Update May 6, 2020 – See our full review of the new Pixel Buds (2020).
Google is taking a truly wireless swing at bat with the new Pixel Buds 2. They won’t be out until Spring next year — which sucks — but we got a chance to go hands-on with them and liked what we saw. Unfortunately, we only saw and felt the Pixel Buds 2. We didn’t hear anything because the demo units Google had on hand weren’t functional. Helpful.
The Pixel Buds 2 will cost $179 when they come out in six months. (I enquired into the logic of announcing a product that won’t be out for another six months. Google said it wanted to let the cat out of the bag now and spend the next six months ironing out all the bugs without fear of leaks. Admittedly, the Pixel Buds 2 were the only products not leaked ahead of the Made By Google event.)
What are the Pixel Buds 2 like?
The Pixel Buds 2 look familiar to the original wired versions but are now smarter. Not only are they true wireless earbuds, but both earbuds function as the primary. This means you can use either one of them as a solo Bluetooth headset (e.g., for calls). You can also control music playback and volume with either one of them.
The Pixel Buds 2 look familiar to the original wired versions but are now smarter and truly wireless.
Controls are nice and intuitive. Swipe forwards and backwards for volume, tap to play and pause, tap twice to skip forwards and three times to skip back. You can long-press to activate the Google Assistant, but the Pixel Buds 2 are always listening for the hotword so there’s no real reason to. The Buds automatically detect when they’re in your ear, so your music will stop when you take them out.
The Pixel Buds 2 have five hours battery life and an additional 19 hours with the charging case. There’s a USB-C on the bottom of the case for charging but you can also wirelessly charge it. There are two LEDs on the charging case, one at the top for the earbud battery indicator and another down the bottom for the case itself. There’s a single button on the back to initiate Bluetooth pairing.
How about dem feels?
The case and Buds have a lovely matte feel to them, kind of like the backing of the Pixel 2. The colorways are great too, with Clearly White, Almost Black, Quite Mint, and Oh So Orange options. The Pixel Buds 2 case has the same kind of colored accent around the lid as the Pixel phones do on their frame. The Pixels Buds 2 are sweat- and water-resistant.
The box includes different sized silicon ear tips. The default ones I tried for the demo fit nice and snug. If your ears are less accommodating than mine you still shouldn’t have any issues getting the right fit for your ear. The little wingtip stabilizers secure them in your ear and they slot right in. This should help a bit with isolation as well as keep them more secure.
Fortunately, the Pixel Buds 2 look nowhere near as dumb as Microsoft's gigantic Surface Ear Buds.
I did little more than shake my head a bit, but it doesn’t feel like there’s any chance of the Pixel Buds falling out when you’re exercising. My only concern is whether they become uncomfortable after extended wear. Fortunately, they look nowhere near as dumb as Microsoft’s gigantic Surface Ear Buds so you might actually leave these in all day.
The ‘take Google’s word for it’ section
12mm drivers handle the audio and accelerometers enhance in-call speech by picking up on vibrations in your jawbone. The two beam-forming mics in each earbud help isolate your voice against background noise and ambient interference. Ambient vents on the underside of the buds allow you to stay aware of what’s going on around you.
The Pixel Buds 2 are apparently capable of staying connected to your phone from up to three rooms away. We couldn’t pair anything of course, so we’ll have to take Google on its word right now.
The Pixel Buds 2 are apparently capable of staying connected to your phone from up to three rooms away.
If your phone is on Android Nougat or above, you’ll be able to enjoy a few additional features iPhone owners don’t get. For example, the upcoming live translation feature or Adaptive Sound. This feature adjusts earbud volume according to how noisy your environment is. Google says it’ll be bringing more AI features to the Pixel Buds 2 later, and will continue to update what Assistant can do over time.
Next: Pixel Buds 2 Review