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Google releases Pixel Buds A-Series: $99 no-frills earbuds for Android fans

The Google Pixel Buds A-Series are here, and as expected, they’re a more affordable version of Google’s previous true wireless earbuds. They achieve their lower price ($99 versus $179) by ditching a few features, but on the whole, they offer a very similar experience. Available in all-white and a new olive green color, pre-orders begin today and Google expects them to start shipping by June 17.

When Google launched the second version of the Pixel Buds (the first version wasn’t a true wireless design), its signature features were hands-free access to the Google Assistant by simply saying the wake words “Hey Google,” as well as a real-time translation capability.

These features stick around on the A-Series, but Google has removed the wireless charging capability from the case (it charges via USB-C), eliminated the internal charging indicator light (the external one remains, but repositioned higher on the case), and the earbuds themselves no longer have swipe gesture support (only taps are recognized). The A-Series also lacks wind-reduction for voice calls.

You can’t control volume level using the tap controls, but Google points out that the Google Assistant can always take care of that for you if you ask.

Those seem like entirely reasonable trade-offs to get these tiny true wireless earbuds to a sub-$100 price.

Here are some of the other features that are sticking around on the new A-Series:

  • A spatial vent that reduces ear-drum pressure and helps with the feeling of a plugged ear.
  • Google Fast-Pair functionality for quick pairing with compatible Android devices.
  • Five-hour battery life between charges for the earbuds, with another 19 hours in the case for 24 hours in total time.
  • Quick charge: About 15 minutes in the case gives you up to three hours of extra listening time.
  • IPX4 rating for water resistance, but it’s limited to the earbuds — the A-Series case is not IPX-rated.
  • Adaptive Sound, which increases or decreases the volume based on your surroundings.
  • Find my earbuds.
  • Bass boost.

Unfortunately, the other thing that has been preserved from the previous model is the lack of support for iOS devices. You can pair the A-Series to an iPhone, but there’s no app for adjusting any of the earbuds’ settings.

Google’s decision to release a more affordable version of the Pixel Buds makes a lot of sense. At $99, the A-Series compare very favorably to other true wireless earbuds, especially when you put them up against the Apple AirPods at $149.

The question now is whether or not Google plans to release a higher-end version of the Pixel Buds that can compete with the AirPods Pro, Jabra Elite 85t, and Sony WF-1000XM3, all of which offer active noise cancellation (ANC) and transparency modes — two features that both the $99 A-Series and the $179 Pixel Buds lack.

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Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like…
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