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Google’s Pixel Buds 2 take on AirPods, but with a sleeker design that seals out ambient sound

With hands-free Google Assistant, these noise-isolating earphones are like "floating computers in your ear."

The new totally wireless Pixel Buds will be released next year.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Google has a new set of true wireless earbuds to compete with Apple's AirPods, but you'll have to wait a while to get your hands on them. The company's new Pixel Buds -- or Pixel Buds 2, as some are calling them -- are scheduled to ship next spring (2020), Google announced Tuesday at its 2019 Made by Google event in New York. They'll cost $179, which is in line with what other premium true wireless earphones cost. Google also introduced the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL phones and the Pixelbook Go laptop Tuesday, and gave Google Stadia a release date.

Now playing: Watch this: First look at Google's new $179 wireless Pixel Buds

What's interesting about them is that Google has moved away from the open, AirPods-like hard bud design of the original Pixel Buds, and moved to a more discreet noise-isolating design with silicone ear tips and fins that lock the buds in your ear and seal out sound. Earphones with this design tend to have better sound, particularly when it comes to bass, but not everybody likes having their ear canals sealed off (some people complain of hearing their footsteps), so Google added a "spatial vent" that allows a little bit of sound in from the outside world. They should work well for workouts, though we're still waiting on a water-resistance rating.

Pixel Buds designer Isabelle Olsen described them as "floating computers in your ear." Not surprisingly you can access Google Assistant hands-free by simply saying, "Hey, Google," without touching any buttons. The Buds also have sensors to pick up ambient noise and adjust speaker volume and microphone range accordingly. And Google said the Buds are equipped with beamforming microphones and sensors that know when your jaw is moving to help focus those microphones on your voice when you're having a phone conversation or accessing your voice assistant. 

 As for wireless range, Google said the Buds will stay connected up to three rooms away when indoors. With an outdoor connection range that can stretch as long as a football field.

Battery life is five hours on a single charge or about what you get from the AirPods. That's decent enough, but thanks to more energy-efficient Bluetooth 5.0 chips, some of the latest true wireless buds offer better battery life -- in the six- to eight-hour range. The new Pixel Buds charging case delivers an additional 19 hours of juice, Google said. We assume the case charges via USB-C and has some sort of fast-charge feature, but we're still awaiting confirmation of that.

Prices and release dates were not announced for other countries.

In all, the new Pixel Buds seem pretty intriguing. It's a shame we'll have to wait until next year to try them -- and there will be plenty of competing models that are released over the next six months -- but at least Google let folks know they're coming. Now you can decide whether to wait for them or not.

The new cord-free Pixel Buds have a pretty discreet low-profile design. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Originally published earlier today and updated with more details and impressions.