I’ll talk about the Beats first because it’s easy: before I used a Plantronics set for exercise, but the battery life wasn’t great and they would often fall out when running. The Powerbeats 2 are light, have great battery life (they claim 6 hours, that feels about right), stay in place even when running in the Houston heat, charge fast, and as a bonus they look cool. (Beats has always been great about that.) The sound? They’re bad, but good at it. There’s basically no isolation so you can hear traffic and things around you at lower volumes, which is actually a bonus, and if you turn up the volume they get loud enough to drown other stuff out. Buy these for the function, not the sound quality, and you can pick them up from any Best Buy kiosk in the airport or Apple Store if you lose or forget them, so they’re pretty ubiquitous.
The sound is the best I’ve heard from wireless headphones so far. Just the right balance. The noise canceling apparently uses 4 different mics and I’ve found it more than sufficient on dozens of plane rides, including passing the noisy baby test. My only complaint is they don’t “grip” my ears as much, so some sound leaks in that way. They fold up to be pretty small, and I just toss them in my backpack. The battery goes forever, or as they claim 22 hours. You really forget to charge these things for a while and they still have plenty of juice. The volume and other controls actually work with the iPhone, and bluetooth calls have sounded great and people can actually hear me. Only downside is they have basically a proprietary connection for their 1/8th inch cable, so you have ta carry that around, but they charge with standard micro-USB. The only possible challenger I can think to these are the BeoPlay H8s, which I haven’t tried yet.
I think it’s interesting that both of these recommendations are version 2.0 of a product, it’s good to see companies iterating and improving on products even if they’ve already been successful in the marketplace.