Following weeks of speculation, Google has announced its latest true wireless earbuds. The Google Pixel Buds A-Series are the third generation in the Pixel Buds series, and pick up where the Pixel Buds (2020) left off.
As the ‘A-Series’ name suggests, the new wireless earbuds are a more budget-friendly version of the Pixel Buds, just like Google’s cheaper Pixel phone variants, which include the Pixel 3a and Pixel 4a.
The difference in price is quite stark; the Google Pixel Buds A-Series cost just $99 / £99.99 (about AU$130), making them far cheaper than the previous Pixel Buds ($179 / £179 / AU$279).
To keep costs down, Google has done away with some of the more premium features boasted by the previous Pixel Buds, including wireless charging and swipe controls. However, you’re still getting hands-free access to Google Assistant, real-time translation, and an IPX4 water-resistance rating, in spite of the lower price.
So, if you’re trying to decide which Google earbuds are best for you, there are lots of things to consider. Do you opt for the cheaper model and make a few concessions when it comes to premium features, or do you splash your cash on the 2020 Pixel Buds?
While we haven’t tested the new Pixel Buds A-Series for ourselves just yet, we’re very familiar with the previous Pixel Buds, and that means we can help you make an informed decision ahead of our full Pixel Buds A-Series review.
Here’s everything you need to know about the latest Google buds, and how they compare to their predecessors.
Price and availability
The new Google Pixel Buds A-Series cost just $99 / £99.99 (about AU$130), making them far cheaper than the previous Pixel Buds ($179 / £179 / AU$279). They’re also less expensive than what are arguably the most popular true wireless earbuds on the planet, the Apple AirPods.
You’ll be able to buy the new earbuds from June 17, though you can join a waiting list now in the US, and UK. You can also join that waiting list if you're in Australia, though the price is still to be confirmed in this region.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the Pixel Buds (2020) could be discounted now that there’s a new model - especially as Prime Day deals will be rolling in on June 21 - 22.
The new Pixel Buds A-Series look very similar to their predecessors, with flat, circular housings and an egg-shaped charging case that looks sleek and modern. They come in a range of colors, including white, gray, and a new, rather fetching, olive green shade.
The earbuds themselves have a new ‘stabilizer arc’, which is designed to keep them in place and ensure a good seal against your ear canal. They also come with vents to prevent that feeling of in-ear pressure that often comes with earbuds. Otherwise, there’s not a huge amount of difference between the A-Series and the previous-gen Pixel Buds in terms of looks.
The charging case is largely unchanged too, retaining its rounded edges and flip-top lid. However, there are no wireless charging capabilities as with the Pixel Buds (2020), so you’ll need to plug in a regular USB-C cable to top up the battery.
Another difference between the two models is that the Pixel Buds A-Series don’t come with volume swipe controls like their predecessors, but you can still summon Google Assistant using your voice and ask it to adjust the volume for you. There are some touch controls, too; for example, you just need to tap either earbud once to play/pause, twice to skip the track, and three times to rewind.
While the new Pixel Buds A-Series are significantly cheaper than the previous-gen Pixel Buds, it doesn’t look as though many corners have been cut in terms of design. Sure, you’re losing wireless charging and swipe controls, but these are premium features that we wouldn’t necessarily expect from buds of this price.
Without testing the Pixel Buds A-Series for ourselves, we can’t make a full judgment on the sound quality you’ll be getting if you buy them – but as the earbuds’ audio technology hasn’t been substantially changed, we can use our knowledge of the previous Pixel buds to at least hazard a guess.
Inside the Pixel Buds A-Series are the same 12mm dynamic drivers found inside their predecessors – and you can access the Bass Boost feature in the Pixel Buds app (or natively in your Pixel phone’s settings, as long as it’s running Android 10 or higher), to make those lower frequencies pop.
If the new Pixel Buds do sound like their predecessors, you can expect a real focus on the mids and treble frequencies, with a low-end that might leave bassheads wanting more. We found the previous Pixel Buds delivered a generally bright sound, which sometimes verged on sibilant – though they did offer sublime light-right separation and good detail.
Another feature that’s returning for the Pixel Buds A-Series is Adaptive Sound. This allows the earbuds to increase or decrease the volume of your music based on your surroundings; so, if you’re walking down a busy street, the Pixel Buds will automatically turn up the volume.
For phone calls, the Pixel Buds A will use its beam-forming microphones to pick up your voice, which Google says will help you sound crystal clear on calls even in noisy conditions.
With the previous earbuds, we found that the microphone was just so-so as we had a few problems with phone calls with our friends and family, but it will be interesting to see how Google has addressed those concerns with the Pixel Buds A-Series.
Battery life and connectivity
The battery life provided by the Google Pixel Buds A-Series and the Pixel Buds (2020) is exactly the same, coming in at five hours from the earbuds themselves, with a further 19 hours provided by the charging case.
It’s a shame that Google hasn’t made any improvement here – although we appreciate concessions had to be made to keep the cost down, budget wireless earbuds like the Lypertek PurePlay Z3 have proven that long battery lives are possible from cheaper earbuds.
The new Pixel Buds also support quick charging; 15 minutes of charge in the case gives you up to three hours of listening time and an hour will give you a full charge – meaning you won't have to worry if you've forgotten to charge them before a flight.
As for connectivity, the Pixel Buds A-Series use Bluetooth 5 like their predecessors, and support Android’s Fast Pair technology, so you should find connecting to your Android phone is a breeze.
In spite of the lower price, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series still give you all the excellent Google Assistant features you got with the previous model.
One of these features is Google's Live Translation feature, which can facilitate a conversation between two different languages. You just need to give one of the earbuds to the person you’re speaking to, and ask Google Assistant to translate from one language to another.
We found that this feature didn’t work seamlessly with the Pixel Buds (2020), but we daresay Google has improved the service since then – in any case, we can’t wait to try it out with the Pixel Buds Series-A, as it’s such a cool concept.
Aside from that, you have access to pretty much any Google Assistant feature you can think of. Using your earbuds, you can ask the voice assistant for weather updates and directions, set calendar reminders, and even control your smart home devices.
While we’re yet to test the Google Pixel Buds A-Series for ourselves, choosing between them and the older Pixel Buds (2020) seems to come down to one key thing: your budget.
The newer Pixel Buds A-Series are a cheaper version of the wireless earbuds, and as such, you don’t get all the premium features you got from their predecessors, like wireless charging and swipe controls.
However, the concessions are few and far between. The design, though largely unchanged, has been slightly upgraded to provide a (hopefully) more comfortable design, and the new olive green color really stands out from other true wireless earbuds on the market.
You’re also getting the same audio quality, battery life, and Google Assistant features, all at a lower price. The one thing you’re not getting is active noise cancellation, but that feature didn’t come with the Pixel Buds (2020) anyway – and the Adaptive Sound feature could help you to block out the sound of your surroundings at least in part.
We’ll be able to give a more definitive verdict once we’ve fully tested the Google Pixel Buds A-Series, but at this stage, we’d recommend saving your money and opting for the newer model, unless wireless charging is an absolute dealbreaker for you.
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Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.