSafe will be used, with the aim being to build “a robust and ever expanding ecosystem.” Belkin has already announced a MagSafe car mount and a MagSafe charger which can charge both your iPhone and Apple Watch, while OtterBox has a MagSafe-compatible iPhone 12 case. Similar Moto modules were much more essential to the use of the Moto Z, but Motorola clearly intended Moto Z users to switch accessories out on a regular basis to increase the functionality of the device. Not so here.

Ramon Llamas, research director for IDC’s Devices and Displays team, thinks that this was one of the issues with Motorola’s implementation of magnets—they were unnecessary additions which are already features in many modern smartphones. “Most of their mods were extensions or duplications of what the Moto Z was already capable of doing—think camera, battery pack or speaker,” he says. “Most smartphones already took high-quality photos, and adding a mod to do DSLR-quality pics would most likely appeal to a select crew.”

Another sticking point was that the Moto Mods weren’t just a little bit of a gimmick, but they were also mightily expensive. A JBL speaker attachment cost $80, the 360-degree camera cost $300 and the Polaroid printer attachment cost $200. The iPhone 12 already has a great camera; it already has a great speaker, and well, who really needs a £150 printer?

Apple already learned some lessons from Motorola by not making MagSafe the unique selling point of the iPhone 12. For anyone watching the keynote, the major focus was 5G, followed by the new design and camera improvements. “Moto hyped up the Mods as it needed a way to stand out from the Android crowd. This meant a lot of focus was placed on the mods, which did not help the phone’s appeal as they were frankly underwhelming compared to the hype,” says Daniel Gleeson, mobile industry analyst at Omdia.

Gleeson says that Apple isn’t making the same mistake with MagSafe. If Apple over-emphasized MagSafe, it would mean that the iPhone 12 would be judged by the quality of third-party accessories. “MagSafe will instead just form part of the ‘it just works’ magic of iPhone,” he says, “where similar capabilities on other brands feel clunky and old fashioned in comparison.”

Ultimately, the reason why magnets won’t fail Apple is a simple one. Apple is a two trillion-dollar company which sells millions of iPhones every single year. Compare that to Motorola’s Moto Z which, according to Omdia data, accounted for just 0.3 per cent of the US market in June 2020. The phone didn’t even enter the top 50 handsets in the UK.

So while accessory manufacturers are no doubt scrambling to make MagSafe-compatible accessories to get a bite of that Apple pie, beyond the partnerships locked in for launch, others clearly weren’t rushing around trying to manufacture Moto Mods. The in-built advantage Apple now commands extends beyond that too. While retailers will be more likely to devote shelf space to MagSafe accessories, they were likely much less willing to give Moto Mods the same courtesy. Still, if the Moto Mods have shown us anything, it’s that if Apple’s softly softly approach takes off, there is plenty of potential for what MagSafe could do.

This story originally appeared on WIRED UK.


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The Best Locks for Protecting Your Bike—or Ebike

Whichever lock you go with, make sure it loops around your lock-up point—bike rack, secure fence, etc.—and through the triangular part of your bike frame, and through the spokes of your rear wheel.

Two locks are always the most secure, but few people want to buy and carry two locks everywhere they ride. Ideally, a second lock would go through the front wheel to the lock-up point, because it’s very common for thieves to steal an unsecured front wheel, especially if it’s a quick-release design, and front wheels are expensive to replace. That’s why I liked the Kryptonite Evolution Mini-7, which comes with an extra cable built into what’s a decently safe U-lock.

Keep your U-lock away from the ground when it’s locked to your bike. Thieves like to take a bottle jack, normally for jacking up a car, and place it inside the “U.” Then with enough pumping, it breaks the lock open. If you get the U-lock away from the ground, it makes it hard for them to do this. You also want to get a U-lock that has as little extra space inside the “U” as possible. The less extra space, the less room there is for thieves to manipulate the tools needed to cut through it.

Oh yeah, and inspect your lock-up spot before you decide to park there. Thieves are known to dislodge poles and sign posts from the ground and then place them back in the hole, so all they have to do is lift the post to free your bike once you’re gone—no tools or noise required.

If you lock up at a bike rack, check it out first—especially if you see tape wrapped around it. Bike thieves are known to saw through racks and then wrap the cut part in tape to hide it, so when bike owners walk away, they can yank the tape off, pry the severed bike rack apart enough to slide your lock out, and ride off.

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How to Use Blood Oxygen Data on Apple Watch, Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung

Even if you wear a sensor in the right spot, its readings can be affected by a whole host of factors. That’s especially true for devices that aren’t the standard fingertip readers.

“On reflective devices, the performance can be a little worse,” says John Feiner, a respiratory physiology researcher at UC San Francisco. “Anything that shines through the fingertip usually is a little better, but all of these devices can be affected by profusion, cold, blood flow. There are many things that can affect this.”

These possible inaccuracies are why companies like Apple, Fitbit, and Garmin are very careful to emphasize that the readings you get from their wearables are not meant to be used for any kind of medical diagnosis.

And since we’re talking about measuring color and light, even skin color can possibly affect oximeter readings. If you are in a position where you’d still like to monitor your SpO2 levels, there are some ways to potentially make the readings more consistent.

“Personally, one thing that I would do is to put the watch on and put a wristband on top of it—something black to cover it and keep it enclosed,” Morita says. “I would monitor myself only in controlled conditions. So I would go into my bedroom, turn off all the lights, and measure my SpO2, let’s say, once an hour.” If you’re regularly monitoring your levels for the sake of your everyday health, it’s best to do so when your breathing levels are normal, and not after a period of physical exertion. “I would not use the information from the watch coming back after a run, or after cooking or walking around the house, because all of that activity is adding noise,” Morita says.

Is there a better way?

Just because wrist-mounted oximeters might lack precision, it doesn’t mean they’re entirely useless. Feiner, who has studied pulse oximetry in the medical field for over 20 years, says that the availability of these features in consumer devices shows how far the technology has come.

“Let’s say you’ve got an agitated patient in the intensive care unit, and you’re trying to get a reading and they’re moving,” Feiner says. “You need to know if you can trust that this is even in the ballpark. Many years ago, we would’ve gotten nothing. Now these devices actually perform pretty well. It’s pretty amazing.”

Both Feiner and Morita say their real concern with pulse oximetry in consumer devices is less about accuracy and more about how users will interpret the data that is presented to them.

“The biggest problem with all the wearable market that’s out there is not the technology, the sensors, or the data they’re collecting,” Morita says. “It’s always how that data is being presented to the user.”

A quick snapshot that tells you your SpO2 levels right at that moment isn’t very useful without context. Ultimately, if you’re concerned about your oxygen levels, your best bet is still consulting with a doctor who can track that data over time, and then interpret the results in meaningful ways.


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Samsung Galaxy A71 5G Review: A Drab, but Reliable Phone

Have you seen a Samsung Galaxy A before? It’s a series of smartphones for people who don’t want to spend $1,000 on a Galaxy S20. Samsung announced a whopping six new Galaxy A models for 2020, and they’ve been trickling out in the past few months.

I took the $400 Galaxy A51 for a spin in May, and my takeaway was that there are better phones for the same price. The newer Galaxy A71 5G doesn’t have as many compromises, but it commands a $600 price tag ($500 at Amazon). It, too, struggles to stand out in a crowded field, but with a better camera system and more reliable performance, it’s a great all-arounder worth considering.

Just the Basics

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Photograph: Samsung

Perhaps the most disappointing two things about the A71 5G are that it lacks water resistance and wireless charging, the same as most phones in this price bracket except the LG Velvet. Considering Samsung has been including these features in its flagship phones for years, you’d think it would have figure out by now how to trickle them down to a phone that costs only $120 less than its top-of-the-line Galaxy S9 from 2018. Ah well.

If you can get past those two omissions, the A71 mostly delivers. It has a MicroSD card slot so you can expand its 128 gigabytes of storage if you need more space; a 4,500-mAh battery capacity to keep it running more than a full day; and a 6.7-inch AMOLED screen that could stand to get brighter outdoors but does the job.

Performance, powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor and 6 GB of RAM, is ample, running games like Genshin Impact without much trouble. I noticed a few stutters here and there, but I never felt inconvenienced or hampered by them. It’ll run your apps and games just fine.

The A71’s body is plastic, which doesn’t feel as nice as glass yet attracts the same amount of smudges. But hey, it also won’t shatter if you drop it, and that’s always a plus.

It also has a headphone jack. You’ll want to use it, because the mono speaker at the bottom is easy to block with your hands when you’re holding the phone in landscape (widescreen) orientation to watch video or play a game.

The fingerprint sensor is under the display, and it’s not … great. It often takes two tries to identify my thumb. Registering the same fingerprint more than once helped, but you shouldn’t have to do that.

A Handful of Cameras

Like most phone makers, Samsung likes to cram in as many cameras as it can these days. There are a total of five here, including a 32-megapixel selfie camera. The main camera packs 64 megapixels, then there’s a 12-megapixel ultrawide, a 5-megapixel depth camera for improving the blur effect in portrait mode, and a 5-megapixel macro camera for extreme closeups.

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PC Gaming Doesn’t Have to Be More Expensive Than Consoles

Every few years, the planets align and we’re introduced to a new Xbox, a new PlayStation, and a new generation of PC graphics cards all at once—the perfect storm for a gaming-centric flame war. And with Nvidia’s latest cards costing $500 to $1,500, console users are singing the common refrain: “PC gaming is too expensive.” But these cost comparisons are often misleading.

You Already Own a PC

When people see a $500 graphics card, they think, “Holy smokes—I can buy an entire PS5 for that, and PC gamers are paying that much for just one component?” But that’s not really a fair comparison, because you (probably) already own a computer—so it makes more sense to compare the cost of a PS5 to the cost of upgrading your existing (or next) PC.

Let’s say you have a decent, somewhat modern desktop PC, but it uses integrated graphics, making it a gaming slouch. If you wanted to game on that PC, you wouldn’t need to build a new computer from scratch—you’d just need to pop in a new graphics card, maybe with an upgraded power supply (depending on your graphics card’s power needs). This isn’t a hugely complicated task—just read those two steps from our PC building guide—and you could easily do it for the same price as a modern console, or less. Nvidia’s latest cards start at $500, but those are just the high-end models—for each new generation, the enthusiast models come out a few months before the midrange GPUs most of us buy. Keep an eye out for some great $250 to $300 cards next year.

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But let’s say you don’t have a desktop PC, having opted for a more portable laptop instead. You could upgrade it with an external GPU enclosure (if your laptop has the right Thunderbolt port), but that gets expensive once you factor in the cost of the graphics card that goes inside it. For a more cost-effective solution, I actually recommend buying two PCs. Yes, you read that right.

Let’s say you’re eyeing the $400 PS5 Digital Edition, and you currently own a $500 Windows laptop—a budget-friendly but not bottom-of-the-barrel setup that totals $900. The next time you’re ready to upgrade your computer, you could skip the new laptop and put together a solid $600 gaming PC instead, with a $300 Chromebook for coffee shop work or chilling on the couch. The total package still costs $900, but you get a gaming PC without giving up portability. The Chromebook won’t necessarily handle everything your old laptop did, but your desktop Windows PC can pick up the slack whenever you need Windows.

If you generally go for more expensive $1,000 laptops, you have a lot more room to play with—you can put more money into the gaming machine, or put more money into the laptop. I switched to this two-computer setup years back, and it’s been incredible—even after replacing an otherwise high-end Dell XPS 13 with a cheap used Chromebook.

That exact situation won’t work for everyone (and the $300 Xbox Series S certainly throws a wrench into things on the absolute low end), but you get my drift: With some outside-the-box thinking, PC gaming is absolutely attainable on a console budget, if you take a more holistic approach to your buying decision.

PCs Have Some Hidden Cost Savings

And that’s only the price of the initial hardware. When you factor in the other costs that come along during a gaming machine’s life, the PC still comes out looking pretty good.

Consider games, for example. While people often cite ever-regular Steam sales as evidence that PC games are cheaper than their console counterparts, I haven’t found this to be entirely true—pop recent games into price trackers like PS Deals and IsThereAnyDeal and you’ll find many PC games share similarly low sale prices as their console counterparts. However: You definitely don’t see as many giveaways and bundles on consoles as you do on PC, thanks to companies like Epic and Humble. Even when PC gamers find themselves low on cash, they never have a shortage of games to play.

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12 Best Wireless Earbuds WIRED Has Tried (2020)

Wirefree (true wireless) earbuds are one of those ideas that sounds like a dream: Pop a tiny little headphone into each ear and listen to music or take calls untethered from everything.

Until recently, the reality was quite different. Most of the first wirefree buds were gigantic, dead after a few hours, and had a bunch of other problems. Luckily, times have changed. There are a host of new models that sound fabulous and work (almost) perfectly. After testing dozens of them for the past three years, here are our favorite wirefree earbuds right now, in a wide range of styles and prices.

If you don’t find what you’re looking for, our favorite cheap headphones and best workout earbuds guides may help.

Updated October 2020: We’ve added the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds as our new top noise-canceling pick.

Wait, What Are ‘Wirefree’ Earbuds?

We’ve seen them go by many names: true wireless earbuds, truly wireless earbuds, completely wireless earbuds, fully wireless earbuds. Here at WIRED, if a pair of earbuds is wireless, connecting to your phone/computer via Bluetooth, and has no cord that connects the left bud to the right, we call them wirefree. Typically, wirefree sets come with two popcorn-sized buds, each with a battery inside, and a charging cradle that carries extra battery power and keeps them safe when you’re not wearing ’em.

They’re liberating, but they do come with issues, such as limited battery life (don’t buy any with less than 5 hours), confusing controls, and reliance on a charging case. They’re also a bit easier to lose than traditional earbuds, and replacing one bud can be expensive.

Our Picks

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Wing Freedom X Review: Speedy and Pretty

When I first saw the Wing Freedom X, I wondered if it was going to be a cheaper take on the Dutch VanMoof S3. I was walking to meet a friend and happened to pass by Wing’s showroom, and I did a backward-walking double-take to peer in the window. Both electric bikes look very similar, and by that I mean they have tall, straight top tubes that overhang their tires for mounting a headlight and taillight. Both also have swept-back handlebars.

But appearances are really only skin deep. The Freedom X is a very different bike, at a price that’s more palatable for most people.

Speeeeed

It’s brisk. That’s thanks to the Bafang rear hub motor that measures 350-watt continuous output and 550-watt peak output.

You get five levels of pedal assist, but I usually kept it on level two, the second weakest. With the seven-speed mechanical gearing, I rarely needed more power. A few rotations of the pedals on level two assist, even from a standstill, shot me to 17 mph. It didn’t take much more effort to top out at 20 mph, the ebike’s official top speed.

Through the display—there’s no companion smartphone app—you can unlock the bike to reach 24 mph. It’s one of the Freedom’s coolest features, but it does technically make it illegal for use on most multi-use paths and trails. I’d just stick to the default if you’re in a city. If you buy the optional throttle for $80 extra, the Freedom X goes from a Class 1 ebike to a Class 2 because the throttle works even if you’re not pedaling.

Honestly, I didn’t like the throttle. It’s scalable, meaning that rather than being an on/off button it’s a lever that lets you select power along a continuum. Even when pinning it to its maximum, there was a lengthy delay before the bike would move. It was frustrating at stoplights, so I rarely used the throttle at all. It also didn’t add much oomph to the bike when it was moving. Flinging it to 100 percent throttle didn’t do anything the pedal assist wasn’t already doing, so it’s not like a boost button that’ll pour on extra power. Not all throttle are boost buttons, but it’s worth pointing out.

Hard Stop

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Photograph: Wing

Stopping is more of an issue. The cable-actuated disc brakes feel weak, even on a relatively light 39-pound bike (that’s lightweight for an ebike). New York City puts the panic in panic-braking, and I often deal with my fair share of hard stops thanks to impatient drivers, oblivious pedestrians and, once, a man playing cards in the bike lane.

The Freedom X’s brakes always stopped me before certain doom, but I often felt that I was using every last bit of braking power to come to a halt in those situations. Hydraulic brakes offer better stopping power, though they’re not common at this price. Cable brakes aren’t necessarily bad, but I’d have liked to see stronger ones here.

They also squeal like two pigs with a bellyache. I chalked it up to my particular bike until I read review after review of Freedom owners reporting the same, so it seems like Wing’s choice of brake pad might be to blame. You may have to swap out the stock brake pads for your sanity. It doesn’t cost much and it’s not hard, and it’s not a reason to avoid the Freedom X.

The X Factor

I tested the Freedom X ($1,449), but there’s another very similar model Wing offers called the Freedom 2 ($1,299). The X’s upgrades are a torque sensor for the pedals instead of a cadence sensor and a display nicely integrated into the top tube, which shows information such as speed and battery level.

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Best Dog Tech & Accessories: 14 Essentials for Your Pup

At WIRED, we really love our dogs. We also love each other’s dogs, whether they’re adorable little nuggets in New York City apartments, pit mixes in the country, or loyal heelers that spend all day, every day, within 6 inches of my left foot. For the past few years, my colleagues Scott Gilbertson and Julian Chokkattu and I (Adrienne) have been trading tips, tricks, and gear. These are currently our favorite pieces of tech that we’ve bought or tested for our very, very good boys and girls.

Are you a recent pandemic pet owner? Don’t forget to check out our guide to the best pet supplies for new adopters. Er, and maybe check out our Best Sustainable Cleaning Supplies guide too.

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