Google Pixel Buds: More Than Meh
Ah the Pixel Buds... Quite possibly one of the most polarizing products in recent history.
After removing the headphone jack from their wonderful (despite its issues) Pixel 2 phone, they created the Buds as a response to Apple's Airpods. People seem to either hate them or love them, with not much "meh" in between--and, I'll be perfectly honest: despite their issues, I love them!
First thing's first, when you use them...
The gestures on the side of the right bud only do four things:
1) Swipe forward for volume up
2) Swipe backward for volume down
3) Hold for Assistant (more on that later)
4) Double Tap for notifications and time
Sadly there is no way to skip tracks without asking Google. (More on that later)
The Buds follow Google's design language with the fabric-coated case and the simple colors of the buds. (They come in colors that match the Pixel 2s').
I personally love the feel of the case, but due to its construction, I do worry about its longevity.
As it is made of fabric, it is prone to stains (as is their fabric Daydream VR headset), but that's not the biggest deal to me. The case is rigid enough for me not to worry about the Buds getting damaged inside, which is good. However, the second you open the case, it is immediately clear that the hinge wasn't designed with as much care as the rest of it. It feels like someone took a small piece of cardboard and put some tape on it. Yeah, it's that bad...
It's not an issue at the moment--I throw them in my pocket almost wherever I go and there hasn't been an issue--however, I would be worried about how long it would last...
The Buds Themselves:
The actual Buds are a different story. They feel great in my hand--I would even say better than the Airpods--and I would not be worried about them breaking in any way.
One of people's major complaints about them when Google first announced the Buds was that there's a cord connecting them, making them inferior to Apple's fully wireless earbuds.
I feel the complete opposite. When the Airpods were first announced, my first thought was "oh god I've already lost them," so I am very thankful for the cord. When not in use, I can just drape them around my neck and not have to worry!
Another major complaint was the way they fit in your ear. They use a strange looping mechanism that needs some getting used to. When I first put them on, I instinctively made the loop as big as it can go, thinking that it would need that size to stay in. I was wrong.
I have a feeling this is one of the misunderstandings about this product. The loop isn't on or off. The whole point is that it's adjustable to fit your eat. So, after much fiddling I did get a good fit. Unfortunately, the fit does get lost every now and then after putting them back in the case, but that's something I got used to. Overall, after finding the right fit, you do almost forget they're there... but only after finding the right fit.
As for the sound quality, they sound significantly better than the Airpods, with a little more bass and overall sound quality. They do not go inside your ear canal like some other earbuds. Rather, they sort of rest on the outside of your ear, hanging. This makes outside noise very easy to hear while listening, which is a common complaint. Again, this is a misunderstanding of the product. They are supposed to be worn all the time (or, at least that's what Google wants), so the user should be able to hear outside noise! However, for headphones that do not go all the way inside your ear, they do sound great.
Google Assistant and Translator:
Assistant, Pairing, and Translate are the three buzzwords on the product page, and I'll tell you... only one of these things work flawlessly.
Assistant is, simply put, amazing. I find myself looking for excuses to use it throughout my day. I am an avid user of Google Play Music, so I often ask "What song is playing" or "Skip track" (because of the lack of a "Skip Track" gesture.) Google assistant is literally instant: you can touch and hold and begin speaking immediately! Google's response time will vary depending on your connection, however.
Instant-Pair is a different story. I am using the Buds with a Samsung Galaxy S8 at the moment, and instant pairing is still supposed to work... but it didn't. Not at first, at least. The first time, I had to pair them manually like any other pair of bluetooth earbuds, which was annoying, seeing as I was expecting a seamless first experience. However, after that, the second I open the case, they are instantly paired to my phone, ready for use.
I should mention that they do work well with MacOS and Windows computers quite well, with the touch and hold gesture being used to activate Siri. Swipe for volume gestures work on any device.
Translation is a strange one. It supposedly (according to Google) does not work with any phone other than a Pixel phone (1 or 2). But, I was able to get it working once...but never again. There are a few reviewers who said it worked fine with other devices, but I have had no such luck.
Overall, the Buds are a good product. However, they are not for everyone. If you are looking for a device that you can talk to when needed, (for tasks, that is. not for loneliness), have good sound quality, and that you can hear the outside world with--as I was--these are for you.
If you are looking for the Babel Fish (Google it--or better yet, as Assistant), able to translate anything you hear, well, they're not there yet...
Thank's for reading!
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Aside from being a game developer and CEO of MidnightCoffee, Inc, Judah is a professional magician, and retro game enthusiast.