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9 August 2020

0048: Pixel Buds!

by Steven B. Combs, Ph.D.

In this episode, I talk about a new addition to my Pixel powered devices, the Pixel Buds 2. Are these the ear buds I am looking for? Almost, but you’ll have to listen to understand what I mean. I know, I know. It’s been awhile and I make formal apologies during the introduction. Thanks for continuing to subscribe! I missed the show and the listeners, so please let me know you are still out there by sending me a message.

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  1. It’s been some time, but maybe the breather was good for the podcast. Subscriptions are actually up!
  2. I’ll do my best to keep a consistent show release throughout the rest of the year but have admittedly been side tracked another love of mine, retro-computing.
  3. But you don’t want to hear about all that, you just want the latest in my Pixel Power Life and today I’m pleased to tell you about my experience with the new Pixel Buds.

Pixel Buds

Full disclosure, I did not own the original buds. The reviews on those early headphones were horrible and I steered clear.

I’ve used the buds for about three months now and have given them a good workout. Here’s what I’ve learned.

The Pixel Buds were in my ears while preparing this episode and they were great at blocking out the environment around me. Just what I needed to get this episode prepared.

The Basics

  1. Easy setup with Pixel 4, simply open the case, view the notifications on the Pixel 4 and follow the directions. No Bluetooth connection steps necessary.
  2. Prompts you to install the Pixel Buds app. Do this to manage advanced options on Android phones other than Pixels.
  3. Pixel Buds app has a find device option.
  4. Pairs with up to 6 devices! I found that pairing with a Moto caused some wonky behavior and had to reset them. These issues were with an earlier firmware and it seems to be better now. Recently paired with my Pixelbook and sound and connect was awesome!
  5. Speaking of reset, it’s as easy as:

    • Connect the case using the USB-C port
    • Ensure Pixel Buds are in case
    • Press and hold button on the back of case until the pairing light stops blinking
    • When the light blinks white and orange for a few seconds, and then just blinks white again, the Buds are reset
  6. Google Pixel Buds app on Google Play is not compatible with Pixelbook so there’s no way check battery life or firmware version. You also can’t select options.
  7. Soothing ambient music while setting up buds.
  8. Easy controls:

    • Single tap: Play/pause or answer an call
    • Double-tap: Skip track, end or reject a call, and stop Google Assistant
    • Triple-tap: Go back a track
    • Swipe forward: Volume up
    • Swipe backward: Volume down
    • Long-press: Activate Google Assistant or if release after chime and assistant will read your notifications
    • Take either Bud out of Ear: Pause
    • Ambient Mode: Adjusts volume based on our environment
  9. Wireless charging built into case and I use an IKEA charger built-in to a desk lamp. Great supplement to USB-C charging.
  10. Case is a good size and fits comfortable in pockets. I’ve not lost it yet.
  11. Battery life has been very good. How will it be over time?
  12. Open the cover to view battery status on a Pixel Phone on a notification shade.
  13. Use the Pixel Buds app to view the firmware and new firmware is coming that will give the Buds even more features and fix a bugs.
  14. Assistant is awesome. No need to use controls on Buds when running. Simply tell Assistant what I want including FFW and REW as well as smart home controls.

Minor Issues

  1. Multiple ear plugs but standard did not work for me, used larger but still feel like the seal breaks every so often.
  2. Like other sound deadening phones, I can hear my feet hit the ground. I still prefer my running headphones; the Plantronics Backbeats. Their open ear design doesn’t give me that muffled sound when I run and allow me to hear the environment around me when I’m running
  3. While running, phone in right pocket caused drop outs and moving to left pocket took care of problem. Latest update seems to have taken care of the issue.
  4. Moto, left earbud stopped. Restarted phone and seemed to work again but ended up removing the Moto from one of the six connections.
  5. Odd the way the battery discharges differently for each independent bud.


  1. I’m perfectly happy with my Pixel Buds. While I will probably only use them for running when I travel (reduces what I have to pack), I continue to use the buds almost daily.
  2. I throw them in my pocket in the morning.
  3. I have an old beater car that has a very old head unit and I use the Pixel Buds as my hands free phone and to listen to podcasts and music on my way to work.
  4. If I want privacy on a phone call but still hands free, I reach for the Buds.
  5. I’m also a fan of the design. I never did like the Apple AirPods and the way the they sticks out of the ear. Buds sit in the ear and are much more stylish and don’t look like you stuck a couple of small pencils in your ear. I applaud Google on the design!
  6. As I mentioned, I really like the case. Easy to place the buds into and charges buds quickly.
  7. Google Assistant anywhere is brilliant. I’ve used it frequently for quick questions and hands free access to my phone.
  8. Looking forward to firmware updates that can bring new functions to the buds; I’d like to see Google take another stab at the failed original Buds Google Translate (for a true Star Trek experience)
  9. Overall, recommended purchase for Pixel fans!


There’s so much I could have covered given I’ve not recorded in a while, so I parred the list down to the most recent addendum items. Let’s begin:

  1. Android 11: On its final path to release candidate (didn’t update this year to beta). Is it me or are people not as excited about this release as they were for Android 10 (Q)?
  2. Android OS: “Nearby Share” rolling out to Android devices through a Play Services update. Only working on Pixel Phones for now but should roll out to Chrome OS and Chrome Browsers over the next couple of months.
  3. Chrome OS Perks: Get your 100Gb of free Dropbox storage, but you probably still need a paid account to get any use out of it and you need to install the Google Play app to view files in the Files app.
  4. Chrome OS Perks: Did you pick up Doom and Doom 2? They are a whole lot of fun on a large touch-screen Chromebook like the Pixelbook and the Pixel Slate. Oh the memories.
  5. Chrome OS: As of Chrome OS 85, you can control the volume of your Chrome OS device using the Google Assistant. “Hey, Assistant! Raise volume.”
  6. Crossover for Chrome OS: I gave it a shot and a few apps worked; however, it’s rough.
  7. Google Assistant: Broadcasting across units has been it or miss. Some broadcasts go through, some say they do and nothing happens, and some just flat out don’t work.
  8. Google Assistant: Why can’t you tell me the amount of time left on another Assistant device?
  9. Chrome OS: Version 85 keyboard now has borders but more exciting, better handwriting interface.
  10. Pixel Phone: Pixel 4a advertisement released and touts battery life, cost, and return of Pixel imprint. I kind of wish I had that device rather than my Pixel 4 XL which seems to be discharging its battery way to quickly. Impressive specifications for the cost of $349: 128Gb Storage, 6Gb RAM, Pixel 4 Camera, hole punch design, 5.81-inch 1080 x 2340 OLED at 443 PPI screen, with less bezel. Rumored August 20 release date.
  11. Pixel Phone: Pixel 4 is no longer available from Google but Amazon seems to still have a healthy stock. Making way for Pixel 5. All rumors seem to point toward an October release to coincide with Android 11.
  12. Nest Hub and Max: You can now watch Netflix directly on those devices.
  13. Google Voice: Google Fi users can now use Google Voice and get a second number.
  14. retroCombs: Tapuino, Pi1541, on Chapter 3 of the Plus/4 user’s guide.


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tags: pixelbuds - earphones - headphones - music - assistant - bluetooth