The Bluetooth connection is extremely consistent on every device I tried, and the battery life is average, at around four hours per charge.
The translation feature is impressive, offering almost real-time conversations with people without a common tongue. I didn’t get to travel abroad with them, but I did try short conversations in both German and Spanish with neighbors and you really can make basic conversation work in a pinch. Of course, this isn’t a totally new concept, and other wireless headphones like the slightly cheaper Bragi Dash have already started in this space. Also, it’s only available to users with Pixel 2 smartphones. Bummer.
That rest of the not-so-good
It took me an embarrassingly long time to get the buds wrapped back up into the container as Google intended. Maybe one out of every four times, the cord wasn’t wrapped quite tightly enough and it would get trapped in the mouth of the clamshell case. As a person who typically just crams headphones into a pocket or a little baggie as companies often provide, this drove me crazy.
Should you buy them?
At $159, the Pixel Buds face stiff competition from other headphones like the Jaybird Freedom and much cheaper options like those from Plantronics. If you own a Pixel 2 and you want to get the most out of the Google Assistant, you’ll probably appreciate the added features if you can get used to the interface. Also, if you like interacting with the Google Assistant instead of pulling your phone out of your pocket to accomplish common tasks, you’ll get more value out of your purchase.
Ultimately, it seems like Google’s effort to simplify the wireless headphone experience made the whole thing a lot more complicated. A one-page instruction booklet is great, but it sure loses its shine if I have to spend time Googling how to do typical functions. And while buttons will likely continue their decline in the consumer electronics world, this is a good example of how they can still make life a lot easier when touch isn’t a perfect solution.