Google has been an indomitable giant of the tech industry for a long time now. Its success in the industry has been largely due to the supremacy of its software. It is the de facto king of online search, it has over a billion monthly active users of its Gmail service, it has another billion users on its mobile platforms through android and users of Google Chrome, and Google’s cloud services are unchallenged in the online storage market. Google has become as ubiquitous as Facebook in the digital age, if not more so. The only market they truly have left to conquer is hardware, where Apple is still king due to the proliferation
The only market they truly have left to conquer is hardware, where Apple is still king due to the global proliferation of the iPhone. Now, Google is set to become a major competitor in mobile hardware, attempting to unseat the monolithic presence of Apple.
On Wednesday, Google held a press conference to unveil its latest innovations for the smartphone market via the new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. The new smartphones feature a host of impressive details from the highest-ranked cameras of any phone on the market to a more intelligent “always-on” display, but chief among all the announcements at the conference was the reveal of Google’s answer to Apple’s AirPods, the Pixel Buds.
It is true that the Pixel 2 has gotten rid of the headphone jack, just as Apple has done. This means that the Pixel Buds are designated-wireless devices but the similarities begin and end with that detail.
The buds have a reported battery life of up to 5 hours and charge in the case pictured above through a micro USB slot. According to Google Product Manager Adam Champy, the case can hold up to 4 charges, for an estimated 24 hours or so of total battery life. The cord running between the two earpieces is purely an aesthetic one, so that users of the buds don’t have to deal with easily-lost small parts and can wear the Pixel Buds around their neck for easy, all-day access (which addresses a chief complaint of the Apple AirPods, which need to be stored in their case and carried in your pocket).
However, the most impressive feature of the Pixel Buds lies not in the technical specs but in the way they cooperate with Google’s AI helper, the Google Assistant. The live demonstration at the conference made waves when it revealed that the buds can translate 40 languages in real time when paired with the Google Assistant on a Pixel phone.
It works like this: say you want to have a conversation with someone, but you speak only English and they speak only Japanese. You hold down the touch-sensitive control and say to the Google Assitant “Help me speak Japanese.” Then, as you speak, your voice is picked up by the buds and relayed to your Pixel, which will play the translation of your words out loud through the speaker. Your conversation partner will respond in Japanese and you will hear the translation play through the earbuds.
This feature is currently reserved only for those who have paired the Pixel Buds with a Pixel phone, though we can be hopeful that this translation tech will expand to other Android devices in the future. This technology is truly going to push the industry forward as well as make it easier for travelers of the world to communicate and interact with the people around them.
Reports on the sound quality of the new Pixel Buds have been mixed so far. However, given what we know about the technology in the electronics, it can be assumed that the sound quality on these earphones will not be up to par with other, similarly priced headsets. The biggest feature of the Pixel Buds is certainly how they pair with the Pixel smartphone and the interaction they allow with the Google Assistant. While the sound will probably be decent, as it isn’t the focus of the product, it will probably lag behind other earbuds like the 1More Triple-Divers or the Jabra Elite Sport, both of which are manufactured purely for their utility as earbuds prioritizing sound quality and priced within the same range as the Pixel Buds.
Cost and Release Date
The Pixel Buds will retail at $159 and will be released in November, though preorders are currently open for those who can’t wait to get their hands on the new tech.