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Your Pixel Buds Pro are getting a major software upgrade, and it's totally free

Google's latest software update makes the Pixel Buds Pro a worthy rival to Apple and Sony's flagship earbuds.
Written by Jada Jones, Associate Editor
Pixel Buds Pro
Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

When the Pixel Buds Pro arrived last summer, Google's flagship earbuds delivered a fantastic hardware quality and listening experience to Android users. In fact, ZDNET's reviewer referred to them as "AirPods Pro, but for Android."

But despite the updated design, sound quality, and improved interoperability with Android phones, the Pixel Buds Pro were missing high-end software features found in other earbuds within the same price range.

Also: Every product unveiled at the Made by Google event today

The latest software upgrades for Pixel Buds Pro may position them back in front, making them a contender for the best earbuds for Android devices. Here's what's new with the Pixel Buds Pro.

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Bluetooth Super Wideband

Google's Pixel Buds Pro communicate on Bluetooth 5.0, three iterations behind the most updated Bluetooth standard, Bluetooth 5.3. Despite that, the latest software update improves the Android audio streaming experience. The Pixel Buds Pro will utilize the upgraded Super Wideband frequency range and Low Complexity Communication Codec (LC3) codec to improve call quality.

Essentially, the Pixel Buds Pro will use upgraded audio technology to reproduce a greater range of noise frequencies, which will enhance voice calling and audio quality. Additionally, Super Wideband and LC3 will improve the buds' battery life and stabilize their connections to your devices.

Low-latency Mode

Although Bluetooth connections free you from wires, innovative technologies can introduce new problems. Bluetooth connections produce a natural lag between audio and video -- it's impossible to avoid this issue. Light travels faster than sound, which means your brain will register changes on your device screen before the sound reaches your ears.

Also: The best earbuds: Sony, Bose, Apple and more compared

Despite the lag averaging a short 150 milliseconds, it can bother some users, especially gamers who require pinpoint accuracy and reflexes. Google is introducing a feature designed to minimize this problem: Low-latency mode for Pixel Buds Pro will cut latency in half, the company touts.

Google has gamers in mind as mobile gaming becomes more immersive and graphics intensive. By turning on low-latency mode, you should experience less lag between your gameplay and the audio coming through to your Pixel Buds Pro. 

Pixel Buds app for Chromebooks

The Pixel Buds app for Pixel Buds Pro is coming to Chromebook, which means you can change specific audio settings right from your Chromebook.

The new Chromebook app will allow you to change your Pixel Buds Pro EQ and audio mode settings, as well as install firmware updates without pulling out your phone, providing greater interoperability between your Pixel Buds Pro and Chromebook

Also: Your AirPods Pro 2 got a free upgrade, and it's a big deal

In comparison, iOS users must update their iPhones to install AirPods firmware and can only change audio settings by toggling them directly on AirPods stems. 

Conversation Detection

Conversation Detection is a feature Pixel Buds Pro users can turn on that uses AI to detect when the wearer is having a conversation. This feature will pause music when a conversation is detected and automatically switch to Transparency Mode for the wearer to hear the other person more clearly.

Once the buds detect the conversation is over, the music resumes, and Active Noise Cancellation will turn back on.

Also: How to get and use Spatial Audio on the Pixel Buds Pro

Last month, Apple announced this same feature for AirPods Pro 2, and Sony has offered it for several generations of its flagship WF-1000XM earbuds. Google's introduction of this feature should help level the playing field with the other audio giants.

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