Today, at its October hardware event, Google announced its second-generation Pixel Buds earbuds, the follow-up to the original Pixel Buds, which came out in 2017. The new Pixel Buds have a reengineered fit and are true wireless earbuds, coming in at $179.
The new Pixel Buds come in a rounder, egg-shaped case versus the flatter square case of its predecessor (which proved to be the source of many irksome problems).
Google says with the new Pixel Buds “the experience comes to you.” Hands-free access to Google Assistant means you don’t have to turn to your phone. Just say “Hey Google” to ask Assistant for whatever you need, and then you can resume what you were doing. Apple similarly added hands-free access to Siri earlier this year.
The Pixel Buds’ long-range Bluetooth connection makes it so they can be used even when your phone isn’t with you. Inside, the Pixel Buds can stay connected up to three rooms away, and up to a football field away outside, according to Google. The Pixel Buds pair with your Pixel phone and other Android 6.0+ devices with a single tap, and they can also pair with Bluetooth 4.0+ laptops, tablets, and iOS devices.
#PixelBuds give you instant access to the Google Assistant. Just say "Hey Google," to get directions, send a text or email, and even translate foreign languages. See more of what #PixelBuds can do → https://t.co/zSRSApHGCp#madebygoogle pic.twitter.com/Qb5EZ1dx6x— Google (@Google) October 15, 2019
The company says it used an “intricate origami” approach with the design to make everything fit inside these buds, which are truly wireless (versus the original Pixel Buds, which had a wire), sit almost flush with your ear, automatically detect when they’re in your ear, and have touch controls to play, pause, and adjust volume. According to Google, it scanned thousands of ears to create a design that would be comfortable for as many people as possible. And these tiny buds offer five hours of continuous battery life on a single charge and up to 24 hours of battery life using the case.
A new hybrid design is meant to address all sorts of sound issues, while the ear tips do seal the ear to emphasize audio when you’re listening to a call or music, a vent on the bottom lets through environmental sound. The buds respond to your surroundings with adaptive sound, and they will automatically raise and lower the volume depending on the environment you’re in.
When you’re making calls, the two microphones in each Pixel Bud focus on your voice, while Google says a built-in accelerometer that can detect speech through jaw vibration should ensure that you can be heard in less-than-ideal conditions, like while exercising or when outside on a windy day. Speaking of which, they’re also sweat and water resistant.
A hint at what could be included in Pixel Buds 2 was spotted back in February on Twitter when Google senior VP Hiroshi Lockheimer appeared to have outlined a checklist for what to expect in the next iteration of the company’s earbuds. And, well, we got some of them.
Wish list for the perfect pair of truly wireless buds:— Hiroshi Lockheimer (@lockheimer) February 24, 2019
✔️ Great sound quality, latest codecs
✔️ 10+ hours before needing a charge
✔️ A case that fits in tight pockets, USB-C
✔️ Sweat-proof for workouts
✔️ Intuitive, tactile buttons
✔️ Auto mutes when someone is talking to me
This isn’t Google’s first attempt at earbuds. The original Pixel Buds came out in 2017, and they were filled with persistent annoyances, which made the experience of using them, well, not great. The charging case was a struggle both to close and position the buds just right for charging. The touch controls allowed for too many errant taps, and certain basic tap controls were missing. And they weren’t actually wireless since they’re attached with a connecting cable.
The updated Google Pixel Buds will be available next year in the US for $179, and they will come in four colors: “clearly white,” “oh so orange,” “quite mint,” and “almost black.”