The Beats Flex are great entry-level headphones that give you most of the special Apple features you see on more expensive Beats and “AirPods” models. With solid sound quality for the price and a comfortable fit, it’s hard to find a lot that you don’t like about them. The cable between the headphones makes them more visible when worn compared to “AirPods”. However, this wire also prevents you from losing your earbuds without resorting to over-ear hooks like the Powerbeats Pro, which some find bulky and uncomfortable, or Powerbeats, which include both hooks and wire. The wired and magnetic headphone attachment mechanism also allows you to easily attach and remove it all day long without putting it back in the pocket. 12 hours of battery life is much higher than what AirPods or Powerbeats Pro can offer. Regular Powerbeats provide up to 15 hours of battery life, but it’s less convenient to put it in and out of your ears.
Audio Sharing lets you share audio wirelessly with Beats Flex and another pair of Beats headphones or AirPods. From song to podcast to movie, some things are better together. Now you can easily share everything you listen to on iPhone, iPad or Apple TV and control the volume for each. Simply bring your second compatible Bluetooth headset close to your Apple device and connect with a flick of your finger. All you have to do is listen – together.
The Apple W1 Beats Flex chip integrates seamlessly into your Apple product universe. Simply turn your iPhone or iPad on and off. From there, your Beats Flex can be used with any Apple device that syncs with iCloud, so you can easily switch between products, check battery status, or share whatever you’re listening to with someone else via audio sharing.
According to Beats, BeatsX lasts about 12 hours on a single charge, and BeatsX lasts up to 8 hours. I’ve found the 12 hour rating very accurate based on my listening spread across multiple sessions, so you can probably use it for several days before needing to charge, even with fairly heavy use. If you want to charge the Beats Flex, you need a USB-C cable. This is another change compared to BeatsX, which uses Lightning. The Beats Flex comes with a 6 ” USB-C to USB-C cable. However, you will need to either supply your power adapter or connect it directly to your computer.
I don’t mind switching to USB-C because I have a lot of USB-C cables around the house to charge my iPad Pro and Mac portable devices, but for some, the switch can be a little inconvenient. Switching to USB-C makes it a lot easier for Android users since they generally have a lot of USB-C cables and may not yet have devices that charge via Lightning. Just like the BeatsX Lightning connector, the BeatsX Flex USB-C Connector has no cap at all. This leaves the port open to sweat, rain, and dust, but this doesn’t seem to be a big problem and avoids the bad port covers that come with many other devices.
Charging the Beats Flex took less than 90 minutes after the battery ran out. If the battery is nearly empty, you can play for up to 1.5 hours in an emergency situation when the battery is almost empty. There is a small LED indicator on the power button that pulses red during charging and turns white once the Beats Flex is fully charged.
While Android users get a relatively simple Bluetooth headset experience with the Beats Flex, the included W1 chip takes things to the next level for Apple users. It enables fast pairing, seamless switching between connected devices with the same Apple ID, and audio sharing, allowing you to connect two pairs of compatible AirPods and Beats to one device at the same time to listen to the same content. It is important to note that the W1 chip on the Beats Flex is the same as the previous BeatsX, and it is not the most advanced H1 chip found in the second generation AirPods, AirPods Pro, Beats Solo Pro, Powerbeats Pro, and the latest in Powerbeats. This means that the Beats Flex does not support the new feature in iOS 14 which will automatically switch the headphones to another device when the audio starts playing. Without the H1 chip, you won’t receive any hands-free support for “Hey Siri”. Therefore, you must press the Voice Assistant button on the left neck cover to access Siri.
The range was solid in my tests as expected thanks to the W1 chip. They might not be quite as good as the headphones with an H1 chip, but they seem to outperform standard Bluetooth connections, and I managed to get solid audio reception from a device on the second floor of my home while using the entire range basically my house went, with only a few Dropouts from places with particularly high physical disturbances. Beats Flex doesn’t have the same ear detection feature as AirPods, which automatically turn on or pause when headphones are inserted or removed. However, Beats Flex does offer an alternative mechanism where the headphones tap magnetically to pause the music while it is disconnected from playing. It results in sound playback for a brief second while the headphones are not in your ear, but it is a very practical solution.
The Beats Flex uses a two-chamber acoustic design and a proprietary layer driver to achieve excellent stereo separation with rich, accurate bass response. Precision laser-cut ventilation relieves pressure on the ears and an improved driver angle ensures crisp, clear sound. An advanced digital processor optimizes sound for an accurate and emotional listening experience. The result is rich, powerful sound that will inspire you throughout the day.
With almost identical housings on each side, it takes a little practice to keep the features in place. However, once you learn it is easier to control things by feeling. The case on the right only has a single edge along the edge that is easily recognizable by sense and is the power / pair button. Pressing and holding the button turns the Beats Flex on or off and enables pairing as needed. If you use them with an iOS device, you can pair quickly by simply bringing the Beats Flex closer to your device the first time you turn on the headphones. Android users can pair them either from the Bluetooth menu on their device or by downloading the Beats app for Android, which gives you quick access to pairing, firmware updates, product details, and battery level information.
The left case has two buttons that can be easily distinguished by sense. There is an elongated volume button along the edge, while the raised round button on the front of the case provides playback controls. Briefly pressing the playback controls will play or pause the audio, answer or end a call. Double tap jumps forward to the next lane, triple tap jumps back and tap and hold activates Sir. The left case also has a black patch that houses the microphone and USB-C port. The left and right cases have little “L” and “R” marks that you can use to figure out how to wear the headphones. However, it doesn’t take long to look at the containers’ physical features or even feel the right way. This setup differs slightly from the BeatsX, which actually had a third, closer-to-ear case on the left that housed all of the physical controls. I think I prefer the simpler Beats Flex design, which allows for weight reduction (they are 8% lighter than BeatsX) without sacrificing usability.