Sony has pushed out an update to its WF-1000XM3 noise cancelling earbuds, addressing two of our small but lingering frustrations with the otherwise excellent headphones. Launched earlier this year, the in-ear sibling to the WH-1000XM3 headphones was early to the table with active noise cancellation.
Since then, of course, we’ve seen Apple’s AirPods Pro arrive, along with a number of other ANC-toting earbuds. From our experience, the WF-1000XM3 have the edge on musical playback and thoroughness of noise cancellation; however AirPods Pro can be easier to use.
That’s in no small part down to Apple’s tight integration of its custom Bluetooth chipset with iOS, but Sony is pushing back with some updates of its own. Firmware v2.0.2, released today and first spotted by The Verge, addresses two of our criticisms of the Sony ‘buds. First, the absence of on-earbud volume control, and second, the absence of a charging case battery gage.
The former is now fixed with a new option in the Sony Headphones app, available for iOS and Android. A volume option has been added to the touch-sensor controls. You have to choose between toggling ANC on or off, or using that sensor for adjusting volume.
A short tap raises the volume, while a long-press lowers it. You can have different functions for the left and right earbud, so that for example you might assign volume control to the left side, but leave the right controlling ANC.
As for the charging case battery status, that adds a third icon in the Sony Headphones app. As well as seeing the individual status of the left and right earbuds, you can now see the battery level of the case, too. However Sony’s app only updates that when you actually remove the earbuds from the case itself, rather than continuously as iOS and AirPods Pro can do.
The other change that v2.0.2 brings is Amazon Alexa support. It’s optional, but it allows you to interact with Amazon’s assistant through the earbuds, much in the same way that you’ve already been able to do with the WH-1000XM3 headphones.
Sony’s new firmware is available to download now, though in my experience this morning it can be a bit finicky. You’ll need to have the earbuds out of the case, powered on, and connected to your smartphone while it downloads; I found it was easiest just to do that while they were in my ears, since if the process is interrupted it starts the download over from scratch (despite the app suggesting it can resume the process). Figure on it taking about 20-30 minutes in all.