Google Pixel USB-C Earbuds First Impressions

Posted on October 11, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Mobile with 29 Comments

Quietly launched on the same day as its hardware event this week, Google’s new Pixel USB-C earbuds are a low-cost and stylish mobile audio solution with integrated Google Assistant capabilities.

I spied these new earbuds on the Google when I was trying to buy a Pixel 3 on Google’s online store after the hardware event. They only cost $30, and as you may have seen, I’ve been experimenting with different headphones lately but would like to find something inexpensive. So what the heck.

The earbuds are packaged like Google’s other accessories, which is to say quite nicely: Like Microsoft, Google seems to be aiming for an Apple level of quality with this sort of thing now.

The earbuds themselves are pure white, and there are no other color options. More interesting is the design: I’m not sure what I thought when I saw the loops around the actual earbuds, but it turns out you can resize them for a good fit inside your ears, as opposed to around your ears. So they actually work like those removable tips you get with expensive headphones, except in this case one size literally fits all.

As expected, the little remote module on the line near the right earbud provides volume, and play/pause controls for music/audio playback. But it also does much more, assuming you’re not in the middle of listening to music: You can press and hold the middle (black) button to summon the Google Assistant via your phone. This also works as expected.

Google says you can press and hold on the Volume Up button to hear your most recent notifications, too. I wasn’t able to get that to work, but I’m honestly not super-interested in that feature anyway. (And the Google Store Help page that’s supposed to explain this functionality isn’t even live yet.)

Far more interesting is the earbuds’ language translation functionality: Just press and hold the black button to summon the Google Assistant and then say, “Help me speak French” (or similar). Google Translate launches, and you’re prompted to speak in your native language (English, in my case). And then what you say is repeated, through the phone’s speakers, and not the earbuds, in the language you selected. Obviously, this isn’t as sophisticated as the language translation features in the Pixel Buds, but it is still really impressive.

In a quick run-through of some music, podcasts, and audiobooks, the audio quality is fantastic, with no distortion. I’ll start bringing them on walks for a better test, of course, and see how well they stay in my ears as well. (So far so good, based on some vigorous head shaking.) But note that they only work with my Pixel: When I tried them with a OnePlus 6, the sound just came out of the device’s speakers.

I wasn’t expecting much, but the Pixel USB-C earbuds seem like a great buy.

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