Google Pixel Buds 2 getting this secret weapon to beat AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

Google’s new Pixel Buds 2 could soon tell you more about your surroundings via “attention alerts," which would go well beyond the Transparency mode in the AirPods Pro

The Pixel Buds 2 only launched this week, but that didn’t stop 9to5Google from digging around in the code of the new Pixel Buds app to discover that there are command strings referring to attention alerts. An alert feature could notify the Pixel Buds wearer of when a fire alarm is going off or when a baby is crying. 

While the Pixel Buds 2 don’t have noise cancellation, but they do a fairly good job of sealing out unwanted background noise. Plus, Google offers Adaptive Sound, which dynamically adjusts the volume as you move between quiet and noisy environments, something the AirPods Pro doesn't offer.

So a smart alert feature would come in handy in letting in important outside sounds that the wearer should be aware of while also giving the Pixel Buds 2 another advantage over Apple.

Given the Pixel Buds 2 already have some smart sound processing features, it wouldn’t be a huge step for Google to enable attention alerts. It could work in tandem with the microphones on a partnered Android phone to aid in the sound detection and processing. 

There’s no information as to how such an alert system would work. But we’d hazard a guess that when the Pixel Buds detect a sound worthy of attention they could trigger an audio notification telling the wearer what sound they have detected and that it’s worthy of attention; an alert could also be sent to the connected smartphone. 

However, this does raise concerns about privacy. The Pixel Buds 2 already listen out for the ‘OK Google’ or ‘Hey Google’ trigger phrase, but if they end up constantly listening out for different noises, they could end up listening into pretty much everything, including the conversation of the wearer and those of passers-by. So it would be likely Google would add in some filtering feature and opt-in options. 

There’s no word on if or when Google will enable the attention alerts feature; it could just be a bit of leftover code that the search giant hasn’t purged from the Pixel Buds app. But given the code for attention alerts seems to be present, it might simply be a case of Google finalizing some testing and then enabling the feature through a simple app and Buds firmware update. 

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.