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No one is talking about how awesome the Pixel Buds Pro have become
When I buy a piece of tech, I like knowing that it’ll get updated with more features over time. It’s not always a guarantee, but it’s one of those awesome perks of today’s tech scene. There’s a difference though between small updates that change one or two things, and major changes that completely revamp your experience of a product. And I think the Pixel Buds Pro fall on the second part of that scale.
Since they were released in July 2022, the Pixel Buds Pro have received several big updates and new features. Some, like the custom equalizer, should’ve been there from the start, while others like the hearing wellness dashboard, are nice extras. All the others are so good and so cool that they’ve elevated the Pixel Buds Pro from my secondary pair of wireless earbuds to an absolute must-have in my pocket or backpack at all times.
Fast Pair and Audio Switch have come a long way
When the Pixel Buds Pro first launched, Google Fast Pair was nowhere near as ubiquitous as it is now. I could easily pair the buds with my Android phones or my tablet, but that was it. Wear OS smartwatches weren’t supported yet, nor were Chromebooks. With time, Google has included these and simplified pairing to them. My Pixel Buds Pro are now connected to my phone(s), tablet, watch, and Pixelbook.
But what makes the Pixel Buds Pro relatively unique is their support for Audio Switch on top of Fast Pair. In general, I don’t have to think about reconnecting them to any device. I just wear them and they will play audio from whichever device I’m currently using. I can move from my phone to tablet, watch, and laptop without breaking a sweat.
This is similar to the way Apple’s AirPods and Samsung’s Galaxy Buds seamlessly switch between Apple’s devices and Samsung’s devices, respectively. The only difference is that Audio Switch is brand-agnostic: It works with my Pixel 8 Pro, Galaxy S21 Plus, and Nothing Phone 2. I can’t wait until this feature is provided by default by all earbuds and headphones makers, but until then, the Pixel Buds Pro remain one of few pairs that support it. Some of Sony’s buds (like the Linkbuds S) and JBL’s buds offer it too, but you have to dig in to see if the particular model you want has them.
What sets Audio Switch apart is that it works across all Android phones, tablets, watches, and Chromebooks, not just Google's.
The only cog missing in my ecosystem is support for Google TV. Fast Pair (and Audio Switch by extension) was supposed to come to Google TV months ago, but is nowhere to be seen yet — at least on my Chromecast. Since our home offices are in the living room, I sometimes watch TV while my husband is working (and vice versa) and I just want to be able to quickly pair and listen via my Pixel Buds Pro without distracting him.
Spatial audio and conversation mode
While spatial audio is still a confusing mess, regardless of platform, brand, and content type, it’s still absolutely delightful when it works. The Pixel Buds Pro added support for it and for the more gimmicky head tracking a while ago. When I come across content that’s optimized for spatial audio, I can often tell the difference: a louder sound with fewer distortions, a more enveloping aural experience. It’s not a must-have, but it remains so cool when it’s available.
Conversation Detection, another recent addition to the Pixel Buds Pro, has been a game-changer for me. I no longer scramble to remove my earbuds when someone talks to me or I need to talk to someone. I just say a word or two and the audio pauses, transparency mode is enabled, and I can engage in a chat. The threshold is a bit too low for my liking sometimes (sneezes, coughs, yawns, and chewing can sometimes trigger it!), but it’s still a lot better than trying to manually pause the music and switch into transparency.
You don't often get this level of value-add from updates to existing gear.
While these features aren’t unique to the Pixel Buds Pro, the fact that they were added later over the course of 16 months is commendable. You don’t often get this level of value-add from updates to existing gear.
The Pixel Buds Pro aren’t perfect, but they’re much better now than when they launched. They’re especially more convenient to use with the rest of my Android/Google device, and easier to recommend when they’re discounted. You can easily find them now for $119 on Black Friday, which is a fantastic deal if you ask me.
Ultimately, all these upgrades have given me confidence in future Pixel Buds too. If they get as many crucial updates and improvements as these, they’ll be — and get — phenomenal.