Earin was one of the first startups to ship truly wireless earbuds back in 2015, though they were marred with problems. The second version of Earin’s buds, which were originally teased in early 2017 and are supposed to fix a lot of the first pair’s issues, are finally being released. They include one big surprise, too: built-in Google Assistant.
The M2 wireless earbuds are on sale today in the US for $249, available in black or white (with more colors on the way). They’re also on sale in China and Japan, and they will hit Europe later this year.
I got to try a prototype of the M2s at CES 2017, and I liked what I heard and saw in my limited time with them. They were especially small and light, and the company seemed to have directly addressed a number of the biggest annoyances with its original earbuds, the M1, like the carrying / charging case.
Earin has added two new features in the year and a half since that demo. The headliner is that they have Google Assistant built in, which is activated with a long press on either earbud. And there are no dedicated left or right earbuds; you just pop them in your ears, and Earin says accelerometers figure out which is which. It’s a very small headache that they claim to have solved, but it’s an interesting idea nonetheless.
Otherwise, the M2 earbuds are pretty much what was advertised at the beginning of last year. Beyond Google Assistant, they’re very simple, with just a few touch controls and no fitness tracking. They’ll offer around three hours of battery life, and the case carries an extra 14 hours worth of juice.
While they connect to your phone using Bluetooth, the Earin buds talk to each other using Near-field Magnetic Induction (NFMI). This technology, typically used with hearing aids, was first employed by Bragi in its wireless earbuds, and it helps cut down on a few big problems with wireless earbuds that rely solely on Bluetooth — namely signal delay, sound quality, and connection dropouts.
NFMI can be a bit tricky to work with, and the tech relies on the earbuds being as close to each other as possible, so it has its limitations. It’s also not cheap, which is probably part of the reason why the M2s cost $249. That was a more palatable price tag two years ago when only a few companies were in this space (and AirPods were still brand-new). But now, just about every audio company has their own truly wireless earbuds, and many of them cost way less.
Still, it’s a nice surprise to see the M2 finally make it to market. Not only was the product plagued with delays, the brand’s future also seemed in doubt when it was bought up by Will.i.am’s company i.am+ in the middle of this year’s CES. And let’s just say i.am+ doesn’t have the most sterling reputation when it comes to hardware.