Tuesday , June 5 2018

Pixel Buds — Here’s what people are saying about them

Seeing as how Pixel Buds are now shipping in the US, and reviewers now have their hands on them, I thought I’d take a look at what people are saying about Google’s quirkiest announcement from their Pixel 2 event last month.

Perhaps the biggest thing people are commenting on is the fact that they’re tethered together with a braided cord. Reviewers just can’t get their heads around them not being a completely wireless experience:

  • 9to5Google reports “The first thing that jumped out at me with the Buds is how you remove them from the case. Unlike Apple’s AirPods or Samsung’s Gear Icon X, the Buds are still connected with a wire (that you shouldn’t cut), so you have to unravel that first before you can remove the Buds themselves. It’s a little odd the first time around, but once you’ve removed and replaced the Buds a couple of times, it’s pretty natural.”
  • Android Central found them rather comfortable – “these are easily the most comfortable wireless “earbuds” I’ve ever placed in my ear. If it weren’t for the cord dangling on the back of my neck, I would forget they’re in my ears — yes, they’re THAT comfortable.”

Another observation, which we kind of knew but perhaps didn’t know in as much detail, was that these are not earbuds, as such. They don’t go into your ear canal. They sit just near it. It’s kind of hard to explain, but this is the main problem I foresee: Pixel Buds have almost no sound isolation. Because there’s no rubber “tip” that goes into your ear to seal out the outside world, you still hear most everything around you.

From all reports, pairing is super easy, especially with the new Pixel 2 handsets:

  • 9to5Google noted that “setting up the Pixel Buds is a breeze thanks to Google’s Fast Pair feature. As soon as I removed the Buds from the case, my Pixel 2 XL brought up a notification to connect to the Buds, and about 5 seconds later I was connected and giving access to my notifications and Assistant.”
  • Android Central cautions that, though they’ll pair with just about anything, “Pixel Buds are only designed to work with Pixel phones (either generation), at least when it comes to the advanced features.” You won’t get fast pair, Assistant or instant translation with other phones. Yet.

Observations about interaction and the quality of the earphone based Assistant is something I can comment on — as the Bose QC35 IIs come with the same Assistant — and it seems the Pixel Buds aren’t immune from the same annoying ‘features’:

  • They’re not voice activated. You have to press and hold to speak to Assistant, it seems. No OK Google here.
  • Sometimes, even after giving an instruction, Assistant doesn’t respond.
  • Notifications can get annoying; there’s no filter, at this stage, so you can have all your notifications interrupt you, or none of them. If you’re like me, chances are having notifications on will drive you positively bonkers.

However, for what Assistant offers on the ears, it does well. Instead of waiting for you to finish talking, it gets to work as soon as you lift your finger off the pod. This makes it much faster. So much, so, that it almost feels like witchcraft.

The charging case continues the witchcraft, as it charges the Pixel Buds while it houses them. It’s not wireless – there’s tiny charging pins in the case and points on the buds themselves – but it seems to work rather well, though Android Central raise some concerns about the longevity, noting that the “only real structure to the case is around the bottom surrounding the battery (makes sense) but the lid is simply hinged fabric and rubber and the edges are very flexible. Normally I wouldn’t be super worried about these sorts of things, but the Pixel Buds charging case is designed to be with you all of the time — in your pocket, in your bag, on the table — and I’m not sure how it’ll handle that every day for months on end.”

If this isn’t enough to whet your appetite, Droid Life have put together a great unboxing video… though at 9 minutes long, you mightn’t want to watch all of it. Here it is for your viewing pleasure:

Before you ask, no, we don’t know when they’re coming to Australia, we only hope that they come soon. We do know that they are coming, as you can sign up for the waitlist today. We just don’t have a firm timeframe.

Google’s Pixel Buds will retail for $249 when they come to Australia later this year.

Unboxing Video thanks to: Droid Life.
Commentary: Android Central.
Further commentary: 9to5Google.

Chris Rowland   Editor and Publisher

Chris has been at the forefront of smartphone reporting in Australia since smartphones were a thing, and has used mobile phones since they came with giant lead-acid batteries that were "transportable" and were carried in a shoulder bag. He saw the transition from AMPS to GSM, loved the Motorola StarTac, and got into Palm technologies in a big way. The arrival some years later of the original iPhone, and then the early Androids, awoke a new interest in mobile technology, and Chris has been writing about it since.

Today, Chris publishes one of Australia's most popular technology websites, Ausdroid. His interests include mobile (of course), as well as connected technology and how it can make all our lives easier.

6 comments

  1. The only reason why i’d consider getting these is for when my Portuguese Aunty visits next so it can do live translation. That would be brilliant. But do I want to spend that much….

  2. How do the sound though? That’s the question I keep asking!

  3. If they were $100 less I’d be all over these.

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