Now that Google has established its own line of smartphones, the next logical step would be to develop an ecosystem of products that is centred around said phones, and the Pixel Buds is the latest addition to that lineup.
We first saw them two months ago at the #MadeByGoogle event in San Francisco. On-stage, it was a big deal. At the demo area though was a less than desirable experience to try it out as the world’s media converged into that small space.
So now here we are with the Pixel Buds in hand. Here’s what I think of it.
The Pixel Buds Is Google’s Pure Android Personal Audio
Unlike the Apple’s AirPods, the Pixel Buds are not what you might say a “truly wireless earphone” which is the trend that many audio manufacturers are currently embracing.
It has an earbud style design with a braided cable, and comes with a case that is lined with fabric – clearly Google’s current obsession seeing some Pixel 2 accessories and even the Google Home.
The fit of the earbuds can be adjusted too, sort of. The same cable that connects the two sides together also acts as a adjustable anchor to ensure a proper fit.
The pairing process though isn’t as smooth as it was made out to be. The Pixel Buds was supposed to trigger a pop-up on the Pixel 2 XL when the case was opened.
That never happened the few times that I tried. I had to manually press the pairing button inside the case for the phone to recognise it. After pairing though at least life got easier as the Pixel Buds would automatically connect to my Pixel 2 XL.
Using the Pixel Buds is done with the right side of the earbuds. Play/pause is a single tap, double tap will get your notifications read, and a long press gets you the Google Assistant.
Volume control is done with swipes on the same bud. Right swipe to turn the volume and left swipe to turn it down.
Audio quality is nothing to write home about, it’s not the best but it’s not too bad either. It’s definitely more than adequate for your hours of Spotify listening sessions.
Google Assistant And Translation On The Pixel Buds
In case you didn’t know, Singapore English is now on the Google Assistant.
Singapore English still hasn’t quite made it to the Pixel Buds, despite them using the phone’s default language. Any attempts to get the Google Assistant to answer in some local colloquial sentences fell flat.
Other than that it functions as it should like how you would use Google Assistant on any Android Phone, just that now its directly in your ear.
Now to the supposedly key feature of the Pixel Buds – it’s translation feature and at the moment, is only compatible on Pixel phones.
First you need to to install the Google Translate app from the Play Store. Once that’s done, give the right side of your Pixel Buds a long press and mutter the magic words, “OK Google, help me speak <insert language here>”.
Google Assistant will then open the Translate app with your language of choice to translate from your default language.
It works as advertised, but the thing is, you have to hand over your phone to the other person you’re lost in translation with for them to speak through it and see what you’ve said.
Out of Singapore’s official languages, you can use English, Chinese and Tamil with the Pixel Buds. Only Malay is not supported at the moment.
Other than that, you can expect most of the major languages like Japanese and Korean. View the whole list of currently supported languages here.
So… The Verdict?
You see, with the Pixel 2 XL, it is still a very very capable phone despite its shortcomings. People still want to buy it because the pull of a pure Android experience and a fantastic camera (with unlimited media storage) is just too hard to resist.
For the Pixel Buds though, it’s a tough sell.
If you’re just going to use it for media consumption, there’s lots of bluetooth earphones out in the market today that offers stellar audio quality and are still cheaper than the Pixel Buds’ $238 price tag.
Yeah Google Assistant is now in your ears but unlike the AirPods where you can just say “Hey Siri” and get going, the Pixel Buds doesn’t yet offer a truly hands-free experience with your virtual personal assistant.
Like the Pixel phones, the Pixel Buds are still a work in progress. Unlike the phone though, the buds has yet to find its niche.
Guess we’ll have to wait for the next version.
If you do want to check them out, the Pixel Buds are available from Singtel or on Lazada.