When it comes to mobile devices, Apple and Google are constantly playing catch-up with one another. One will release a product or concept, and the other will soon follow suit. In this case we’re talking about headphones; the new Google Pixel Buds, which I recently picked up, that were released on the heels of Apple’s AirPods late in 2017.
The headphones share some similarities with one another, and they’re all good things.
- Both pair with your phone rather automagically, instead of the traditional bluetooth headphone setup.
- Both are designed to be non-isolating, meaning they perch in your ear rather than in your ear canal, making it easier to hear the outside world. Some don’t like this feature, but to me it was a huge selling point. In the case of the Pixel Buds, I can hear people talking to me virtually 100% as well as if I didn’t have them in (with nothing playing, of course).
- Both recharge automatically when they’re in their storage case, which is a nice way to handle things.
- Both have excellent audio quality, especially considering their non-isolating design.
Despite the similarities, these are very different headphones.
- Design: They look very different. I’ve heard varying takes on which is better, and most people have a favorite, but both are well-designed, look great, and fit well in your ear.
- Connecting Cord: The Pixel Buds include a short cord connecting the two ears, which lays on the back of your neck. I mentioned there are varying opinions about the design of the Buds, but the cord is a very divisive feature and people absolutely love it or hate.
- I love it — not only does it reduce the chance of losing one, but it’s nice to be able to slip them off your ears and hang them around your neck, like people have done with headphones for years.
- However, this makes it where you can’t easily share one ear per friend, and some people don’t like the feel of the cord on the back of their neck.
- The Cases: I mentioned the cases are similar, but there’s one big difference. Because of the cord connecting the two Pixel Buds, it’s more of a hassle to put in the case. It’s not a big deal, but it’s a lot different than just slipping the two AirPods in the case.
- Touch Functionality: The AirPods have a bit of touch functionality, but the Pixel Buds have a ton.
- The AirPods allow you to double-tap to active a feature (which you can set up in the app). It can be to activate Siri, play/pause your music, skip to the next track, etc. The key is that you can only set up one of those, along with it answering/hanging up phone calls with that double-tap.
- The Pixel Buds give you a lot of control. You can single-tap to play/pause music or answer a call, double-tap to hear details about recent notifications, swipe forward/back to raise/lower the volume, and long press to activate the Google Assistant or hang up a call.
- Bonus Feature: The Pixel Buds feature the real-time language translation feature. It’s really cool, but more hype than reality, in that it’s not that different from just pulling up the Google Translate app and taking turns talking to it.
Both sets of headphones promote similar battery life — five hours of listening time per charge, and the ability to recharge using the case for up to 24 hours of total listening time. However, I couldn’t find details on non-listening time; if you just had them in your ears, took some calls, listened to notifications, used the Google Assistant, etc, so I did some tracking.
Saturday I put the Pixel Buds in my ears, and periodically checked the battery level throughout the day. I took a few phone calls, played some games (essentially the same as streaming music), checked notifications, etc. Here’s how the levels looked at various times throughout the day:
- 12:20 – 100%
- 1:30 – 90%
- 2:34 – 82%
- 5:00 – 56%
- 6:15 – 42%
- 7:47 – 25%
- 9:21 – 7%
All in all, I got about nine hours out of them with moderate use. Not bad! I suspect the AirPods would be similar.
Which should I get?
Despite some negative reviews for the Pixel Buds, they’re pretty great headphones. While you can use either pair of headphones with any kind of phone, they work best when they’re native — AirPods with iPhone, Pixel Buds with Android.
If you have the money to spend on them, or find a good deal where they’re free with some other purchase, I encourage you to purchase the ones that match best with your device and you’ll be very happy with the results.
What is your favorite pair of headphones?
Definitely better when they don’t go in your canal.