Google Pixel Buds: what we know so far about the AirPods-rivaling true wireless earbuds
Google is a huge name in the world of smartphones and smart speakers, but the tech giant hasn’t exactly made waves in the realm of personal audio. However, that might all be about to change, with the release of the new Google Pixel Buds.
Announced back in October at the Made by Google event that brought us the Google Nest Mini, the new Pixel Buds come with Google Assistant built-in, for hands-free access to the company’s super-smart voice assistant.
Cut to the chase
- What are they? The Google Pixel Buds, a pair of true wireless earbuds.
- How much will they cost? $179 (about £140 / AU$270).
- When will they be released? The first half of 2020, with an exact release date TBC.
That means the Google Pixel Buds could be an exciting new competitor to these established true wireless earbud models – if they live up to Google’s promises that they'll boast an incredibly far-reaching Bluetooth connection and excellent sound quality.
We can’t wait to get our hands on the new Pixel Buds to find out, but until then, here’s everything we know so far about Google’s first true wireless earbuds – and a few things we’re hoping we'll get to see.
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Google Pixel Buds release date
We still don’t have a firm Google Pixel Buds release date, but we know they’ll launch in the first half of 2020 – so expect to see them anytime from now until June.
We think a release date is coming sooner rather than later, as the earbuds were recently awarded an FCC (Federal Communications Commission) certification – this is usually an indication that a release date is imminent.
In the past, Google products haven’t appeared in the Wireless Power Consortium listings until after release, so this could be a good indication that a release is imminent – that is, if its not pushed back as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which forced Google to cancel the in-person portion of the Google IO event, due to be held in May.
For Google’s sake, we hope they make an appearance before the rumored Apple AirPods Pro Lite, otherwise the Pixel Buds are likely to be outshone by Apple’s popular true wireless earbuds.
Google Pixel Buds price
We know from the Made by Google event that the Google Pixel Buds will cost $179 when they’re released; while we’re still waiting for official global pricing, that works out at about £140 / AU$270.
That means that (in the US at least), the Pixel Buds will be more expensive than the Apple AirPods with the standard charging case. However, they’ll still be $20 cheaper than the AirPods with Apple’s Wireless Charging Case, a feature that is rumored to come with the Pixel Buds as standard.
Google Pixel Buds design
The Google Pixel Buds look very dainty from the images we’ve seen already, with smooth, flat housings that sit flush against your ear.
According to Google, the design was based on scans of “thousands of ears”, and should deliver a “customizable, secure fit”. A small earfin – which Google calls a ‘stabilizer arc’ – should keep the buds snugly in your ears, while what look to be silicone eartips will hopefully come in a range of sizes to suit all ears.
Google says they Pixel Buds are sweat and water-resistant too, so they should be fine for use during workouts – though the brand hasn’t confirmed whether the earbuds come with an IPX rating. They also come with a spatial vent that should allow a little outside noise to pass though the buds; this isn’t ideal if you were hoping for noise cancelation, but it should allow you to be aware of your surroundings and prevent the suction-like seal that is associated with in-ear headphones.
The outer housings of the Pixel Buds are touch sensitive, allowing you to tap to play and pause your music, and swipe to change the volume. To summon Google Assistant, you’ll have to rely on your voice.
It looks like the Google Pixel Buds will be available in four colors: orange, white, mint-green, and black, echoing some of the colors we’ve seen on the Google Nest Mini.
Google Pixel Buds battery life and connectivity
The battery life of the Google Pixel Buds is the same as the Apple AirPods: five hours with the buds alone, and "up to 24 hours" with the wireless charging case. That's not the best battery life we've seen for true wireless earbuds, but it should be enough to get you through your commute with juice to spare.
We’d love to see the ability for reverse wireless charging, as seen in the Samsung Galaxy Buds and the Samsung Galaxy S10 – you can simply place your earbuds on top of your smartphone and charge them up using your phone’s internal battery.
This is a feature that would have to come as part of a new Pixel phone, though, and we don’t think it’s likely that the upcoming Pixel 4a will support reverse wireless charging, as a cheaper version of the Pixel 4. It’s possible that it could come with the yet-to-be-announced Pixel 5, but we’ll have to wait a while to find out.
According to Google's senior vice president of Devices & Services, Rick Osterloh, the upgraded earbuds come with an incredibly long-range Bluetooth connection, making it possible, for example, to leave your phone in your locker at the gym and still be able to listen to your music wirelessly.
Google says the buds' connectivity is so far-reaching that you could leave a distance the length of an American football field between your device and the new Pixel Buds – for non-football fans, that's 100 yards (around 90 meters).
That suggests that the Pixel Buds will support the latest Bluetooth 5.0 wireless streaming standard.
Google Pixel Buds audio
It’s the most important aspect of any headphones, but it’s the area we know the least about when it comes to the Google Pixel Buds. Without having tested them ourselves, we can’t say how good they’ll sound, but we do know a little bit about the tech held within the buds.
According to Google, they’ll come with custom-designed 12mm dynamic drivers, which should provide a punchy, powerful sound; dynamic drivers displace lots of air to create vibrations (and therefore soundwaves), and are usually compact and lightweight.
Phone calls should sound clear thanks to the inclusion of an accelerometer that detects when you’re talking, alongside mics directed towards your mouth that Google says will ensure “background noise stays in the background”.
Hopefully these mics are better than the ones built into the original Pixel Buds, which we found weren’t always adept at picking up our voice.
Google Pixel Buds extra features
The Google Pixel buds come with the Google Assistant built-in, just like Google Home / Nest smart speakers. That means you can summon the voice assistant hands-free, by simply saying “Hey Google”, or “OK Google”.
You can then ask the assistant questions, for news and weather updates, or to carry out tasks, like calling a contact on your phone, and controlling your smart home devices.
Google also says that the Pixel Buds will be able to handle real-time language translations, a feature we saw in the original Pixel Buds that requires the Google Translate app to be installed on your phone.