Nick DeNardis

User experience, code, higher education, analytics and accessibility.

A typical workday with the Pixel Buds 2

A follow up to the "First 48 hours with the Pixel Buds 2 (opens new window)".

Since the first two days were on a weekend and I was mostly outside I wanted to give some insight into a typical workday using the Buds.

My typical day for me consists of 3-4 hours of concentrating with constant music interrupted by 3-4 meetings that range from 30-45 minutes each. These meetings are either on the phone (taken on the computer), Zoom, or MS Teams.

# Meeting audio

I haven't nailed down why, but the audio quality coming out of a Zoom or MS Teams call using Bluetooth is not ideal. Switching back to a wired headset returns the call quality back to normal. Listening to music though YouTube or Soundcloud seems to be completely fine though.

I've played with every Bluetooth setting suggested on various "How to increase Bluetooth audio quality on a mac" page I could find with no permanent solution. Enabling AAC, forcing aptX or upping the bitpool didn't provide a permanent solution either. Resetting Bluetooth, disconnecting and reconnecting the Buds seemed to help a little though.

I did land on, and end up paying for, the ToothFairy app (opens new window), which makes it really easy to connect and disconnect Bluetooth devices.

# Audio quality without using the mic

Every site I visited talking about the audio quality on a Mac said to avoid using the Bluetooth mic if you're concerned about audio quality. I found this to be 100% the case.

Only listening in on meetings or music with the Buds and using a separate mic made everything crystal clear.

The ToothFairy app (above) even has a setting to "Improve sound quality by using the internal mic by default".

# Long term use

After two days of music and meetings, I don't know how or why anyone would want to wear in-ear headphones all day. It's not that they hurt in any specific way but they just become uncomfortable after 2-3 hours. I guess if you don't have any other options they will do, but I found myself switching back to the over the ear headphones for longer stretches because they are just so much more comfortable long-term.

# Battery life

So far they have really held up to being usable when I need them. I haven't run into a situation when they were dead or drained and not being able to use them. When they are out of my ears they are in their case (and charging). I found it felt weird to have them laying around on the desk or table. Perhaps their size or them still being connected to the phone/computer while out or that a dog or kid would get them.

The only time I could see battery being an issue is on a really long bike ride, walk or run.

It is helpful if one of the Buds gets below 15% battery it makes an audible sound that sounds like it is powering down. It definitely makes you feel like it is running out of battery.

# Truly hands free Google Assistant

I long for a truly hands-free Assistant, it does a good job at most things, but not everything. I really wish there was a clear way to ask to have all unread notifications read out loud as if you were holding your finger on the Bud. There has to be some magic word combination to do it, I have yet to find it though.

I have found though that I can ask to "Open Pocketcasts" then ask it to "Play" and it will pick up where I had left off, which is nice.

My dream would be that you could open any app, get items read to you on-screen and be able to navigate and activate anything on screen as if you're using a screen reader.

# Remembering a connection

I typically have my phone next to my computer all day. If I walk far enough away from the Macbook and it disconnects, as soon as I get close enough again, the Buds default to connecting back to the computer. It is great they recognize the last device they were connected to and not always fall back to the phone as a default.

# Connection in/out of a car

My car (2009) is typically paired with my phone. When having the Buds paired with my phone while listening to a podcast, I got in the car and turned it on, the car picked up the Bluetooth and the podcast started playing inside.

Looked at the Bluetooth settings, it said two devices were connected. After turning off the car the podcast paused, Bluetooth disconnected from the car but noticed the Buds were still connected and I couldn't tap them to unpause. It was like they were in some sort of sleep mode.

I couldn't control anything on the phone or unpause the podcast until I took one out of the Buds then put it back in. That seemed to have reactivated them as the primary media output. After that, they worked like normal.

# Hear surroundings while running

Feeling safe while running and hearing surroundings is a must. So far so good on this front. I haven't had any issues hearing cars or bikes coming behind me that I wouldn't have otherwise with the USB-C pixel earbuds (which are not in-ear).

# Overall

I think I'll stick to using the Buds primarily while running, walking, and around the house. I can't see myself using these as my primary headphones all day. I just can't see myself keeping them in my ears all day without them feeling uncomfortable. Perhaps I'm so used to over the ear headphones, but I have found myself switching to them a bit during the day and it is nice to have the flexibility of not being stuck to a desk with a cord.