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This could be our first look at the Google Pixel Buds 3

We’ve been waiting a long time for Google’s Pixel Buds 2 (or simply Pixel Buds as Google insists on calling them) to finally go on sale, but a newly spotted patent document suggests we might just want to skip them altogether.

Indian gadget site noticed that the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA)  — China’s version of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office — just published a document that appears to show Google’s next Pixel Buds.

Google Pixel Bud 3 patent
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Google will probably call them the Pixel Buds again, but to avoid confusion, we’ll call them the Pixel Buds 3. As you can see in the diagrams from the patent document, they bear a strong resemblance to both Google’s first- and second-gen Pixel Buds. In fact, they can best be described as being a hybrid of the two products. The are some key differences, however, and chief among them is their size.

The original Pixel Buds may have been wireless, but they were not true wireless earbuds as they relied on a wired tether to keep them in sync. When Google finally moved to a true wireless design for the as-yet-unreleased Pixel Buds 2, it did so at the cost of size — they’re substantially bigger than the earbuds from the first generation. In fact, the Pixel Buds 2 look bigger than the AirPods Pro and the Jabra Elite 75t, just to name two of the most current true wireless earbuds. About the only true wireless earbuds we’ve seen that are bigger are Microsoft’s upcoming Surface Buds.

Google Pixel Bud 3 patent
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If the patent images are any indication (and sometimes they aren’t), the Pixel Buds 3 could be a return to a more reasonable size. It also looks as though Google has made the earfin stabilizer feature optional.  There seem to be channels built-in to the midsection of the buds — possibly to let you add them — but they’re obviously not a key component any longer.

But the biggest difference — and quite frankly the biggest surprise — is the move away from the Pixel Buds 2 in-ear design,and  back to the less sound-isolating shape of the original Pixel Buds.

What does this mean? Well. for a start, if you had been hoping that the third generation of Pixel Budd would be equipped with active noise cancellation, that now seems highly unlikely. ANC typically depends on a very good seal, and this design does not look like it qualifies. We don’t expect that sound quality will improve much either.

Google Pixel Bud 3 patent
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Still, before you give up all hope, it’s worth noting that a recently discovered Samsung earbud design — possibly for the Galaxy Buds 2 — uses a very similar, non-in-ear shape, and yet it is rumored to still possess some kind of ANC function.

When will the Google Pixel Buds 3 be announced, what will they cost, and when will they be available? Hard to say at this point. But given that the Pixel Buds 2 will cost $179, it’s unlikely the next generation will stray too far from this price. We will keep you informed on any other Pixel Buds 3 news as it develops.

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Simon Cohen
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like spatial…
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