With the new, awkwardly named Pixel Buds A-Series, Google is trying to do more than merely introduce a much cheaper set of true wireless earbuds: the company wants to get it right this time — and get it right for under $100. Google’s second-generation Pixel Buds were certainly an improvement over the company’s original wireless earbuds; let us never forget the most overly intricate carrying case of all time. But the 2020 earbuds came with issues of their own. At the top of that list were concerns with stability. Google never managed to get the two Pixel Buds connected as reliably as many competitors, and some owners still complain of audio dropouts even after numerous firmware updates.
In several ways, Google has succeeded at its goal. The $99 Pixel Buds A-Series are more comfortable to wear over longer stretches of time than the pricier earbuds. They retain the same enjoyable sound quality, and hands-free “Hey Google” access to Google Assistant and features like real-time language translation are still useful tricks to have at your disposal. The carrying case is just as fun to fidget with as before (though it lost wireless charging) and has the same satisfying thunk when you close it. Google promises the same five hours of continuous battery life, with a total of 24 hours when you include case recharges.
The bad news is that Google didn’t fully overcome the connectivity issues, though it made some improvement. I recently talked with Google’s Sandeep Waraich, who went over some of the changes made to the A-Series buds that were meant to enhance wireless reliability. Each earbud connects individually to the source device. Both the antenna and chipset architectures were optimized for stronger transmission power and increased range to avoid cross-body audio dropouts. There’s even an all-new chipset inside, though Google declined to tell me who manufactures it.