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Which iPhone headphones should you buy?

By Daniel Nissenbaum

Our testing tells you which iPhone-compatible headphones are the most comfortable and sound the best, and which aren’t worth your money.

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When you’re choosing headphones to pair with your iPhone, there are a few things to consider. First of all, how good are the ones that come with it in the box and should you replace them?

If you do choose to upgrade, you’ll need to think about compatibility (for wired headphones), how portable you want them to be and, of course, the sound quality they’ll give you. Durability is important too – if you’re carrying your headphones around with you all day, you’ll need a pair that won’t quickly fall apart. Finally, you’ll probably also want a pair with a built-in microphone so you can take calls while using your headphones.

The big news with the launch of the iPhone 7 was the removal of the headphone jack, which means you can only use wired headphones with a Lightning cable jack (an adaptor for standard headphones is supplied with the phone) or wireless headphones. Battery life for wireless in-ear headphones isn’t great, so two of the three models we've featured here are wired pairs, but you can visit our guide to the best wireless headphones to see our picks.

The table below rounds up our top-rated headphones for using with iPhones. Pick one of these pairs and you’ll enjoy crystal-clear sound quality from your iPhone, whether you’re listening to music or talking with friends and family.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you're not yet a member, you can get instant access by taking a £1 trial to Which?.

Best headphones for iPhones

Bose SoundSport In-Ear
Today's best price £79.00
Which? score 85%
Reviewed Nov 2014
Best Buy
Performance:
5 out of 5
Acoustic leakage:
5 out of 5
Comfort:
4 out of 5
Durability:
3 out of 5
Travel Case:
Member exclusive
Weight (g):
Member exclusive
Cable Length (cm):
Member exclusive
Cable Controls:
Member exclusive

These in-ear headphones were specifically designed with sport in mind, which means that they’ll sit comfortably in your ears no matter how briskly you’re striding down the street. They’re also great for sound quality. Regardless of what you’re listening to, you’ll get clean, well-balanced sound that has bass but isn’t dominated by it. There’s also a microphone and controls on the cable so you can answer calls on the go.

Apple In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic
Today's best price £69.18
Which? score 79%
Reviewed Mar 2014
Best Buy
Performance:
5 out of 5
Acoustic leakage:
4 out of 5
Comfort:
4 out of 5
Durability:
4 out of 5
Travel Case:
Member exclusive
Weight (g):
Member exclusive
Cable Length (cm):
Member exclusive
Cable Controls:
Member exclusive

This is another pair of wired in-ear headphones that will give you the best combination of features and sound quality to use with your iPhone. They feel really well-made, so they’re more likely to survive repeatedly being stuffed into your pocket or bag. As with our other recommendations, sound quality is great across genres, and there’s a built-in microphone for making calls, too.

Apple Airpods
Today's best price £139.19
Which? score 65%
Reviewed Dec 2016
Performance:
4 out of 5
Acoustic leakage:
3 out of 5
Comfort:
4 out of 5
Durability:
5 out of 5
Travel Case:
Member exclusive
Weight (g):
Member exclusive
Cable Length (cm):
Member exclusive
Cable Controls:
Member exclusive

These wireless headphones will pair perfectly with your iPhone, and even allow you to control Siri without having to get your phone out of your pocket. Sound quality is decent and they’re light and comfortable so they’re easy to take out and about with you.

Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct at May 2017.

Not found the product for you? Browse all of our headphone reviews.

And here are three models to avoid

Pick the wrong headphones to pair with your iPhone and you could be regretting your decision every day. Simply spending more money isn't a guarantee of quality either. We've tested expensive pairs from leading brands (including one in the table below) that sound terrible. Not all headphones connect conveniently to iPhones either - some lack the most basic controls so you'll be taking your phone out of your pocket every time you want to adjust the volume. 

In-ear headphones to avoid

Yurbuds Focus 400
Typical price £45.00
Which? score 15%
Reviewed Dec 2015
Don't buy
Performance:
1 out of 5
Acoustic leakage:
4 out of 5
Comfort:
1 out of 5
Durability:
3 out of 5
Travel Case:
Member exclusive
Weight (g):
Member exclusive
Cable Length (cm):
Member exclusive
Cable Controls:
Member exclusive

These sporty-looking headphones might seem as though they will stay secure when you're out and about, but when you get them home you'll realise that they fit terribly. They also sound awful, making these one of the worst pairs of headphones we've ever seen. Annoyingly the cord also tangles easily if you put these in your pocket - avoid them at all costs.

Rock Jaw Alpha Genus V2
Today's best price £39.95
Which? score 24%
Reviewed Dec 2015
Don't buy
Performance:
1 out of 5
Acoustic leakage:
5 out of 5
Comfort:
2 out of 5
Durability:
4 out of 5
Travel Case:
Member exclusive
Weight (g):
Member exclusive
Cable Length (cm):
Member exclusive
Cable Controls:
Member exclusive

A choice of three different ear tips means that you can adjust the sound from these in-ear headphones to your liking. Unfortunately, though, the choice is between bad, worse and all over the place. Like the vast majority of headphones they have in-line remote controls built in to the cable, but these controls are more basic than most - you can't even adjust the volume without getting your phone out of your pocket.

Bowers & Wilkins C5 Series 2
Today's best price £119.95
Which? score 29%
Reviewed Nov 2014
Don't buy
Performance:
1 out of 5
Acoustic leakage:
5 out of 5
Comfort:
2 out of 5
Durability:
2 out of 5
Travel Case:
Member exclusive
Weight (g):
Member exclusive
Cable Length (cm):
Member exclusive
Cable Controls:
Member exclusive

This expensive pair of in-ear headphones from a highly respected audio brand should be a surefire hit, right? Wrong. Surprisingly, sound quality ranks among the worst we've seen - the powerful bass just overwhelms everything. We found them really difficult to fit properly - they pinch your ears and apply pressure where you don't want it. To top it all off, they're a bit flimsy - not well suited to everyday use while you're out and about.

What to consider

Compatibility

Not all wired headphones are compatible with iPhones. Models that feature controls on the cable will need to have the right headphone plug to work with iPhones, as there is a different design for Android phones. Headphone manufacturers will almost always make separate versions of their headphones for Apple and Android, but it’s wise to double-check before you buy.

Portability

When making our recommendations above, we’ve selected in-ear pairs over on-ear and over-ear models because they’re much more portable. The fact that we’ve gone for in-ear sets means we’ve only chosen one wireless model, as Bluetooth in-ear headphones tend to have short battery lives.

Durability

Of course, when you’re taking your headphones around with you all day, you want a pair that isn’t going to break quickly. Over-ear headphones tend to be the best in this regard, but that’s because they demand it – their bulky size means you can’t throw them around as easily. If you look after your in-ear headphones well by keeping them in a pouch and away from the bottom of your bag, they should last a long time.

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