When Apple unveiled the 3.5mm headphone jack in the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus last year, there was a lot of criticism chucked its way. Some thinly veiled, some not so much—basically anyone who was still making a phone with a 3.5mm headphone jack at the time lined up to criticize. At Google’s Pixel launch last year (which happened a few weeks after the iPhone keynote), it must not be forgotten that the company had a visual which said “3.5mm headphone jack satisfyingly not new”, in a promo video shown at the event.
What further led to the criticism was the fact that by eliminating the headphone jack (though not many noticed that an adapter was bundled with the phone to make your existing headphones work seamlessly), Apple wished to sell you the AirPods wireless earphones. After much pointing and outraging, the world seemed to move on. Until now, because Google has basically done the exact same thing. This year, Google has walked the exact same path, by removing the headphone jack in both Pixel phones. Also, Google wants to sell you the Pixel Buds wireless earphones ($159; around Rs10,300). Whichever way you look at it, how is this any different from Apple’s strategy with the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus?
There will be the inevitable claim that the headphone jack had to go because the Pixel 2 and the Pixel XL 2 needed robust water and dust resistance. But isn’t that what Apple also wanted to do with the iPhone 7 line-up? As individuals, we are often told that no one knows what the future may hold. The same may hold true for large organizations too, with this example as a testament.
Nevertheless, Google has certainly done a bit more with the Pixel Buds. It fits perfectly into Google’s strategy to make the Google Assistant absolutely available instantly, irrespective of whether it is on your phone (Google app for Android and iOS), your TV (Assistant is now rolling out on Android TV), your car (Android Auto) and now in your ears too (Google is already working with Bose to integrate Assistant in the QC35 II headphones). The Google Assistant rivals Apple’s own virtual assistant called Siri, which also got more powers with the newest iOS 11 update. You can tap on the right earpiece of the Pixel Buds to activate assistant, and get it to do stuff with commands that you may otherwise have spoken into your phone. You can get it to play music, place a call, set a calendar reminder or simply get a query to a question. What might perhaps be the most relevant is that the Pixel Buds will become your on-the-move translator when you may be travelling abroad.
It is not the first time this has been attempted with wireless earphones. Bragi, a company that also makes wireless earphones, has tried the same with the Dash Pro earphones. However, going by how Google demoed the translation feature, among other things, it is no mean feat to have managed to do the language translation computation so quickly with Assistant being on a device that is not connected to any additional computing source. Think of this as the Google Home hub to control a lot of things via Assistant, but the only difference is, this is in your ear.
The package is complete with a charging case that is wrapped in fabric (very similar to the impressive Daydream VR headsets) and the Pixel Buds themselves will match the colour options of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL phones