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Google Pixel Buds 2: Where Google’s clever headphones need to improve

Last year’s Pixel Buds were some of my favorite wireless headphones, but they were flawed in some big ways. As we approach Google’s October 9th hardware unveiling, we’re expecting the company to reveal a second-gen Pixel Buds 2, and there are a few key places where they can be improved.

A smaller, easier to pocket case

The number one thing Google needs to fix on with its Pixel Buds 2, in this writer’s opinion, is the case. Honestly, I wouldn’t care if absolutely nothing else changed.

If you’ve never used the first generation Pixel Buds, which is likely, they came with a charging case just like you’d find on a lot of other wireless earbuds. However, that case was, frankly, pretty terrible. In terms of looks, it was a nice design with an easy-to-open lid and a cool fabric look, but it came with a lot of problems. For one, the fabric material makes it difficult to slip the case in and out of your pocket, and it’s large and “chunky” footprint is not ideal for pocketing either.

Google needs to fix this on the second generation. This case needs to ditch the fabric, as great as it may look, for something that slides into your pocket, and the size needs to go down at the same time. I’m not saying we need to copy Apple’s design by any means, but a rethink is definitely needed here.

Pixel Buds 2

Better fit in-ear

Another thing Google can do to massively improve the Pixel Buds 2 is to make them fit better. I was pretty impressed by how well the Pixel Buds sat in my ear when I reviewed them, but one thing I noted is that your experience may… vary. Some people simply cannot use that design because it’s too bulky.

This is something Google also needs to pay attention to. Now, the last thing I’d want to see the company do is to adopt the rubber tips of other earbuds, so perhaps Google can use a modular design which enables users to swap out tips for larger or smaller ones depending on their ears. I’d also bet that with that flexibility, sound quality would also be improved.

Pixel Buds 2

Ditch the cable w/ Pixel Buds 2 if you can…

Here’s an obvious improvement for the Pixel Buds 2 — ditch the cable. Google debuted the Pixel Buds not long after Apple’s AirPods and, frankly, keeping the cable around was kind of embarrassing. Clearly, that’s a way Google could make the Buds’ second generation much more attractive.

I’m sure there are some technical reasons this would be somewhat difficult for Google, but it’s one of the things I’m sure is at the top of the wish-list for most users. Keeping the same basic design of the earbuds themselves would look pretty good without the cable too, possibly cutting down on the cost of this sort of change. It would also help a lot with slimming down the size of the case.

Pixel Buds 2

…But if you can’t, make it easier to store

Google ditching the cable on the Pixel Buds 2 is probably a 50/50 shot. It’s something plenty of users want, but it might not be ready for primetime just yet. If the cable does stick around, though, there’s a change Google definitely needs to make.

Putting the current Pixel Buds away is a cumbersome process. You have to place each earbud in properly and then wrap the cable around just right. Often, this ends with the cable not being placed just right, or an earbud that isn’t fully attached and, thus, doesn’t charge properly. So, if Google doesn’t ditch the cable, it needs to improve how you store it.

For the earbuds themselves, magnets may help with ensuring that each bud is placed correctly. For the cable, well, that’s a lot tougher. I can’t think of an easy way for Google to improve this process while still making the case itself slimmer, but perhaps they’ll think of something clever. Maybe a sort of retractable design? I’m not sure, we’ll have to wait and see on this one.

Pixel Buds 2


When the Pixel Buds first debuted, a lot of people immediately wrote them off, with many pointing to Apple’s AirPods as the better option. Personally, I’ve switched back and forth between the two for the past year. As much as I love the Pixel Buds, I do find myself gravitating towards AirPods when I’m going out or need something really quick, while the Pixel Buds find themselves as my option for a walk around the neighborhood or listening to music around the house.

The annoying thing, though, is that the Pixel Buds, by design, are the better option for many since they have Assistant built-in. There are a ton of headphones with Assistant built-in, but none have the hardware to make that functionality truly useful in day-to-day life. Hopefully, Google can make the needed improvements to the Pixel Buds on their second generation to finally deliver that experience…

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Ben is a writer and video producer for 9to5Google.

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