When Apple released the iPhone 7, their first phone without a 3,5 headphone jack, I knew it was all over for that familiar little audio port – at least for me. Not because I believe they had no other choice but to remove that port and that the decision was 100% right. But I am actually happy that Apple caused me some inconvenience and forced me to finally adapt a wireless solution. Luckily, I wasn’t totally unprepared for this, since I had backed a Swedish Kickstarter campaign called PUGZ a year earlier. They got very lucky and pretty much timed the shipping of their product with the launch of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7S.
While I like the idea of in-ear earphones, I still haven’t tried a single pair that fit well in my ears. Not even close, unfortunately. This is probably a problem with my ears, not all those earphones, but this made me go for the Leaking version of PUGZ. Besides the obvious difference between sealed and leaking earphones, I’m only missing out on the passive noice cancellation of the sealed version. One clear benefit of leaking earphones is that you don’t have to remove them from your ears if you want to pause whatever you’re listening to when you want to talk to someone you meet. I also prefer this type of earphones for making phone calls.
The build quality and overall design of PUGZ is very good. The two earbuds are connected by a cable that acts like a neckband that lets you hang them fairly secure from your neck when you don’t use them. A “feature” that sets them aside from the much hyped up Apple AirPods. The leaking version of PUGZ comes with silicone caps that really make these earphones fit well in my ears. Maybe it’s the best fit I have ever experienced, with tests spanning several weeks, and including running and exercising. I have never had them fall out by mistake, and this is definitely not something you can take for granted with earphones. The earbuds are also of what I consider normal size, and not gigantic as many other competing products.
The cable that connects the earbuds features a small remote and a Squircle connector. Relax, I didn’t know what a Squircle was either, which brings me to the biggest drawback of PUGZ. I mean, who invents a proprietary charging port in the year 2016 (or 2015, but whatever)? People are already furious about having to carry Lightning, micro-USB, USB-C and other cables around to keep all their devices charged and in sync, so why on earth do we need another one? The Squircle is a fairly big, rounded rectangle that attaches magnetically to the USB-cable with a similar port. It’s not even very good or useful and I see no reason for it to exist. I might be missing something here, but I doubt it.
When I first received my PUGZ I had a problem that I thought was just a quality issue I had to accept. Sometimes when I powered the device on it connected to my iPhone and everything looked good, but the sound just didn’t start playing in the earphones. I had to flip switches off and on, power the PUGZ off and on and finally it worked. Annoying of course, so I contacted their customer support after a while. The response came very fast and after exchanging a few emails we managed to fix the problem by resetting the device to factory settings, which is done this way:
- Unpair the PUGZ device in iOS bluetooth settings.
- Power PUGZ on.
- Press play and + buttons at the same time for 10/20 seconds.
- Pair the devices again.
- Done, hopefully.
Now they connect instantly and have yet to fail me a single time. The experience is almost as seamless as the one with the fantastic BOSE QuietComfort 35. All this to say that my experience with the customer service was good.
The battery life is OK for a small device like this, and I think the claimed up to 4 hours is correct. If you have an Android phone you can even draw power from the micro-USB port on the phone and charge your earphones on the go. This was planned to work with iPhone as well, but unfortunately Apple put an end to those plans. Don’t be evil, Apple!
Speaking of power, I wish there was a power indicator on the earphones that reflected that they are powered on. I’m not sure if they shut down after X minutes of inactivity? I still haven’t seen it happen myself, but I wish they would. With no indicator present, I have forgotten to power them off several times, only to realize this later. Since battery life isn’t great, this can quickly become a problem.
The last complaint I have is that the transmission isn’t powerful enough and sometimes the sound can be shaky and break up. This happens when I put my phone in a pocket on the right side of my body (which I often do) and hold my hand or arm in front on the phone. The Bluetooth transmitter is located in the left earbud according to PUGZ customer service, and my body simply gets in the way of the transmission. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s pretty irritating. I can’t help but think that it must be possible to improve in a future, second product by the PUGZ.
If you don’t have time to read the full story then here’s the key facts and reflections I have after using my PUGZ for about two months:
- Leaking version doesn’t have to be removed when talking to people.
- Easy to leave hanging around your neck when not used.
- Good build quality and overall design.
- Fits very well and never fall out by mistake.
- Comfortable to wear.
- Normal sized earphones, not too big like many competitors.
- Android users can change PUGZ from their phone.
- OK battery life for such a small device.
- No passive noice cancellation in the Leaking version.
- The proprietary charging connector is a bad idea.
- No charging on the go with iPhones.
- Nothing indicates that PUGZ are powered on.
- The earphones don’t power off after X minutes of inactivity(?)
- Bluetooth connection can be blocked by your body.
Overall, even though I have a few improvement ideas, I really like my PUGZ Leaking Earphones, and I’m happy to recommend them. While it’s not exclusive to PUGZ, the feeling of listening to music and making calls without a cable running between my phone and the earbuds is really sweet. Especially as the weather is getting colder here in Sweden, and you have to wear a jacket, a warm scarf, a bag, gloves and earphones at the same time. I really don’t miss that stupid cable on my now retired wired earphones.
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