Apple and Google are the titans of the mobile OS world, controlling almost the entire share of the market. And both companies’ first-party hardware tends to be close to the best (or the only, in the case of Apple) way to experience their mobile OS.
In just the last five years, both companies have also gotten into the wireless audio market, each with its respective lineup of smart earbuds and headphones. These products offer pleasing listening experiences and intuitive smart features. They’re also closely tied to the brands’ respective ecosystems, offering the best experience if used with an Apple or Google phone (but not when used with the competition).
The Google Pixel Buds A
and the Apple AirPods
are the lowest-tier wireless earbud offering from each company. In this short comparison review, you’ll find the similarities and differences, along with a verdict on which set of earbuds is right for most people.
And if you’re planning to pick up a pair, don’t forget to grab an Upsie extended headphone warranty
to match so you’ll be protected from glitches, defects or damage.
Earphone Style and Fit
The first thing to note is that the AirPods and the Pixel Buds A-Series take a different approach to both style and fit. The AirPods sit in the opening of the ear in an open or unsealed fashion. If you’ve ever worn the headphones that used to ship with your iPhone, you know the feeling already. The Pixel Buds have a snug in-ear design with multiple ear tip sizes.
The open design of the AirPods makes for a less pleasing listening experience, and the lack of customization means that they just won’t fit some users. That said, being able to casually place and remove AirPods is a plus for some. In contrast, the sealed design of the Pixel Buds will deliver a better audio experience every time.
There’s also another dimension here: the chunky in-ear design of the Pixel Buds could cause problems if your outer ear area is small or unusually shaped. For a small percentage of people, they’re unwearable. The AirPods don’t suffer from this concern.
As hinted at in the previous section, the sound quality of the AirPods simply can’t compete with the Pixel Buds A-Series. Open style earbuds just can’t sound as good. Google has also put real effort into the audio experience, with 12mm drivers to really power the sound.
On sound quality alone, there’s no comparison. You’d have to move up to the AirPods Pro
(with their sealed design), which is in a completely different price tier.
Speaking of price, here’s another point of differentiation. If you buy them new from Apple, you’ll pay $159 for AirPods or $199 for AirPods with a wireless charging case. (To be fair, you can frequently find them for much cheaper elsewhere.) The Pixel Buds A-Series, on the other hand, start at just $99.
Yes, there are some trade-offs (see below). But the cheaper Pixel Buds A-Series sound better than the more expensive AirPods, which makes the answer pretty clear for many buyers.
Other Features (and What They Left Out)
The Pixel Buds A-Series are a value-priced variant of the original Pixel Buds. While the audio quality is the same, there are some small omissions
to reach the lower price point. There’s no wireless charging case here, and they lose the swipe controls from the more expensive model. Battery life is so-so at five hours per charge, but there is fast charging at least.
Adaptive Sound raises or lowers volume based on ambient noise, and while it’s no ANC, it’s still worlds better than AirPods. There’s also a pretty impressive level of Google Assistant handsfree integration. But these earbuds are a Google product after all, so other smart assistants are left in the cold.
AirPods bring a wealth of interesting features — if you’re invested in the Apple ecosystem. The H1 chip is impressive if you plan to switch connections between Apple devices, and Audio Sharing and Apple TV integration are stellar. Always-on “Hey Siri” is great as well (but no Google Assistant or Alexa integration, of course).
Which One Should You Get?
So, all that said: which pair should you get: AirPods or Pixel Buds A-Series?
The answer for just about everyone is the Pixel Buds A-Series. They’re simply a better pair of smart wireless earbuds, and cheaper at the same time. CNet calls them
an “excellent headphone value for Android users,” and they make a compelling choice even for iPhone users who aren’t particularly invested in smart headphone features.
If you’re deep in the Apple ecosystem, the AirPods might make better sense. But even then, if you can spring for them, the AirPods Pro will sound so much better.
Buying New Earbuds? Upsie Keeps Them Protected
If you’re in the market for a new pair of earbuds, you need an Upsie earbud extended warranty
to keep them protected. Upsie offers two or three years of extended warranty protection against manufacturing faults, failures and even accidental damage.
Learn More About Earbuds: