Saturday, September 30, 2023

Android is ready for the Pixel Buds Pro’s AirPods-esque audio switching trick

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Shreya Christina
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Google’s latest and most advanced wireless earbuds to date, the Pixel Buds Pro, will be on store shelves for another week. But the company has announced that its Android software is already prepped for one of the earbuds’ most useful new features: the Pixel Buds Pro can switch devices automatically — no settings menus needed.

Just as the AirPods can jump between other Apple products (iPhone, iPad, Mac) depending on which one you’re actively using, Google’s flagship earbuds can do the same for Android hardware.

“Our audio switching technology builds on Fast Pair to use contextual information about what you’re listening to to switch the audio based on your actions,” said Google’s Angela Hsiao. wrote in a blog post. “We have more categories arranged to help you prioritize sounds between phone calls, media, and all the sounds your devices can make.” Fast Pair is the feature that automatically pairs earbuds with your device (and Google account) by holding them near your phone during setup.

But sometimes a feature sounds better conceptually than it works in practice. I’m occasionally annoyed when my AirPods or Beats earbuds automatically jump to a device I didn’t want. (If this is a frequent frustration for you, it is possible to turn off Apple’s automatic switching.)

Google may be trying to avoid similar customer complaints by making it really easy to switch audio back to the first device. “As with all of Android, you have full control over the experience with a notification that pops up, allowing you to switch the audio back to the original device you were listening on with one tap,” Hsiao said.

Audio switching is different from Bluetooth multipoint; earphones and headphones that support the latter can be connected to two audio sources at the same time, eliminating the need to switch. But Google seems to think that audio switching will be better at recognizing exactly what audio you want to prioritize right now.

Audio switching won’t be exclusive to the Pixel Buds Pro for long. Google says the feature will select Sony and JBL headphones in the coming weeks. For now, the trick is limited to the Android platform, but Google claims it’s working on reaching “more of your favorite platforms and devices” over time.

Google has said that the other big software feature for the noise-canceling Pixel Buds Pro, head-tracking spatial audio, will arrive via a software update later this year.

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