Microsoft’s Surface Earbuds are out now and have some extras for Word, Outlook and PowerPoint users. When we look past the hype there’s more than a few special conditions to keep in mind.
Now they are here, reviews have been mixed. The Guardian is generally positive saying “Novel design blends open-ear but secure fit with good sound, great controls and long battery life”
The Verge was less impressed “The Surface Earbuds have enough strengths — airy comfort, long battery life, and good voice quality — to outweigh their problem spots. But even the adjusted $200 price feels high. For that money, wireless charging is a sore omission, and the lack of multipoint pairing definitely stings for earbuds that are geared toward productivity”
Surface Earbuds make use of that large outer surface. It’s a touch sensitive area that can control the connected device with taps or swipes.
Double-tap either earbud for Play/Pause
Swipe up / down on the right earbud for volume control.
The control surfaces get some extra features when connected to a device with Microsoft 365 apps running.
Office related features
We’ll focus on the Earbud features related to Microsoft Office uses. There are three important ‘fine print’ items to consider.
According to Microsoft, these additional features require a Microsoft 365 plan.
Many of the supposed ‘special’ features that Microsoft boasts for Surface Earbuds are NOT unique to the Earbuds (or even Surface Headphones). They are Microsoft 365 subscription features that work with any properly connected accessory.
The additional, free, Surface Audio app is needed to enable some of these options.
Microsoft also notes that Surface Earbuds features with Office apps need a Bluetooth LE connection, which may not be available on older devices. If you want the Office extras, make sure your device/computer can connect with Bluetooth LE (not just any old Bluetooth version).
PowerPoint presenter tricks
The left earbud can control slide progress. Swipe forward or back on the left bud area to move through the presentation.
Double-tap to play/pause videos embedded in the presentation.
To enable the Earbud features, go to More slide show options | Surface Earbuds Settings | Use Gestures to Control Presentation.
The Earbud microphone, like any other compatible microphone can pick up the speaker’s words and show captions in the same or another language. Live Captions and Subtitles has been in PowerPoint 365 since January 2019.
Reading Emails in Outlook
Outlook Mobile apps can read emails to you.
With the Surface Earbuds that reading can be controlled with the same gestures as in PowerPoint.
Swipe forward or back on the left bud area to move to the next or previous email.
The Play/Pause and volume gestures work as usual in Outlook.
Yes, you can dictate to Word and Outlook with Surface Earbuds … that’s no different from most other microphones.