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  • Google Pixel Buds Pro in Bay
    Source: Google
    Google Pixel Buds Pro
    Google's best
    $189 $200 Save $11

    With nice audio, strong ANC, and excellent battery life, the Pixel Buds Pro deliver a premium earbud experience in ways Google's past attempts could not. If you're an Android user with less to spend on earbuds, these are a great pick, but just be aware that you won't get hi-res audio codec support.

    Pros
    • Dynamic bass-rich sound with adjustable EQ
    • Solid ANC and excellent transparency
    • Available in fun colors
    Cons
    • Surprisingly limited codec support
    • A bit bulky
  • Apple AirPods 2nd Gen
    Source: Apple
    Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
    For Apple fans

    Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro are fantastic earbuds — if you spend all or most of your time using other Apple devices. On Android, the earbuds still offer strong audio quality, thorough ANC, and a comfortable fit. Still, most of what makes AirPods a great option for Apple users is exclusive to Apple's ecosystem.

    Pros
    • Seamless pairing with Apple devices
    • Excellent noise cancellation
    • Now supports USB-C charging
    Cons
    • No support for higher-quality Android audio codecs
    • Requires manual pairing with Android devices
    • Only offers basic Bluetooth functionality on Android

Google's Pixel Buds Pro are perhaps one of the most interesting challengers to Apple's popular AirPods Pro. It took Google a few years to hit its stride in the true wireless earbuds market, but the Pixel Buds Pro were a pleasant surprise last year — a premium set of earphones that earned their place among the best wireless earbuds.

Meanwhile, Apple hit it out of the park with its 2019 AirPods Pro, now in their second generation, and recently added a USB-C charging case to the mix. They're a great set of earbuds, especially for Apple fans, but how do they compare to Google's new flagship Pixel Buds Pro, and which should you choose? Let's take a look.

Price, specs & availability

Google's Pixel Buds Pro can be purchased directly from the Google Store or the usual major retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy, where they typically sell for $200. However, it's not hard to find them on sale for less if you keep your eyes open for deals. They're available in Charcoal, Coral, Fog, and Lemongrass.

Apple's AirPods Pro, on the other hand, come in only one color: glossy Apple white. They'll set you back $249 directly from Apple, where they're never on sale. You can also find them at numerous other retailers, and while brick-and-mortar places like Best Buy rarely mark them down, you can occasionally get a few bucks off at Amazon.

As of September 2023, Apple now has a USB-C version of the AirPods Pro 2, which means some retailers are clearing out the older model that uses Apple's proprietary Lightning port at discount prices. That's a good way to get a deal, but it's worth double-checking to ensure you're buying the version you want.


  • Google Pixel Buds ProApple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
    Noise CancellationYesYes
    IP ratingIPX4 (buds), IPX2 (case)IP54
    Supported codecsAAC, SBCAAC, SBC
    Weight (earbuds)6.2g5.3g
    Dimensions (earbuds)23.72 x 22.03 x 22.33mm30.9 x 21.8 x 24mm
    ChargingUSB-C, wirelessUSB-C, wireless
    Driver size11mm11mm
    Price (MSRP)$200$249

Design and fit

google-pixel-buds-pro-court-1

As the name suggests, Google's Pixel Buds Pro have a stemless earbud design that fits right into your ear without protruding any more than necessary. However, Google still has to make room for the electronics inside, so some bulk on that part sits in your outer ear area.

Unlike many of the basic black earbuds we see, Google has embraced the presence of the Pixel Buds Pro by offering some fun colors. The dark gray Charcoal is joined by Fog, Coral, and Lemongrass, with the last two being particularly lively, standout choices for those who want to make a bold statement. They're also color-matched to some of Google's Pixel phones, like the Kinda Coral Pixel 6 and the Lemongrass Pixel 7. However, these colorways only apply to the outer earbuds — the part that shows when you're wearing them — everything else is basic black and white, including the case.

Google Pixel Buds Pro in ear

Meanwhile, Apple's AirPods Pro sport a design that's become near-iconic, with a glossy white finish and protruding stems. The stems provide a place for microphones and other electronics, creating an arguably sleeker design that blocks less of the outer ear and should offer a more universal fit. However, the stems also serve a practical purpose by giving you somewhere to grip the earbuds when removing them, as the glossy plastic tends to be more slippery than what's used on most other earbuds.

You don't get any color choices with Apple's AirPods Pro, although the popularity of Apple's earbuds means you can find plenty of third-party options if you want to dress up the carrying case (and make it easier to hold on to).

apple-airpods-pro-2nd-generation-ear

Google's Pixel Buds Pro naturally charge over USB-C, but oddly, Google doesn't give you an extra USB-C cable in the box, so you'll have to supply your own if you want to use wired charging. Apple has begun fully embracing USB-C and now offers the AirPods Pro with a USB-C case instead of its proprietary Lightning port and packs in an appropriate charging cable. Both sets of earbuds can also be charged wirelessly from any Qi-compatible charger. However, Apple's AirPods Pro also include MagSafe compatibility, which helps with getting the proper alignment on any compatible magnetic charger and even lets you dock them vertically on a MagSafe charging stand.

The Pixel Buds Pro offer a typical IPX4 rating for the earbuds themselves, which means they're splash and sweat-resistant, although the case only gets an IPX2 rating that only covers dripping water. The new AirPods Pro with a USB-C case are now rated IP54, adding dust protection over the Pixel Buds Pro and Apple's prior IPX4-rated Lightning version.

Sound and call quality

The Google Pixel Bud Pro and Pixel Buds A Series against a green background

In an unusual twist, Google's Pixel Buds Pro use the same audio codecs as Apple's AirPods Pro, which is to say that neither offer anything particularly exciting for Android users looking for near-lossless audio quality.

It comes as no surprise that Apple's earbuds are limited to SBC and AAC; the first is a universal baseline codec, while Apple has used the second since its first iPod debuted over two decades ago. The AirPods Pro are designed primarily for use with Apple products, none of which support anything beyond AAC.

However, the fact that Google's Pixel Buds Pro don't support higher-resolution audio codecs is a bit disappointing. Despite most Android phones - and all of Google's Pixel phones - supporting these better-quality formats, there's no LDAC or even Qualcomm's baseline aptX, much less aptX Adaptive or aptX HD. Even more unusual is that AAC has typically been the worst-performing codec on Android devices.

Airpods on table next to an open case.

Typically, the codec differences put Apple's AirPods Pro at their biggest disadvantage when pitted against other true wireless earbuds in the Android ecosystem. However, in this case, the Google Pixel Buds Pro and AirPods Pro are on an even footing, so any differences in audio quality will come from hardware design, the tuning of the drivers, and audio processing algorithms.

On the sound quality side, the AirPods Pro are tuned with a mellow but bright sound signature that should appeal to most folks, with evenly balanced sound, including bass that's present without being overwhelming. The Pixel Buds Pro emphasize the bass a bit more and push the high frequencies even higher. This results in a lively and airy sound with ample bass for the most popular genres of music, from classic rock and pop to EDM, but the overemphasized lows and highs can drown out the mids, taking away some of the nuances, especially in classical music and some progressive rock.

However, the good news is you don't have to live with the default settings on the Google Pixel Buds Pro, thanks to a full five-band equalizer in the Pixel Buds app that lets you adjust "low bass" (sub-bass), bass, mids, treble, and upper treble frequencies independently and even across different volume levels. It works effectively and offers an advantage over Apple's AirPods Pro, which feature only an Adaptive EQ mode that adjusts sound dynamically based on the earbuds' fit in your ears but doesn't provide any customization.

Pixel Buds Pro
Source: Google

The Pixel Buds Pro and AirPods Pro feature solid Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). While Apple has become one of the industry leaders in this area, alongside Sony and Bose, Google has done a remarkable job here, effectively joining that elite club with impressive ANC and an excellent transparency mode. Of course, you won't get the ANC of the best over-ear headphones, but they hold their own against other true wireless earbuds in their class.

The same can be said for call quality. The AirPods Pro and Google Pixel Buds Pro feature similar microphone arrays that sound good under ideal conditions but don't handle wind noise or isolate background noise particularly well. Instead, Apple and Google rely on software-level machine-learning features on the iPhone and Pixel to take care of this.

Software

apple-airpods-pro-2nd-generation-ipad-mini-pixel-7

The most significant disadvantage that Apple's AirPods Pro have over pretty much any other set of wireless earbuds is their limited platform compatibility. Apple builds all of its AirPods as iPhone accessories, first and foremost, and the only reason you can use them elsewhere is because they use the open Bluetooth standard.

This means, in practical terms, that you'll only get a full experience using that AirPods Pro with an iPhone, iPad, or other Apple device. Everything used to control the settings on your AirPods Pro is built into iOS and Apple's other operating systems; there's no standalone app even on the iPhone, much less for Android devices.

To be clear, the AirPods Pro will pair just fine with an Android phone manually over Bluetooth and let you listen to audio, but that's the extent of their compatibility. They don't even pass the battery level over to Android via Bluetooth, nor will you be able to use special features like pausing music when you remove an earbud from your ear. You can pinch the stem to control playback since that uses a standard Bluetooth AVRCP command and press-and-hold to activate ANC and transparency modes, but you'll need to use an Apple device if you want to change the functions for those controls.

google-pixel-buds-pro-and-google-pixel-6-1

However, Google's Pixel Buds Pro go to the other extreme. While most other earbuds from companies like Sony, Bose, and Jabra support iOS and Android about equally, Google's earbuds are an Android-only affair. The Pixel Buds app isn't available for iOS, so you'll have similar pain points if you try to pair them up with an iPhone.

Both earbuds support multipoint audio, a standard Bluetooth feature that can be used across platforms. So, for instance, you can easily switch your Pixel Buds Pro from your Pixel 7 over to a MacBook Pro or your AirPods Pro from an iPhone to a Galaxy Tab. However, you'll get the best multipoint experience if you stay within each company's ecosystem, seamlessly switching between devices.

Battery life

google-pixel-buds-pro-in-hand-1

Google's Pixel Buds Pro promise up to seven hours of listening time on a single charge with ANC enabled, which goes up to 11 hours if you leave ANC switched off. The case will give you another two full charges, bringing those totals up to 21 hours and 33 hours, respectively.

Apple doesn't offer any estimates for non-ANC listening time, but you can get six hours on a single charge with standard ANC, which drops to 5.5 hours if you use Spatial Audio with Head Tracking. The charging case will give you four additional top-ups for a total of 30 hours of ANC listening.

Which is right for you?

All colors of the Google Pixel Buds Pro
Source: Google Store

Unsurprisingly, this choice ultimately comes down to your platform. While both the Pixel Buds Pro and AirPods Pro will work as standard Bluetooth earbuds on any device, the user experience will be so limited that there's no point in purchasing Pixel Buds Pro if you're an iPhone user, nor AirPods Pro if you're toting an Android smartphone.

The issue becomes a bit trickier if you have a foot in both worlds, so you'll need to ask yourself where you plan to do most of your listening. Since both earbuds support multipoint Bluetooth, you can use them across multiple devices, but they'll only function as basic earbuds. For example, a Pixel 8 owner can still pair up a set of Google Pixel Buds to make phone calls on a company-issued iPhone, and vice-versa with the AirPods Pro.

Don't let the Pixel name fool you, though. The Pixel Buds Pro are fully compatible with nearly any Android device, giving them a much broader range of support than Apple's earbuds. The Pixel Buds Pro app can be downloaded from the Play Store for any device. Unlike some wireless earbuds made by other smartphone makers, Google has no proprietary features it reserves for its Pixel phones, so you'll get that same experience on any Android handset.

Google Pixel Buds Pro in Bay
Source: Google
Google Pixel Buds Pro
Best overall
$189 $200 Save $11

With good audio, strong ANC, and excellent battery life, the Pixel Buds Pro deliver a premium earbud experience in ways Google's past attempts could not. If you're an Android user with less to spend on earbuds, these are a great pick, but just be aware that you won't get hi-res audio codec support.

On the flip side, if you use an iPhone as your primary device, you'll be much better off going with Apple's AirPods Pro. It's about the only reason you should pick up Apple's AirPods Pro, but it's a good one, as they work better with the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV than any other set of true wireless earbuds you can buy.

Apple AirPods 2nd Gen
Source: Apple
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
For iPhone users

Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro are fantastic earbuds — if you spend all or most of your time using other Apple devices. On Android, the earbuds still offer strong audio quality, thorough ANC, and a comfortable fit. Still, most of what makes AirPods a great option for Apple users is exclusive to Apple's ecosystem.