I spent the least amount of time with Google's new Pixel Buds at the Made By Google event in New York City, and that was by design: the product isn't ready yet. No one is allowed to wear them, to hear how they sound, or to experience the machine learning-generated Google Assistant feedback, which promises to expand the voice assistant's integration into near real-time territory. And yes, they share the same name as their predecessor.
Instead, the consolation was that I got to see the new Pixel Buds, which are truly wireless and live in a case that, when closed, looks like a distorted version of the onethat holds Apple's AirPods. And what I saw impressed me.
First, they're tiny. Google says that they're among the most compact true wireless earbuds on the market, though we don't have exact dimensions just yet. Anecdotally, I think they most resemble Samsung's Galaxy Buds, but they're closer in size to Jabra's upcoming Elite 75t.
The case is magnetic, and Google says that each earbud has five hours of battery life, with an additional 24 hours afforded by the case, which is fast charged via USB-C or, optionally (and excitingly!) via Qi wireless charging. Go, Google!
Google's taking sound seriously, too: it was eager to show off the earbuds' custom 12mm metallic drivers, though it's unclear at this point their actual frequency range. Suffice it to say, that'll be the first thing we test when we get them next spring.
The Pixel Buds reportedly come with three ear tip sizes in the box, a standard loadout in the industry, and when properly fitted offer a modicum of passive isolation — certainly more so than AirPods. But Google doesn't want to emulate the overwhelming isolation of other earbuds, outfitting these Buds with an ambient vent that lets in some sound from the outside.
There are still a bunch of question marks, though: is there an active passthrough feature using the built-in microphones? Is there an ambient sensor onboard to pause songs when an earbud is removed? They may be water and dust resistant, but do they stay in the ear while working out? And most importantly, how do they sound?
Each Pixel Bud has a dedicated machine learning chip inside it, which facilitates on-device processing of voice input. At a minimum, Google intends to offer hands-free Google Assistant support, but the company is touting some additional features that are currently in development — hence the wait until next spring.
When they're available, they'll cost $179, a fairly steep price when the Galaxy Buds cost $50 less, but certainly in line with competitors from Apple, Jabra, Jaybird and others.
Are you interested in the new Pixel Buds? Let us know in the comments below!
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