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5 tips and tricks for Google Pixel Buds

They're not just ordinary earbuds. Google tucked a few impressive tricks into the tiny gadget. Here's what you need to know.

Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
2 min read
Google Pixel Buds
James Martin/CNET

Google Pixel Buds  may lack inline buttons but their touch and voice controls offer so much more than just playback. You can talk with Google Assistant, use Google Translate to hold conversations in a different language, and triage your notifications without looking at your phone. 

How do you do all that? Let's take a look.

Watch this: Pixel Buds translate languages in real time

Touch controls

All interaction with a paired Android device is done via touch controls on the right earbud. Here are the basics:

  • Single tap to play or pause music, or answer a call.
  • Double tap to turn on or prompt notification updates from Google Assistant.
  • Long press to give voice commands to Google Assistant, or end a call.
  • Swipe forward to increase volume.
  • Swipe backward to decrease volume.

Interact with Assistant

With Pixel Buds, you can use Google Assistant just as you would on your phone. Long press on the right earbud, ask about weather conditions or give a command to send an email or text message.

When you lift your finger off the earbud, the Assistant will process the command and ask for further information (if needed) or read results.

You can more or less give every command on this list of "OK, Google" commands.

Google Pixel Buds
James Martin/CNET

Deal with notifications

By default, Pixel Buds will alert you to notifications. For instance, if you receive a new Facebook Messenger message, you'll hear Google Assistant tell you there's a new message, and the person or group it's from.

You can then interact with the notification by activating Google Assistant with a long press. At any time you can double tap on the right earbud to prompt Assistant to read any pending notifications to you, which you can then dictate a reply to.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

To disable notifications on your Pixel Buds, open Google Assistant and tap on Headphones Settings then turn off Spoken Notifications.

In-ear translation

Forget listening to music or a podcast -- the headline feature is Pixel Buds' ability to facilitate a conversation between two people who speak completely different languages.

While wearing Pixel Buds, long-press on the right earbud and then say, "Help me speak [language]." Google lists "Be my [language] translator," "I want to speak [language]" and, "I need a [language] interpreter" as alternative commands.

Google Translate will then launch on your phone, ready to relay the conversation. Each time you want to speak, long-press on the right earbud. Google Translate will do its magic, displaying translated text on your phone and reading the message out loud in the proper language. Currently, 40 languages are supported.

In order for the person to answer you, long press on the Microphone button in the bottom right corner while the person speaks.

Right now, the translate feature only works with Google's Pixel phones. Hopefully, the company will add support for more devices soon.

Check battery status

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

To check the current battery level of Pixel Buds, either open the quick settings menu and tap on the arrow next to the Bluetooth icon, or open Headphones Settings in Google Assistant.