Pixel Buds vs AirPods

When I got my new Pixel 2XL recently, the Google Play Store offered me to add the Pixel Buds to my cart and get them for half price. Normally they are $159 (same price as AirPods).

So I took up Google on the offer and after I set up my Pixel 2XL, I paired my Pixel Buds to my phone and used them as my headphones.

That experiment lasted less than a week and last Wednesday when I was in SF for the day, I stopped by the Apple Store in Union Square and bought a pair of AirPods.

The Pixel Buds are not great and the AirPods are excellent.

Here are five reasons I feel that way:

1/ The AirPods fit in my ear (and from what I heard most ears) without any issue. The Pixel Buds fit weirdly and require the user to use this rope thing to make them fit properly in the ear. I could never get the rope thing to work right. The fact that the AirPods fit in the ear right out of the box without any work is fantastic.

2/ When my phone was paired with the Pixel Buds, it would not also pair with my car or my Bose headphones (which I prefer on planes and such). I don’t have that issue with the AirPods.

3/ I could not figure out how turn the Pixel Buds on and off when they were in my ear. I know that you are supposed to push on the right bud to turn them on and off but I could not make that work, particularly in a rush when I had a phone call coming in. The AirPods are simple. You just put them in your ear and take them out.

4/ The charging case for the Pixel Buds is kind of lame. I could not figure out when the buds were charging and when they were not. The charging case for the AirPods is a thing of beauty and simplicity.

5/ I hate the cord around my neck that the Pixel Buds requires. I love the nothingness feeling of the AirPods.

So, if it is contest, the AirPods win 5-0. It really is no contest. The AirPods are awesome. The Pixel Buds suck.

So I’m using AirPods with my Pixel 2XL and loving it. And I got this tip (from my Google Now Alerts) to use this Android App to mimic the AirPod battery management on the phone. It works great.


Comments (Archived):

    1. fredwilson


  1. awaldstein

    “The AirPods are awesome. The Pixel Buds suck.No ambiguity here.Agree on the Pods, don’t have a point of reference with the Buds.

  2. William Mougayar

    Perfect example of what happens when the manufacturer considers an accessory to be part of the product experience vs. outsourcing it just to say they have one.

    1. awaldstein

      amazing that this type of thinking still exists.

  3. Dave Shane

    I got my AIrPods a couple of weeks ago and can’t believe I went a year without them. They are awesome and have made my exercise routines 10x more enjoyable. My old wireless headset would be a night mare shifting from my phone to my ipad. The padding over the ear always came loose and the frame around my neck always bothered me. Although the AirPods aren’t cheap, the comfort, convenience and quality are well worth the expense. Fred, thanks for your honest assessment.

  4. Pranay Srinivasan

    Do you notice that the airpods “tap” function is very temperamental? Works some times and doesnt the others.

  5. jbrown

    I’m a dinosaur… Love technology, but $159 for buds? Feels like the decimal point is in the wrong place. Is the quality truly that much better than a $40 pair?

  6. kenberger

    yeah the pixel buds were sort of still-born. They also supposedly have the real-time inter-language translation feature, but that, too, disappoints.2 other wireless buds I’ve demoed (with Android and Mac) that are both excellent. Edit: and both sound WAY better than AirPods for listening to music or movies:1. Bose Soundsport Free:https://www.bose.com/en_us/…2. Sony, who could use some work on product names:https://www.sony.com/electr

    1. Mike Chan

      How’s the connectivity of the Bose and Sony products? I’ve read a lot of online reviews that connectivity on both isn’t great.I have AirPods and tried out the Jaybird Run, which is rated by many experts as either as good as or better than AirPods. The Jaybird’s connection was horrible.

      1. kenberger

        I’m Android and mac, only, and didn’t have connection issues with either I mentioned.Both also have advanced noise cancellation but also cost more than the AirPods.Each is the earbud version of each brand’s top over-the-ear headphones: Bose Quiet Comfort, which Fred mentions, and Sony, which I find superior to the Quiet Comforts.

        1. PhilipSugar

          I love my Sony’s. “On taste there can be no dispute” But I really like that they are soft in my ear. Maybe I’m a sensitive guy. I’d buy them in a second if I didn’t have to put that hard plastic in my ear. (or I would love if Sony would get rid of the wire.

          1. kenberger


          2. PhilipSugar

            Earbuds. I hate over the ear

  7. Jeff J

    I have gone completely wireless now for a couple of years, and Iโ€™ve purchased and experimented with 8 different BT LE earphones. The AirPods are the easiest to use, with better battery life and seamless functionality. They only fail at passive noise. Angelina since they donโ€™t create a good seal when worn. I keep a pair of Bragi Dash Pro for the Subway and airplanes as they create a very good seal.AirPods FTW

  8. jason wright

    Does Google have a Jony Ive?Getting the design of a physical product wrong is par for the course in most of the product categories i shop, from the shape of shoes (especially shoes!), food packaging, kitchen scissors, cycling glasses,…the list goes on and on.I find that eventually i will stumble across great design, but it takes time. Bad design is a tax.https://www.drifta.com.au/p…Great design here. The humble kitchen scissors. Note how the two halves can separate at the slotted pivot. This allows me to clean the blades individually. A major plus for good kitchen hygiene. Recommended.

  9. PhilipSugar

    Does anybody else think that for somebody that doesn’t know what they are it looks like you have a cigarette in your ear?Not debating the quality, not debating the design, but the first time I saw them from a bit of a distance I thought……Dude you put a cigarette in your ear? I understand behind the ear, in the sleeve, but in your ear? Maybe it’s because I live where you can get cigarettes for as low as $2/pack.

    1. LE

      Doesn’t Md have state minimums? In NJ (and I think PA) there are laws which set (afaik) state minimums. I only know this because of signs which say ‘cigarettes at the state minimum’. The idea obviously is to prevent using it as a loss leader (even if it raises tax money).NJ:http://www.state.nj.us/trea…Other states, pricing:https://www.gumauctions.com

      1. PhilipSugar

        Not VA

    2. LE

      Back in the day people would have said ‘those look _redacted_’? [1][1] Does _redacted_ violate any blog comment guideline? It shouldn’t because it is merely relating a historical fact.

    3. JLM

      .Cigs — $0.18/pack in 1968 at PX (no taxes)Used to buy four cartons (could get 20 packs/carton at PX in those days) and sell them for $0.30/pack when they were $0.32/pack in real world.Used to sell 3 cigarettes for $0.10 to soldiers the week before payday.Had to get a soldier to buy them until I was 16.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  10. Boris Wertz

    I had the AirPod vs Pixel Buds question for some time now – happy to continue to use my AirPods ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. daveschappell

      Have you noticed that if the AirPods are nearby, that they sometime ‘connect’ to the Pixel2, even if the case is closed? Earlier today I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get the audio on YouTube to play. Until I realized that the Pixel2 had decided to connect to the AirPods, even though they were still in the closed case. I had this happen in the car the other day too (the Pixel wouldn’t connect to the car, because it had already connected to the AirPods). Odd…

      1. Boris Wertz

        Yes, noticed the same thing – confusing in the beginning!

  11. LIAD

    airpods are great. so long as you dont want to hear anything through them over the dim hum of city life.absolutely unfit for purpose on planes, subway etc. had they been made with the squishy gel ear bud things that would be another matter.gave my pair to my wife, im now exclusive bose quiet comfort 35

    1. PhilipSugar

      Didn’t see this as I was writing. Could not agree more. We both must be sensitive guys ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. awaldstein

      U know i am a QC 35 guy all the way.

    3. vankula

      I never could deal with carrying large headphones around. I also like music when I walk, run, or ride and IEMs just work better. Westone W40w + switch to a squishy foam inner ear piece to kill outside noise.

  12. Michael Babich

    Looks like people live in a bubble of Apple and Google gadgets. I use bluetooth headphones for years — even before AirPods were a thing — and my latest ones are priced at $13 with much better control and sound quality better or at worst case on par with Beats or AirPods — yep that Chinese factories that produce headphones for many famous brands around the world have capacity and skills to produce good sound at affordable price. I am not afraid to lose them or damage — I can easily buy another pair. Both Pixel Buds and AirPods look like really overpriced toys for people that don’t know what happens in real world.

    1. PhilipSugar

      Not disagreeing with your comment, but I would point out that people pay for looks and status. It just is and it’s human nature. Do your headphones work? I am sure, do they have as many features and the status of the AirPods. Pretty sure no, as far as status I know the answer is no. Understand I am solidly in your camp. I’d don’t want people to judge me by looks and status. Also I really dislike the fact that I do believe as you post that Apple is making products obsolete. I think they hate the fact they sold so many MacBooks and Ipads that I still use today. Both are more than 7 years old. And you point out correctly that when you outsource to China you are kidding yourself if you don’t think they are using the skills and capacity you paid for to provide products for those that don’t give a crap about marketing or status, but go to eBay or Amazon for cheap stuff.

      1. Michael Babich

        As to the features they are even better than both Pixel Buds and AirPods as they provide good control of volume, forward, rewind, skipping etc — normal situation with 3 buttons and additional options of longpressing each one. Not to mention that it is easy to connect them via magnets around the neck for moments when there is need to turn off. Here is Will.I.Am wearing similar model from the same factory, but, I guess named by a different brand: https://www.youtube.com/wat

          1. samholland00

            That design…eh

  13. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:We admittedly are everything Android with regards to headsets (Phones). We are unable to provide a proper assessment on the Airpod’s but if they work better than a Google offering then use it.We have provided over and over Android wireless earbud options that are affordable. But with experience we are realizing inexpensive doesn’t always equal reliability and long term use. When we return to our group we will ask about the current evaluation of our various earbud. Current complaints are connection issues.Captain Obvious!#UnequivocallyUnapologeticallyIndeIndepent

  14. jason wright

    with radio waves so close to the brain are these devices safe?

    1. cavepainting

      I wonder too about the effects of all this new technology on our bodies, brains, minds, and overall health. Who knows for sure what they are doing to us? Maybe decades years from now, there might be research proving that cell phone signals cause radiation leading to diseases like cancer.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        Supposedly already, cancer in mice.

  15. bogorad

    I purchased Pixel Buds on the promise of seamless translation. What an epic fail! Instead of making the buds listen all the time (let the battery life be damned!) and interpret continuously, google for some reason makes me press and hold a button, and push my phone in the face of the person speaking to me. Screw that, google. It’s a crappy earbud – but without the translation feature it’s $159 waisted. And no, they refused to take this crap back.Back to my trusty Aftershokz Titanium.

  16. sigmaalgebra

    Bad design is easy but maybe not very valuable. Good design can be very valuable but usually is not only not easy but strains in the amount of work involved what people who have not done much on good design believe should be more than enough.E.g., the AirPod team had, what, some guy or small team flying around the country, getting good at the acoustics of the human ear, hiring experts in ear anatomy, looking at the details of 1000+ ears, buying and studying every hearing aid, etc. they could find, building lots of prototypes and testing them across ages, gender, size, weight, or whatever, and, then, having brain storming sessions on what else they might do. Finally they got a good understanding of what the issues were, where the main problems were, good solutions to the problems, and good reasons to conclude that something much better was impossible without, say, designs customized to one or a few users at a time. When they were done, they could look back and see that well over 50% of their work didn’t help. But they got a really good product! For a high volume product, if they got by far the best product, then all the design work, R&D, brain storming, acoustics studies, airline flights, etc. were well worth what they cost.