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The Best Apple-ish Gear for Apple Haters

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Apple products weren’t exactly allowed in my house growing up. My school had a lab filled with Apple computers, so I got exposed to the basic ins and outs of macOS. But inside my home it was Microsoft-Microsoft-Microsoft. My dad was a computer hardware engineer, and he worked with Windows, so it’s not surprising.

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He set me up for a life of endlessly comparing Apple products to everything else, weighing the pros and cons of every feature—especially price. You like Apple’s gadgets with their nifty features, but don’t wanna fork over a chunk of your paycheck? I get it. There are alternatives, and not all Android alternatives, either.

Sony WH-1000XM4 Noise-Cancelling Wireless Headphones ($278)

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Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

One of, if not the best, pair of headphones you can buy for less than Apple’s new AirPods Max: 20 hours of battery life, 40mm custom drivers, and a carrying case that looks more like a bra-shaped purse for $550? Psh! Sony’s WH-1000XM4 headphones are $200 less (although they are currently being sold at several retail outlets for around $280), have industry-leading active noise cancelation, touch controls, and other features that Apple’s AirPods Max come with as well.

These headphones also have 30 hours of battery life, up to five hours of playback after just 10 minutes of charging, and customizable EQ. They’re super comfortable, and they don’t look as weird as the AirPods Max. But probably the coolest feature is the ability to connect to two Bluetooth devices simultaneously, which allows the headphones to switch between the two based on audio cues or incoming calls. Sure, the AirPod Max can do that, but can it do that for $280? Nope.

Jabra Elite 85t with ANC ($200)

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The Jabra Elite 85t with ANC can connect to any device: Apple, Android, you name it. They also stay paired to multiple devices simultaneously. They’re slightly cheaper than the AirPods Pro, way more customizable, and have an hour longer always-on battery life, 5.5 hours versus 4.5. At launch, the Elite 85T were $230, but right now they go for around $200.

Also, these buds have the squishy end pieces, which fit and conform to the inside of your ear much better than the AirPod Pros. You could whip your head around and not worry about one falling out and flying down into a storm drain as much. Those of us with tragus piercings understand this struggle all too well. The AirPods Pro have soft end piece as well, but the fit isn’t as secure.

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Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 ($300)

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If you like the idea of a smart phone-smart watch ecosystem, but don’t want an iPhone or an Apple Watch, Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 3 is where it’s at, especially if you already have a Samsung phone. The Watch 3 has a beautiful round watch face with a rotating bezel, customizable backgrounds and widget pages, and Samsung fixed a lot of other features that were kind of broken on its previous Watch models.

It’s fitness algorithms are way more accurate, especially the GPS and step counter. The ECG feature is FDA-cleared, and it has a host of other features like running metrics, VO2 Max, and blood oxygen-monitoring that make this smart watch a wonderful gadget. The hourly reminder to get up and stretch so I can tear my eyes away from my computer screen is one of my favorites, and one that I need the most. It starts at $400, the same as the Apple Watch Series 6.

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Peloton Bike+ ($2,495)

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Apple has its Fitness+ subscription, but does it have a badass, stationary exercise bike to go with it? I think not! Sure, Peloton’s Bike+ is a $2,500 bike, but it does have an attached screen that rotates so you can do off-bike workouts that the company provides through its subscription service. Or you can buy a much cheaper bike and set your own tablet on top.

You can also pair your Apple Watch with the bike via the Apple GymKit to monitor your heartrate and what-not on the screen while you ride. It feels like a piece of gym equipment, only more high-tech, and it feels as seamless to use as an actual Apple product. Apple’s Fitness+ offers the same integration with the Apple Watch, but with more classes than just cycling. However, one doesn’t necessarily need their heartrate displayed on a screen. A smart watch aslois usually good enough.

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Which brings me to my next point: Apple Fitness+ only works with Apple products, while Peloton’s fitness app works with iOS, Android, Roku and Amazon streaming devices. It’s obviously the most device-friendly fitness subscription of the two, and offers workout categories that Apple Fitness+ doesn’t, like cardio bootcamp and meditation.

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Staff Reporter, Reviews at Gizmodo. Formerly PC Gamer, Maximum PC.

DISCUSSION

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Despite being coddled (strangled?) in the Apple ecosystem, I will never swap my WH-1000XM4's for the new Apple big headphones (I refuse to call them Megapods or whatever it is). They are half the weight, and they don’t come in a case that makes me look like a moron. I have the laptop, I have the phone, I have the watch, I have the airpods, but I’ll never swap the Sonys.

Side note: I genuinely want to meet someone who thinks the Apple headphone case is cool or useful. It fascinates me to no end that they would release a product as solid as these headphones seem, and give it a case like that. It’s an enigma wrapped in a soggy burrito tortilla.