Google and its partners have announced that support for Google Assistant is coming to many wireless headphones.
Before now, the only stand-out headphones optimised for Google Assistant were the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and Google's own Pixel Buds. Now, it's slowly making its way to headphones and earbuds from brands like Harman/JBL, Sony, and others. With this kind of integration, you can access the AI assistant without opening your phone.
All you have to do is touch a button on the side of the headphones and then speak directly with Google Assistant.
Using voice commands, you can cue music, create calendar events, make phone calls, and receive audible notifications. Google Assistant can even read and let you reply to incoming messages from SMS apps and chat apps.
- What is Google Assistant and how does it work?
- Google Assistant has a male voice: Here's how to enable it
Google Assistant on/around-ear headphones
JBL Everest 710GA
The JBL Everest 710GA around-ear wireless headphones come with built-in Google Assistant. You pair them with your mobile device via Bluetooth, and then you can use Assistant to control your music, receive notifications, and more. To access Assistant, touch the sensors on the ear cup.
Then, use commands or phrases like, "Volume up" or "Tell me about my day or "Play pop music". Other features include 8 hours of battery life, quick recharging, JBL's "legendary Pro Audio Sound", and an ergonomic design. This model incorporated a specially-curved headband and lightweight, memory-foam ear cushions.
It'll be available in the colours "Gunmetal" and "Mountain Silver" from this autumn for €249. No word on UK/US pricing.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II
Bose confirmed in late-2017 that a second-generation pair of its QuietComfort 35 wireless over-ear noise-cancelling headphones would come with Google Assistant built-in. They retain the same design and audio DNA as their predecessor, so you can rest assured they'll sound fantastic and offer superb noise cancellation.
But now, they could claim to be the first headphones with Google's voice-controlled Assistant and accessible at the touch of a button. A new Action Button can be found on the left ear cup and it's this you'll need to press and hold to active Assistant. Once activated, you can carry out all the same commands as you would on a Google Home.
The Action Button can be configured within the Bose Connect app to adjust noise settings instead, which lets you adjust the level of noise cancellation to either high, low or off completely. Alternatively, you can leave the Action Button to control Google Assistant, and adjust noise levels from within the app.
They're available now in the same black and silver colours for £330.
Sony's fantastic second-generation noise-cancelling over-ears didn't originally launch with Google Assistant capabilities. You could already trigger Assistant by holding a button on the side of the headphones, but now following a software update they have it baked in.
To enable Google Assistant on the Sony WH-1000XM2, you will need to reconfigure the function of the NC/Ambient button within the companion app. It will mean the button no longer controls ambient sound, but it does mean you get full use of Google Assistant. Functions include controlling music playback and even being able to control other smart home products, just as you would with Google Home.
Google Assistant in-ear headphones
JBL Everest 110GA
The JBL Everest 110GA in-ear wireless headphones come with built-in Google Assistant, and you can pair them with your mobile device via Bluetooth. To access Google Assistant, just touch the sensors on the earbud.
JBL said that because of its "legendary Pro Audio Sound" experience, the audio is elevated to premium, by "delivering impeccable sound". You'll get a whopping 25 hours of battery life, too. If these interest you, they'll go on sale some time this autumn for €99.99 in the colours "Gunmetal" and "Mountain Silver".
No word yet on US or UK pricing.
Sony has called these the world's first wireless, noise-cancelling, splash-proof in-ear headphones. You can wear them out while in the city and be sure to get crisp, clear, loud audio, and they'll withstand a sprinkle or a sweaty workout regime. They come with an IPX4 rating, offering protection for 5 minutes in water.
Sony also said they have an arc-supporter design, so they should fit snugly in your ears. They will eventually be optimised for Google's Assistant, too, via a firmware update, so you can use Google Assistant voice commands to cue music. Sony is making the in-ears available in four colours: pink, yellow, black, and white.
They also come with a compact, one-touch-open charging case that adds about 3 hours of battery plus an additional two charges from their case, delivering 9 hours total in between charges. And Sony said the headphones easily connect to your smartphone over NFC. They will cost $180 when they become available from June 2018.
No word yet on UK pricing.
Google Pixel Buds
When we reviewed the $159 Pixel Buds, we weren't really impressed with the design of the earbuds themselves and the cradle. However, we really liked the Google Assistant implementation. It's easy to use and really fast. Just tap and talk. It's the feature we used the most, whether for transit times, to read the news, to check the weather, and more.
We're not sure we've ever used Assistant this much before. Also, when wearing them, you'll hear an alert when important notifications are received. We could then double-tap on the right earphone to force Assistant to read the entire message, and long-press to transcribe our reply. It was fantastic. We wish the same could be said for translations.
Pixel Buds offer a great Google Assistant experience. But, on the other hand, they're frustratingly designed, don't sound great, and they don't deliver on the potential of their real-time translation headline feature. So, we almost didn't include them in this round-up, but it felt weird to leave out Google's own headphones. So, here ya go.
Sony had already previously said it would be bringing Google Assistant to the WI-1000X in-ear headphones with a future update, and we certainly welcomed the move. We already loved Sony's in-ears, praising them for their noise-cancelling capabilities. With the addition of Google Assistant built right into them, they've become a lot more desirable.
With Assistant up and running on the WI-1000X, you can have notifications read out to you, to save you getting your phone out your pocket each time and it will load up and work faster with iOS devices.
OnePlus announced a new pair of wireless earbuds called Bullets Wireless, similar to the Beats X, that have Google Assistant built-in. The wireless Bullets sport a neckband design, rather than being totally wire-free or having a hanging wire between both earpieces.
While they do have Google Assistant support built-in, letting you hear notifications and control smart home products. However, this only works if you have the Bullets connected to a OnePlus smartphone. Other features of the Bullets include automatically pausing/resuming music playback when you magnetically clip them together (or unclip them), and they support fast charging.
Others worth mentioning
Older Sony headphones and earbuds
Some of Sony's other headphones are still in line to get Google Assistant support, but they will be updated at a later date.
The following models will get Assistant:
- WF-1000X - noise-canceling wireless earbuds (see our review)
- WH-CH700N - noise-canceling wireless headphones
- WH-H900N - wireless headphones
For the models that don't offer their own connectivity, you'll need to pair them with a phone to use Google Assistant. Sony hasn't confirmed when, exactly, it'll roll out these future firmware updates, but we'll keep you posted.