Google Pixel Buds A could cut this feature to keep an AirPods-beating price

Google Pixel Buds 2
(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

Most Google Pixel Buds A leaks have focused on the wireless earbuds being a cheaper successor to the Pixel Buds 2 — as well as a more affordable rival to the upcoming Apple AirPods 3.

However, it’s been mostly unclear how the Pixel Buds A would find the cost savings to reach such a significantly lower price. One possibility, according to 9to5Google, is that the Pixel Buds A will lose the swipe-based volume controls that previous Pixel Buds have enjoyed.

9to5Google investigated a recent Pixel Buds app update that appears to include strings preparing for the Pixel Buds A’s eventual release. These include “type_one” and “type_two” identifiers, which seem to refer to the Pixel Buds 2 and the Pixel Buds A respectively.

Where it gets interesting is that code relating to the Pixel Buds 2’s volume swipe controls, like the “swipe_forward” and “swipe_backward” strings, are absent from the “type_two” file. This is certainly an indication, though not confirmation, that the Pixel Buds A won’t let you adjust volume by swiping on the earbud’s touch sensors.

It could therefore be likely that Google will put a more basic touch sensor into the Pixel Buds A, assuming it will support touch inputs at all; only being able to control the earbuds from your phone remains a remote though technically possible alternative. Either approach would help save costs and drive the Pixel Buds A price down, though we’d hope that you’d at least be able to raise or lower volume through repeated taps.

The same APK teardown also hints at a charging case with the battery status LED on the outside — on the Pixel Buds 2 case, it’s positioned in-between the earbud sockets, so is only visible when opening the case. Notably, the possible Pixel Buds A design Google itself included in an email newsletter shows a white LED on the outside of the case.

We don't yet know when the Pixel Buds A will be released — in fact we don't have official confirmation then they're even real — but we expect a late Spring or Summer launch. If that's the case, we shouldn't have to wait too long before we find out exactly what they'll offer — and whether they'll be a contender for our best wireless earbuds list. Watch this space either way.

James Archer

James is currently Hardware Editor at Rock Paper Shotgun, but before that was Audio Editor at Tom’s Guide, where he covered headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. A PC enthusiast, he also wrote computing and gaming news for TG, usually relating to how hard it is to find graphics card stock.