Google’s latest and most advanced wireless earbuds yet, the Pixel Buds Pro, won’t be on store shelves for another week. But the company has announced that its Android software is already prepared for one of the earbuds’ most convenient new features: the Pixel Buds Pro will be able to switch between devices automatically — no settings menus necessary.
Much like the AirPods can hop between other Apple products (iPhone, iPad, Mac) depending on which one you’re actively using, Google’s flagship earbuds will be able to do the same across Android hardware.
“Our audio switching technology builds on top of Fast Pair to use contextual information on what you’re listening to in order to switch the audio based on your actions,” Google’s Angela Hsiao wrote in a blog post. “We have more categories that are ranked to determine how to prioritize sounds between phone calls, media and all of the sounds your devices may make.” Fast Pair is the feature that automatically links earbuds to your device (and Google account) just by holding them near your phone during setup.
But sometimes a feature sounds better conceptually than it actually works in practice. I’ve occasionally been annoyed when my AirPods or Beats earbuds auto jump to a device that I didn’t want them to. (If this has been a frequent frustration for you, it’s possible to turn off Apple’s automatic switching.)
Google is perhaps trying to head off similar customer complaints by making it very easy to switch audio back over to the first device. “Like with all of Android, you have full control of the experience with a notification that appears allowing you to switch the audio back to the original device you were listening on in a single tap,” Hsiao said.
Audio switching is different from Bluetooth multipoint; earbuds and headphones that support the latter can connect to two audio sources at the same time, eliminating any need for switching. The Pixel Buds Pro support multipoint as well, and Google seems to think that audio switching will help the earbuds do better at recognizing what audio you want to hear — if you’re using multiple Android devices, anyway.
Audio switching won’t stay exclusive to the Pixel Buds Pro for long. Google says the feature is headed to select Sony and JBL headphones “in the coming weeks.” For now, the trick is limited to the Android platform, but Google claims it’s working to reach “more of your favorite platforms and devices over time.”
Google has said that the other big software feature for the noise-canceling Pixel Buds Pro, head-tracking spatial audio, will arrive via a software update later this year.