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Google Pixel Buds A: What you need to know about Google's cheaper buds
Update, June 17, 2021 (01:00 PM ET): You can now grab yourself a set of Google Pixel Buds A without needing to pre-order first. The true wireless earbuds cost $99 and you can buy them from Best Buy and other retailers. Notably, Google still lists them as pre-orders, but that will likely change at some point today.
Original article: Google has launched a few sets of headphones in its time. The Google Pixel Buds were its first foray into the true-wireless space, though. Those are some great headphones, but they have a high price to match their high quality. Now, the company has introduced a cheaper version known as the Google Pixel Buds A.
See also: The best true wireless earbuds – there’s more than Apple out there
The “A” moniker matches up with the nomenclature it uses for its budget-oriented smartphones, such as the Google Pixel 4a. As one would expect, the Pixel Buds A look a lot like the main Pixel Buds but cut out some features to get the price down.
In this article, we’ll give you everything you need to know about the Pixel Buds A!
Google Pixel Buds A: Design and touch
As you may have noticed, the Google Pixel Buds A look identical to the second-gen Pixel Buds. In fact, they are identical, save for the new Dark Olive color option offered with the A-series model. The part that rests in your ear is also no longer black but the same color as the buds themselves.
The lack of design changes means you get the same touch-sensitive surfaces that allow you to single-, double-, or triple-tap for various actions. You can also long-press to activate Google Assistant, which will accept voice commands through the buds and then transmit them to your connected smartphone.
See also: Google Assistant guide: Make the most of your virtual assistant
However, you lose out on swipe support. This means you can’t swipe up or down to lower or raise the volume. To do that without touching your phone, you’ll need to use Google Assistant voice commands (“Hey Google, turn up the volume”).
All in all, it will be very difficult to tell the difference between the Google Pixel Buds A and the main Pixel Buds just by looking at them. However, there are some considerable differences happening inside.
Same sound quality with some features removed, some added
If your main concern is sound quality, you’ll be happy to know the Pixel Buds A should sound just as good as the Pixel Buds. Both models have the same 12mm dynamic speaker drivers with two beam-forming microphones. There’s even the same vent to allow outside noise to flow through and prevent that “swimmers ear” feeling.
The Adaptive Sound feature of the main Pixel Buds is also supported. This automatically alters the music volume depending on the noise level of your environment. There are also bass boost features for that extra oomph.
In certain respects, the Pixel Buds A are better than the main Pixel Buds. There are some caveats, though.
Interestingly, Google is using an upgraded chipset in the Google Pixel Buds A. This new hardware allows each earbud to connect independently to your phone. This differs from the main Pixel Buds, which forces one bud to connect to the phone and the other to connect to the other bud in a chain. This updated processor also should create a stronger connection with your phone, which should prevent audio dropouts more often. In a way, these upgrades make the Pixel Buds A better than the regular Buds.
But what do you lose out on? One of the biggest omissions is wireless charging. Battery life should be the same across both models, though, as should their wired charging speeds. There’s also no internal LED charging indicator for the case (the external one stays). Attention Alerts — which notifies you with a chime if there are dogs barking, babies crying, sirens, etc. — are also not supported here.
Pricing and availability
The regular Pixel Buds are $179, which is not cheap. Thankfully, the Google Pixel Buds A are much more affordable at $99 / £99 / €99. They come in two colors: the classic Clearly White and the new Dark Olive.
As of June 17, 2021, the new buds are available for general sale from various retailers.
For more information on availability in your specific country, check out your localized version of the Google Store.