Yesterday Google unveiled a handful of new products covering just everything from laptops, smartphones ( Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL) to smart speakers, cameras, and headphones. Pretty much everything was centered around Google Assistant, leveraging to the power of Google’s AI and machine learning to help make your devices smarter and more functional than ever.
Google Pixel Buds are the company’s take on Apple AirPods, wireless earbuds that give users hands-free access to a virtual assistant. They’re not true wireless earbuds like you’ll find with AirPods. Pixel Buds are tethered to each other with a wire that wraps behind your neck and you can find plenty of options using a similar design from just about any accessories manufacturer. While they don’t look particularly impressive, Pixel Buds different is that they have a few interesting tricks up their sleeves. Let’s take a look.
We already talked a little bit about the design. At first glance, it’s sort of uninspired, looking like your typical thick, wireless earbuds we’ve seen for years now. But upon closer inspection, you’ll find that the wire connecting the buds actually passes through buds, creating a loop on the end that helps the earbuds fit securely in your ear fold. It’s such an interesting way to handle this and looks much cooler than the rubber grips you find on other wireless earbuds.
There are no rubber tips, which means these are a one size fits all affair. While they fit snuggly in one of my ear holes, they kept slipping out of the other, requiring some additional fine tuning of the loop to securely hold them in place. Once I got that worked out, they felt good although not quite as nice as AirPods.
When you’re not using Pixel Buds, they can be stored inside their charging case. The buds last around 5 hours on a single charge, while the charging case holds an additional 4 full charges for “24 hours of total playback” and charges via USB Type C (yes!).
The case itself feels nice, sort of high quality TPU with a faux fabric layer on the outside. The buds are held into place with magnets, and require you to hold them down while you wrap the wire around the inside of the case. From there, you’ll have to hold the wire down while closing the case, making the whole process feel much more involved than it should.
So what can they do?
Well, Google Pixel Buds can not only listen to music, but they can access Google Assistant as well. The large surface area is actually a sort of touch pad (right earbud only), recognizing taps and gestures. For instance, tapping on it will pause/resume music, while swiping forward/back will adjust the volume.
Long pressing on the Pixel Buds will activate Google Assistant. There’s no downtime either, just hold on the bud and immediately begin speaking a command or query. Google Assistant will then let you know what it’s doing almost as if it were listening the entire time.
Google showed off the ability for Pixel Buds to translate 40 languages in real time thanks to Google Translate. During the onstage demo, this happened rather seamlessly without much downtime, but since I wasn’t able to test this for myself I can’t say for sure if the process was just as quick (or slightly more delayed).
Pixel Buds also have a painless pairing process that works much the same as AirPods. Pixel Buds utilize Google Assistant to auto-pair to your device without the need to fiddle around with settings. A popup will ask you to connect and show you the battery percentage of your buds, you just have to make sure you’re Android device is running Android Marshmallow or higher to take advantage of this feature.
When do they release and how much?
Google Pixel Buds will be launching this November for $160. They come in black, white, and blue color options (matching up with the Pixel 2 colors) and although they’re listed as “out of stock” on the Google Store, you can join the wait list to be notified when they finally become available.