Faced with the unacceptable, I’m trying to solve my Pixel audio issues the way an Apple user would. By throwing even more money at it.
I know. I’m not proud of myself here at all. But I need things to just work. If this does the trick, so be it.
If you’re not familiar with my Pixel Problem ™, it goes like this: After roundly mocking Apple for removing the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 in 2016, Google in 2017 shamelessly and hypocritically did the same a year later with the Pixel 2.
But if the intervening year has taught me anything, it’s that Apple got one thing right that continues to escape Google: Yes, you need a dongle to use normal headphones—like my beloved Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic noise-canceling headphones—with the iPhone 7 and newer iPhones. But that dongle just works, every single time, and without any issues big or small.
With the Pixel 2 XL I purchased in November 2017, nothing worked.
The USB-C dongle that Google packaged with the phone worked intermittently from the get-go, and I could lose the audio pass-through simply by moving it around. Then, audio over USB eventually stopped working entirely. I tested this with several different dongles and with USB-C headphones. It was dead.
It just doesn’t work well with normal headphones. In particular, with my Bose noise-canceling headphones. There is a jarring and loud burst of static every time I manually switch to another song, podcast, or other content. And. It. Is. Irritating.
Leo told me on Windows Weekly that this problem was common to USB-C. Meaning that requiring a dongle on an Android phone is a huge customer experience faux pas in a way that it is not on an iPhone. Where this just works correctly.
I need my Bose. I rely on them on flights, busses, and while walking.
Or so I thought. I found out about the Libratone Q Adapt USB-C Earphones, which are a “made for Google” adaptation of a similar pair of headphones that the firm makes in Lightning form for Apple users.
The Libratone headphones cost $150, so they’re not cheap. But that’s still $100 less than the Bose I was using.
They are USB-C-based, so they will never work with any Apple devices. This kind of limitation troubles me, as I prefer universal compatibility as used to be the case with normal headphones. But I listen to music, audiobooks, and podcasts on Android now. And Android is USB-C.
The “made for Google” bit was further troubling, and for the same reason: Would they work on other Android phones, or just on Pixels? A quick test gives mixed results: They appear to work fine with the Samsung Galaxy S9+, but not with the OnePlus 5T. Sigh. That makes it hard to recommend these things generally. There’s no way to know which handsets are compatible.
One other thing I sort of don’t like is the need for an app which can be used to customize “soundspaces” and a handful of compatible music apps. Eh.
But the headphones do have some advantages over the Bose, too. Aside from the price, they are powered by the phone over USB-C, so they never need to be charged.
The Libratone Q Adapt USB-C come with a variety of tips to match your ear, so I’ll need to experiment again with that. They utilize a no-tangle cord material that I like. (It reminds me of some premium Zune headphones I once had.)
And it even offers various noise-canceling routines (or CityMix noise control levels, as it calls it) so you can customize the sound. There are on-cable controls for volume, Play/Pause, and CityMix.
I’ll need to use these headphones on a plane to see how well they really work. And I’ll obviously continue bringing the Bose, at least for now, until I’m sure. But I hope this solves my problem.