Update (03/19): According to our friends at 9to5Google, Google’s Pixel Buds are receiving an update that enables you to double-tap the right earbud to skip tracks.
The update arrives as firmware version 1.1767.6040.G1-61495-545, and allows you to advance one track ahead. It was originally reported that the double-tap gesture would be customizable in a future firmware version, but that apparently isn’t the case as of this version. It’s possible that the gesture will eventually be customizable, however. We’ll just have to wait and see when Google rolls it out.
Original coverage (03/12): Even though we found Google‘s Pixel Buds to be perfectly adequate Bluetooth earbuds, we also saw plenty of room for improvement. That improvement could include enhanced controls, if the latest beta version of the Google app is any indication.
Currently, you can double-tap the right earbud to have Google Assistant read your notifications and pause Assistant when it talks. According to some lines of code unearthed by 9to5Google, you can soon customize that gesture and use it to skip to the next track.
There will also be a new triple-tap gesture that can be used to turn off the Pixel Buds. This is a welcome feature, since the only way to currently turn off the Pixel Buds is to place them in the charging case.
Next up is the “Smart detection” feature that Google has previously worked on for the Pixel Buds. Renamed to “In-ear detection,” the feature pauses music when you remove the right earbud from your ear. This is a feature I enjoy with my AirPods, and I am happy to see it eventually supported on the Pixel Buds.
Finally, Sony announced during CES 2018 that some of its newer and older headphones would get Google Assistant support. The latest Google beta includes instructions on how to get that support up and running, which involves downloading a Sony companion app.
Because the code was found in the Google beta, there is no indication if or when these features will make their way to the masses. That said, these features certainly improve the Pixel Buds and their standing as solid alternatives to the AirPods.