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These Solar-Powered Headphones Let You Ditch the Charger

These Solar-Powered Headphones Let You Ditch the Charger

‘Infinite’ is a tricky one, isn’t it? Something’s either ‘infinite’ or it isn’t. So when Urbanista describes its Los Angeles wireless noise-canceling over-ear headphones as having “virtually infinite” playtime, that’s basically the same as saying the Los Angeles don’t have infinite playtime.

Although, to be fair to Urbanista, the Los Angeles get a lot closer than most.

At a glance, there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about the Urbanista Los Angeles. Like the Miami wireless headphones on which they’re closely based, they’re discreetly good looking and nicely finished. And like every Urbanista product, they’re named after one of the planet’s more evocative places.

It’s on the outside of the headband, though, that the Los Angeles suddenly become unique. ‘Unique’, like ‘infinite’, is an absolute but currently, this is a description the Urbanista deserve. Because integrated into the outside of the headband there’s a big strip of a material called ‘Powerfoyle’ that’s supplied by a company called Exeger. It’s a solar cell material and it can derive energy from any type of light, from sunshine to the lightbulbs in your home. It’s always pulling energy, always charging, whether the headphones themselves are switched on or not. And it means the Urbanista Los Angeles will play for an enormous length of time without ever needing to be charged from the mains. Which, as unique selling points go, is pretty impressive.

Urbanista Los Angeles
Photograph: Urbanista

This piece of engineering brilliance aside, it’s mostly Urbanista business as usual. Which means the Los Angeles are a robust pair of headphones, comfortable at every contact point and not (like so many rival designs) about to swamp the smaller-headed listener. Build quality is unarguable, the choice of materials is judicious, the color options (‘midnight’ black or ‘sand’ gold) are pleasant, and there’s a degree of tactility about the Los Angeles that is by no means common in headphones below the £200 mark. 

Wireless connectivity is via Bluetooth 5.0, which is adequate but hardly at the cutting edge. Sound is delivered by a couple of the same 40mm full-range dynamic drivers fitted to the (suddenly slightly lo-tech) Urbanista Miami. There’s three-position active noise-cancellation: ‘on’, ‘off’ or ‘ambient sound’, and hair-trigger accelerometers that pause music if you take the Los Angeles off your head (or even shift them slightly on your ears). Happily, the ‘on-ear detection’ can be defeated in the nice new Urbanista control app.

As far as headphones control apps go, it’s one of the better-looking and one of the more restricted in what it can actually do for you. There’s a nice big display that explains whether the battery is being topped up or drained, there’s switching for the three-stage noise cancellation and there’s the ability to define the function of the physical ‘control’ button on the outside of the left earcup. That’s your lot.

The Perfect Wireless Earbuds for Every Need

The Perfect Wireless Earbuds for Every Need

wireless earbuds are one of those ideas that sounded at first like a dream: Pop a tiny little headphone into each ear and listen to music or take calls untethered from everything. The first wireless buds were gigantic, died after a few hours, and had a bunch of other problems. Luckily, times have changed. There are a myriad of new models that sound fabulous and work perfectly. After testing dozens of them for the past four years, here are our favorite wireless earbuds right now, in a wide range of styles and prices.

For more top picks, our Best Wireless Headphones, Best Noise-Canceling Headphones, Best Cheap Headphones, and Best Workout Earbuds guides may help.

Updated September 2021: We’ve added the Samsung Galaxy Buds2 and Sony WF-1000XM4, and updated our list of honorable mentions.

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Everything Samsung Announced at Its Unpacked Event

Everything Samsung Announced at Its Unpacked Event

The prices for both Samsung foldables have come down considerably, with the Fold3 going for $1,799 and the Flip3 starting at $1,000. If you preorder the Fold3, you’ll get $200 in Samsung Credit for Samsung.com, and it’s $150 if you snag the Flip3. 

Samsung Galaxy Watch4 and Watch4 Classic

Samsung watches

The Samsung Galaxy Watch4 (left, in blue) starts at $250. The Watch4 Classic (right, in white) starts at $350.

Photograph: Julian Chokkattu

Samsung is going in a new direction with its smartwatches. Rather than relying on its bespoke Tizen operating system and asking developers to create versions of their apps that only run on Samsung devices, it’s embracing Google’s Wear OS operating system. The company codeveloped the software alongside Fitbit, the Google-owned wearable maker. That means Samsung watch fans gain access to more useful apps, such as Google Maps. And, given the popularity of Samsung’s smartwatches, the move could potentially encourage more developers to build apps for Wear OS, something Google has always struggled with.

The new Galaxy Watch4 and Watch4 Classic have user interfaces that look and feel very much like previous Samsung smartwatches, but there are many changes under the hood and some subtle tweaks that make them easier to use. For example, tapping the button on the side of the watch lets you access recently-opened apps. Both watches are powered by a 5-nanometer Samsung processor, and they have higher-resolution screens, 16 gigs of storage, up to 40 hours of battery life, and wireless fast charging.

More importantly, Samsung’s BioActive smartwatch sensor has been redesigned to sit closer to the skin, thereby improving the health tracking abilities of the watches. The sensor can still measure electrocardiograms, blood pressure, and VO2 Max readings, but it’s faster at automatically recognizing workouts. It also offers more accurate calorie counts, and it now includes bioelectric impedance analysis, which lets you see granular body composition data such as skeletal muscle, body fat, and fat mass.

Samsung says sleep tracking on its watches has improved too. The watches work with Samsung’s Galaxy phones for snore detection (using the phone’s mics to pick up the sound of you sawing logs) while collecting blood oxygen data via the watch’s sensor once per minute for more detailed sleep analysis.

The base Galaxy Watch4 replaces Samsung’s previous Active line. The new watch doesn’t have a mechanical bezel, but rather a digital one. (You can slide your finger around the edge of the screen to scroll through the interface.) I think it’s better looking than the Classic, and it has a tantalizing price: It starts at $250 for the Bluetooth version but adding LTE connectivity costs $50 more. It comes in 40- or 44-mm sizes.