Seriously ‘Pixel Buds’ are only the beginning. Out of all the products Google launched at its big event this week, there’s one that should have Apple really worried. No, it’s not the Pixel phones or the MacBook-like Pixelbook, it’s the Pixel Buds. At the press event, Google announced the ‘Pixel Buds’, a pair of earbuds with Assistant built-in.
Google’s phones are ditching the headphone jack, it only makes sense that the company wants to sell you some expensive Bluetooth earbuds. Unlike Apple’s AirPods, the Pixel Buds still have a cable running between the two earbuds, so it’s not completely cordless. However, Google has built an Apple-like pairing solution into Assistant.
More than any other gadget Google launched, the $159 Pixel Buds (which, by the way, are already out of stock on Google’s store), perfectly encapsulate how Google can use it’s incredible AI advantage to beat Apple at its own game.
To be clear, this isn’t about whether the Pixel Buds, as they are right now, are better than AirPods.
That demo is perhaps Google’s best example of how its new “AI-first” vision can completely and radically change its hardware — and its ability to compete with Apple. Pixel Buds, which have Google Assistant and real-time translation for 40 languages built right in, are, for now, Google’s best example of this vision.
These types of integrations will make their to the rest of Google’s hardware faster than you can say “talking poop emoji.” There are already signs of it. The Pixel Phones use algorithms — not extra lenses — to enable portrait mode and an overall smarter camera.
The new Google Home Max uses AI to make its sound better. And Google’s first-class computer vision capabilities — whether it’s in the Lens app, the Clips camera, or the Pixelbook’s image search — has the potential to completely change how you use cameras, and laptops, and smartphones.
If you have a phone running Android 7.0 Nougat or higher, just pop open the charging case and your phone will automatically detect them and prompt you to pair.
When you hold down on the right earbud, Google Assistant will activate, giving you instant access to music playback and other functionality without taking out your phone. The charging case can provide up to 24 hours of battery life, and the Buds have up to 5 hours on its own. The case also has a Type-C connector for charging, so you don’t have to bring another USB cable along.
One unique feature of the Pixel Buds is integration with Google Translate. You can ask Assistant something like, “Help me speak Italian,” and your phone’s speaker will play the translation out loud as you talk. Once the other person starts talking, the translation of their words will be played on the Buds.
Google showed a demo of this on stage, and besides having to hold down on the Buds while talking, it was pretty much seamless. Note that this feature only works on the Pixel and Pixel 2.
You can buy the Pixel Buds in Just Black, Clearly White, and Kinda Blue. You’ll need a device with Android 5.0 or higher (or iOS 10+) to use the Buds as a Bluetooth headset, and Android 6.0+ to use it with Assistant.
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