Google’s Pixel Buds are here, are they a threat to Airpods?

Google’s long awaited TWS earbuds have launched with great sound, comfy design, and built-in AI. Are they better than competitors though?

It’s been 6 months since Google announced their Pixel Buds, their triumphant entry into the booming TWS market. So far Apple dominate the bunch by far despite a number of competitors getting on the hype of Airpods, but Google may be the one to disrupt it.

Google’s Pixel Buds are now available in ‘Clearly White’ for $179 in the U.S. and are launching further in the coming months. They promise high quality sound, a unique design that is comfortable and unobtrusive whilst sitting firmly in your ears and have been designed to work seamlessly with voice assistants for AI functions.

Google have gotten a bunch of their team to each describe a different part of what they feel makes Pixel Buds special. Here’s what they have to say:

Get started easily with Fast Pair

“I always used to use wired headphones because I had concerns about the reliability of Bluetooth® connectivity, as lots of other earbuds have pairing problems, including the original Pixel Buds. With the new Pixel Buds, we focused on improving Fast Pair to eliminate these pain points and easily connect to your phone.”

– Ethan Grabau, Product Manager

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Clear calls with special mics and sensor

“To give you clear calls, even in noisy and windy environments, Pixel Buds combine signals from beamforming mics and a special sensor that detects when your jaw is moving. This helps so you don’t have to look for a quiet place to take a call. It’s come in particularly handy these past few weeks for me working from home with two young daughters.”

– Jae Lee, Audio Systems Engineer

Adaptive Sound for better audio  

“Adaptive Sound is perfect for those moments like when you’re steaming milk for a latte, or when you’re washing your hands or the dishes. Those noises can eclipse your audio experience for a bit, until the latte, or your dishes are done.” 

– Basheer Tome, Senior Hardware Interface Designer

“To help, Adaptive Sound temporarily and subtly adjusts your volume to accommodate for the new noise in your environment, and goes back to normal after it’s dissipated. It works kind of like auto-brightness on your phone screen: It momentarily adjusts to the world around you to make the experience of using your device a little simpler.”  – Frank Li, UX Engineer  

Hands-free help with Google Assistant

“When I’m working in the yard and wearing gloves, I can use  ’Hey, Google’ on my Pixel Buds and easily control my music. I can also hear my notifications, and reply to a text message with just my voice and Google Assistant. 

And when I’m taking my dog on our daily walk and using my Pixel Buds, I use Google Assistant to navigate and check my fitness progress hands-free while juggling a leash and bag of dog treats. The Pixel Buds are slim enough they fit snag-free under a hat or hoodie, too.” 

– Max Ohlendorf, Technology Manager 

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Real-time translations with conversation mode 

“We set out to see how we could use Google Translate on Pixel Buds to reduce language barriers. Making the conversation as natural as possible even with the use of the phone was important, so we decided to create the split screen UI to show exactly what was being said, and translating it in real time on the screen with conversation mode. Any exposure to a different language is also an opportunity to learn, so we wanted to make the feature is not only as helpful as possible for things like being in a different country, but also as simple as being able to help bilingual households across generations connect through language.” 

– Tricia Fu, Product Manager

Peace of mind with Find My Device

“The fear of losing expensive wireless earbuds is real, and in many cases a reason why people are afraid of trying them. We tried to reduce that fear a bit with Find My Device. If an earbud falls out when you’re walking or running, you know right away. But you may be less aware when you return home and absentmindedly put them down somewhere. So we built the ability to let you ring your earbuds from your phone. We also wanted to make sure we were thoughtful in what that experience is like. You can ring one earbud at a time, to focus on finding either the left or right earbud. The moment your hands touch the lost earbud, the ringing will stop. We hope people won’t need to use this feature often, but if they do, they can find misplaced earbuds more easily.”

– Alex Yee, Interaction Designer

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It’s early days but Apple haven’t had a tech giant like Google to compete with on the TWS pitch so far – except kind of Samsung. As Pixel Buds launch further and get better (they’re planning regular updates to improve them) we will see if the competition heats up.

Pixel Buds are available through the Google Store and retailers including AT&T, Best Buy, Target (coming early May), T-MobileU.S. CellularVerizon and Walmart. Other colors—Almost Black, Quite Mint and Oh So Orange—will be available in the coming months. Pixel Buds will come to more countries in the coming months as well. 

Head of Social Media and Marketing, RouteNote

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