Saturday, October 7, 2017

Google Pixel Buds and Apple Airpods: How Do They Compare?

by Tracey Smidt

The AirPods, released in 2016, are Apple's attempt at wireless headphones. Google's answer to this are the Pixel Buds which were showcased on Wednesday. With Google's product being more focused on functionality and Apple's on design, how do they measure up against each other?

Having tested thousands of ear shapes, Apple's AirPods are designed to fit most ears, making them more contoured in shape than their predecessor the EarPods. The long stem on each ear bud are microphones, which allows for better call quality. Those who have tested the headphones claimed the AirPods stay in place even while running. Others complained of it sliding out and cradling in the outer ear then having to constantly readjust the ear buds in fear of it falling out and losing them. Replacement of a lost unit will cost $69. The small headphones as usual are only available in white.
Keeping functionality in mind, Google had the Pixel Buds connected with a cloth cord to wear around the neck. The cord is short and flexible, with a bauble attached to it matching the accent colour of the phone.

For improved fit, the headphones sit over the ear canals and are nestled in the outer ears. To stabilise the ear buds, the cord forms a small loop which fits in the non-sensitive part of the ear. The length of the cord can be adjusted to fit the user's ear. According to reports this is stable enough to run with. Pixel Buds are available in black, white and gray.

The AirPods' white "dental floss dispenser" case uses a magnet to close it tightly. The headphones are fully charged in 10 to 15 minutes in the case, and have a battery life of five hours.

Pixel Buds are charged the same way as the AirPods, except the case can charge the ear buds four time. Pixel Buds come in a small cloth case where the cord wraps around a channel and tucks in between the buds.

Sound quality of both the AirPods and Pixel Buds, though not amazing, are surprisingly good for wireless headphones. AirPods are designed to be open noise isolating ear buds, but ambient noise still leaks through. Because they sit in the outer ear, outside noise still comes through with Pixel Buds.
Thanks to Apple's W1 chip, each ear bud has its own Bluetooth channel, which allows it to sync at the same time with the device, resulting in low latency. The AirPods are also visible and accessible in the iOS Control Center.

Similar to the AirPods, Pixel Buds work with the iPhone and all Android enabled phones. The headphones also sync when the case is opened near the phone, however this is specific to Google's Pixel 2. Syncing of left to right ear bud is eliminated by the cloth cord.

AirPods pause music when one ear bud is removed and resumes after the ear bud is placed back. It is capable of mono sound when only one ear bud is used. To adjust volume the user has to ask Siri for assistance or use their phone.

Pixel Buds are controlled with the right ear bud. Tap to pause or play music, swipe forward to increase volume and backward to lower volume, and double tap to have notifications read. Skipping tracks requires Google's Assistant.

Unlike the AirPods, the controls cannot be altered. These headphones do not switch off automatically and do not have the auto-detecting capability of the AirPods. Nonetheless Google has made mention of looking into this through future software updates.

Software updates will be done by what is known as silent updates. Here changes will be pushed through automatically by software updates on Android phones only.

In spite of all of the features and designs of the Airpods, the main purpose of the headphones is to provide easier access to the respective AI. Need Siri's assistance? Double tap on an ear bud and speak. Since the long stems are microphones which capture queries, made possible due to the W1 chip, interaction is easy and accurate. The double tap can be changed, through iPhone settings, to the play function. Features specific to the W1 chip will only work with devices that have it.

On the Pixel Buds, there is equal ease of use. Hold a finger down on the right ear bud and start talking. Lift the finger and a subtle tone is heard followed by Google's Assistant response. Google's Translated app is also accessed this way. Again, hold a finger down on the ear bud, ask help with a language and speak the phrase. For example: "Help me speak German" and speak the phrase you need translated. When you remove your finger, the app speaks and a translation is displayed on the phone. If you’re in conversation with someone speaking another language, they can then hold a button on their phone and reply to your phrase. A translation will be heard through your Pixel Buds.

Pixel Buds will only be available in stores in November, but can be preordered as of Wednesday. Both AirPods and Pixel Buds are priced at $159.