Pixel Buds, AirPods, and Power Management

Google is rolling out support for a new feature, turning Pixel Buds off. With a triple tap of the right earbud, you can toggle the earbuds on and off. Pretty simple right? Unfortunately, this also exemplifies one of the reasons I find Pixel Buds to be a less elegant headphone solution than AirPods.

People have been asking for this for a while, and the simple reason is that you have to manage power on Pixel Buds more than you feel like you should. See, Pixel Buds are constantly on and connected to your phone via Bluetooth every moment they are outside the charging case. Not only are they on, but they remain the audio output source for your phone. So if you just take them out of your ears, put them on your desk, and then 2 hours later try to play something from your phone, the audio goes to the Pixel Buds.

With that reality, it means that I have to be religious with putting my Pixel Buds in their case when I’m not using them. It’s not always convenient, so I don’t always do this and I get burned by it every time.

For comparison’s sake, AirPods also do not have a power button or any way to turn them on or off, but no one is clamoring for a new gesture to do this on them. The reason is simply that there is no need. When you take AirPods out of the case they go into a super-low power mode, recognize your phone is nearby, but don’t connect as an audio source. When you put them in your ears they turn on completely and take over the audio output of your device. When you take them out, they immediately stop being the audio source for your device, even if you don’t put them in the case.

The Pixel Buds are the best non-AirPods wireless headphones I have used. They work well overall and are easier to use than regular Bluetooth headphones. But they are only good, AirPods are great.