Apple’s AirPods have some new competition this week, as the reinvention of the Pixel Buds arrive in Australia.
There’s certainly no shortage of wireless earphone options in Australia, and whether you’re an iPhone owner with a pair of AirPods or AirPods Pro, or something else from Jabra, B&O, or Sony, or even an Android owner with either of these options, you definitely have choices for all manner of price points, be it under $100 to much, much higher.
Out of all of the brands out there, however, Google hasn’t had a strong showing. Its initial wireless earphones included the cord, and they weren’t fantastic, either. While the idea of the original Pixel Buds showed promise, the result was much more underwhelming than we expected, with an awkward design, less-than-reliable translation (an advertised feature), and a cumbersome way of wrapping the whole thing up.
My, my, how time has changed.
Last year during the launch of the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, Google also revived and refreshed its earphones, cutting the cord and shrinking them down, and providing an option that could more easily compete with Apple’s wireless and cordless AirPods.
The new model of the Pixel Buds is just being called that — the “Pixel Buds”, not “Pixel Buds 2” — and offers a truly wireless approach with a small and diminutive design, complete with IPX4 sweat and water resistance, making them ideal for a light run, but not good enough for running in a storm or swimming with.
Announced last year but not released until recently, Google features touch controls incorporated in the design, allowing you to swipe forward and backward for volume, and tap several times for playback control.
The new Pixel Buds also aims to be stable, with three sizes of tips, a small wing to adhere to the folds of your ear, and a design that simply has you rotate the earphone until they’re comfortable, while the earphone design is such that Google is aiming to keep things sealed, albeit without noise cancellation.
There is no noise cancellation in the Pixel Buds, sadly, though Google is using something different, with an “Adaptive Sound” concept. The idea here is that a Pixel Buds app (or the native version of Android on Google Pixel phones) can listen to the environment and deal with audio volumes accordingly, helping you to hear your music and phone calls better. This is available for Android only, though, so iPhone owners with Pixel Buds don’t seem to be able to turn this on or off, at least not yet.
However music and calls will work across both, using custom 12mm drivers in each ear with two beamforming microphones to deal with voice, with in-ear detection available to pause and play music when your ears are picked up. Google has even left in support for translation via the Google Translate app with “conversation mode”, though much like the Adaptive Sound feature, it may be Android only.
Battery life on the new Pixel Buds is set to five hours of music listening or 2.5 hours of talk time, with the charging case providing up to 24 hours of recharging for music, suggesting a good four charges are available in the compact battery case, which can be charged wirelessly over the Qi standard or USB Type C.
The Australian release of the Google Pixel Buds comes as Google makes them available around much of the rest of the world, with pricing set for $279 locally in white. You’ll find them now at the Google Store online, with retail availability possible in the future, too.