The big reason to buy Google Pixel Buds just vanished

Chris Davies - Oct 13, 2018, 5:14 pm CDT
The big reason to buy Google Pixel Buds just vanished

Google’s Pixel Buds have lost exclusivity on their headline feature, with the real-time translation spreading to a much larger range of Assistant-powered and wired headphones. The Pixel Buds launched last year, alongside the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, as Google’s retort to Apple’s popular AirPods.

The reaction to the Pixel Buds proved a lot more muted, however. Google’s headphones were less ergonomic out of the gate than their Cupertino rivals, having a tethering cord linking the left and right earbuds. However, the Pixel Buds did have one trick that AirPods couldn’t match.

That was real-time translation. Activate the feature on the Pixel 2 and the earbuds would feed a live translation of speech discreetly into your ears. It wasn’t quite the “universal translator” of science fiction, but it was an impressive advance on Google Translate all the same.

At the time, Google said that the feature would be a Pixel exclusive. Now, though, it has quietly opened up access to other hardware, both in terms of headphones and handsets.

An update to the Pixel Buds support page, spotted by Droid-Life, details the new expansion. “Google Translate is available on all Assistant-optimized headphones and Android phones,” the document now reads. It also confirms the various languages the feature supports.

It means, for instance, that the USB-C headphones which Google is including in the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL box can deliver translations too. It also means that if you have a set of Google Assistant-enabled headphones, like Sony’s WH-1000MX3, they should work with the feature. You don’t even need a Pixel either: other recent Android devices should work, too.

It does somewhat undermine one of the lingering reasons you might have bought Pixel Buds, of course, and so far Google shows no sign of replacing them with a second-generation set. That was one of the rumors for the Pixel 3 event last week, but new wireless earbuds were conspicuous by their absence.

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