Accessories

5 Google Pixel Buds alternatives: Real-time translations

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When the Google Pixel Buds were announced, the reaction was along the lines of: “Google’s Pixel Buds translation will change the world.” But, the first thing I thought was, I wonder how it compares to what’s already out there?

I’m a native English speaker, who doesn’t have the best nack for languages. I also live in Taiwan which is a Chinese-speaking country, and I run a German-language website. There is no one more ready for a real-life Bable fish than I am.

Before I head into the Pixel Bud Alternatives, let’s take a quick look at the device that’s turning heads.

Google Pixel Buds

The Pixel Buds are neck buds, not truly wireless earbuds.

To start a translation, you hold your finger down to the earbud and say, “Help me speak French,” and speak a phrase. When you lift your finger, the Translate app speaks and displays your translation. Then, the person you’re speaking to holds a button down on your phone and says their reply, which you hear in your ear.

I’m a little dubious that this is any more convenient than just passing your phone back and forth and doing everything there, but it’s nice that only one set of translations is done over the phone’s speaker. A fairly natural voice does the translation, which is a step up from what we currently hear through Google Translate. This isn’t real time, but it’s very fast.

It doesn’t work offline and the Pixel Buds will eventually be able to translate between 40 languages, but so far, it only translates Japanese.

Google says they should last about five hours on a charge; the case can charge them four times.

I found even more offline translators at StartUp LaunchPad. Found at the Global Sourcing Fair, StartUp Launchpad is a Hong Kong Conference that showcases brand new startups looking for distributors. This happens twice a year and Mobile Geeks has made a habit of attending since it gives a sneak peek at the technology trends that are coming out of China to the rest of the world.

Le Trans

Le Trans is about the size of a bar of soap and can translate 29 languages, which is a lot of combinations! They’re mostly using Google’s translation library but have added in a few others, as well. You use an app to select which languages are being translated but it doesn’t work offline, meaning it’s not a great solution if you’re traveling.

LeTrans will be launching on Kickstarter in December with a shipping date for sometime in 2018. I did get to go hands-on, but the sample wasn’t working, so I’m reserving judgment on this until I have working samples and a price point.

Travis the Translator

Travis launched on Indegogo back in April and raised US$ 1.63 million in funding. Travis can translate 80 languages, 20 of which work offline. It’s not a headset like the Pixel Buds; it’s a MiFi-like pod that has a built-in speaker and headphone jack, so you can plug in your own.

Travis works for up to 12 hours and uses AI to become more intelligent. It works to understand your accent better and provide more accurate translations taking context into account. As you see in the video above, you can just place Travis between you and carry on a normal conversation. You have to wait for the translation to be read out, but it’s very fast and natural.

Travis doesn’t provide a full list of what translation engines they’re using but claims the best translation engine for each language is different, which is why they are using so many solutions. This makes Travis more interesting than Pixel Buds, which as far as I know, just uses Google Translate.

You can pick up Travis for US$ 169 plus shipping through their Indiegogo campaign, but the price will rise to US$ 229 when they go on sale. Travis is meant to ship towards the end of November to current backers and be ready for the market in the winter of 2017.

So far, I think that Travis offers the most interesting solution for a live translation device. For a full list of all 80 languages, visit their website.

Pilot Translating Earpiece

Pilot fits into your ear, offers live translation of 15 languages, and will stream music, take calls, deliver notifications, or act as your phone’s personal assistant. You can share the earpiece with the person you’re having the conversation with so you can both have a translation device. I have strong feelings against sharing my earbuds with a stranger, so it’s a good thing that you can use the Pilot app on the phone to listen and translate.

Currently, Pilot is not available offline, but they’re planning on adding it later. You’re also dependent on using the app for translation and the app will be available for free in November so you can download it to find out if it’s any good.

Pre-orders of the Pilot Translating Earpieces start at US$ 249 (US$ 299 when it goes on sale) and come with free access to Latin/romance languages (French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, along with English). However, adding more languages like Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, German, Greek, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Turkish, etc. will cost you more.

Ili Wearable Translator

Ili can be worn around your neck or simply held in your hand and pointed at people’s faces, like in the video above. Ili is around the same size as your phone, but it’s not as wide. It doesn’t offer instant translation and has 0.2 seconds of delay.

Ili isn’t a universal translator — it’s travel-focused — so this is the context of the content it has available. Due to its limited size and the fact that it’s offline, it essentially holds a translation dictionary.

That said, there is quite a lot encompassed in the travel: “Ili is here to help you when it comes to dining, shopping, finding transportation, and much more,” according to the company. If you believe their YouTube channel, these are quite a lot of scenarios.

The biggest issue/disappointment is that Ili is one way — one language to another, not back again. Forget having a conversation, Ili claims that its goal is to help you be understood by others. Understanding what’s being said to you will have to wait for another version.

Ili has support for three languages from English, meaning English to Spanish, Mandarin, or Japanese and two languages from Chinese.

Bragi Dash Pro

Bragi Dash Pro is currently available and Mobile Geeks has reviewed it. Though I can’t say we were impressed with the performance, I’m hopeful it’ll improve.

All you need to do to have a conversation with someone who speaks another language is throw Dash Pro earbuds in, and you’ll instantly be able to understand someone who’s speaking in one of 40 foreign languages.

The problem is that there’s no compelling reason to use the Dash Pro for translation, unless both people in the conversation are using the earbuds. You can’t hand one earbud off to the other person so they can also benefit from the translator. If the other person doesn’t have their own pair of headphones, you still have to hold your phone out so that the person you’re talking to has a microphone to talk into and a speaker to hear your own words translated into their language. Otherwise, they’d have to talk directly into your ear, and they wouldn’t get your voice translated back into their language. At that point, it’s far easier for you to both speak into — and hear translations from — the same device.

The earbuds act as an accessory for an app called iTranslate, which already claims five million monthly active users and is one of the more high-rated translation apps in both the Apple Store and on Google Play.


This article originally appeared on Mobile Geeks. Nicole Scott, who was GadgetMatch’s companion and guide to its very first StartUp Launch Pad experience, shared her experience on the bi-annual conference at the Global Sourcing Fair in Hong Kong. 

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Accessories

Fossil’s new hybrid smartwatch has an always-on e-ink display

It’s called the Fossil Hybrid HR

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Smartphone manufacturers originally saw smartwatches as an extension of the phone instead of a beautiful time-telling accessory that you wear on your wrist. If you’re a watch-wearing person, there was absolutely no reason to buy into the tech at the time. The first few models looked hideous and had terrible battery life.

Years later, fashion brands and watchmakers like Fossil saved the day and made buying a smartwatch seem like a good idea. Along with the usual Wear OS smartwatches, the brand also introduced hybrid smartwatches a few years back. These are the typical circular mechanical watches with removable batteries that you don’t have to charge, with a few useful Bluetooth functions.

In 2019, Fossil’s new generation of hybrid smartwatches feature an always-on e-ink display. This allows the watch to display more information like your heart rate, number of steps, weather information, and notifications.

While getting more information can be a good thing, having a display also means having a built-in rechargeable battery — 55 mAh to be exact. Fossil says it takes around two weeks before it needs charging, and about an hour for a full charge. Previous generations of Fossil Q Hybrid last 6-12 months before the batteries needed replacing.

Like previous generations, you can still do functions like control your music through the buttons of the watch, and change the straps as they come in standard 18mm or 22mm sizes.

At launch there are five Fossil Hybrid HR models — those with leather straps retail for US$195 and US$215 for stainless steel.

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Accessories

Unboxing the Apple AirPods Pro

Noise-cancellation in a small package

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Earlier, Apple quietly revealed the AirPods Pro on their website. Completing Apple’s “Pro” lineup for 2019, the AirPods Pro promises an immersive audio experience with Active Noise Cancellation.

Of course, we’ve got our hands on the hottest gadget in the world of tech right now. Let’s unbox the Apple AirPods Pro!

The packaging comes in the usual white box with an illustration of the new AirPods.

Of course, what’s a retail box without a manual?

Here’s the AirPods Pro case…

It’s shorter and wider compared on the original AirPods case

It comes with its own lightning cable…

And two sets of ear tips making sure you have the right fit.

Here’s how the AirPods Pro looks alongside its charging case.

The AirPods Pro looks pretty much like the non-pro version when worn.

Have you been waiting for these noise-cancelling earphones?

SEE MORE: Apple officially announces the AirPods Pro

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Accessories

Apple officially announces the AirPods Pro

It now has Active Noise-Cancellation and extra ear tips

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Image by GadgetMatch

Remember when we bumped into an OEM Case Maker in Hong Kong and confirmed the AirPods Pro will be coming? Well, the long wait is over as Apple quietly revealed the AirPods Pro through their website. The latest AirPods completes Apple’s “Pro” lineup for 2019 — iPhone 11 Pro, iPad Pro, MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, and the Pro Display XDR.

You can find a plethora of wireless earbuds around, from major brands, down to clone makers. In fact, Sony launched the first true noise-cancelling earbuds with the WF-1000XM3. Other major companies (such as Microsoft with the Surface Buds and Google’s New Pixel Buds) followed the wireless buds “trend”– so what’s with the AirPods Pro hype?

What’s new?

Image by GadgetMatch

Other than the new design (that honestly looks like a miniaturized hair blower) and a wider case, it’s packed with serious audio tech. A lot of audiophiles have been loving their AirPods, what more with the AirPods Pro?

If you’re one among those people who use the good ol’ AirPods (including me), you can still hear your surroundings around, even if you max out the volume of your music. With the AirPods Pro, you don’t have to worry as it now has Active Noise Cancellation.

Image by GadgetMatch

It’s possible thanks to the H1 chip and sensors, capable of delivering immersive audio experience in a small bud package. The opposing inward and outward-facing microphones equal the amount of unwanted external sound through Anti-Noise.

Not used to complete music isolation? You can press and hold the Force Sensor on the stem to switch to Transparency Mode — ideal for a more natural environment, especially when you want to hear people around you. The sensor also lets you switch between songs and answer calls in between.

Image by GadgetMatch

Apple promises that you’ll feel your music more than the headphones as they incorporated air vents to alleviate the pressure. The microphone also features an expanded mesh that improves the quality of calls even in windy situations.

With comfort in mind, there are three different earbud tips that cater to various ear sizes. Adaptive EQ also helps in tuning the music to the shape of your ear, for a richer and clearer listening experience. For fitness freaks, it’s now a perfect gym partner as it features IPX4 sweat and water resistance.

The features we love are still here

Image by GadgetMatch

Just like the older AirPods, you can activate “Hey Siri” hands-free with your voice. You can switch between music, answer calls, ask for directions, all without lifting your finger. Audio Sharing is also present, so you can wirelessly share the music or podcast to someone (and dongles should be a thing of the past).

With a single charge, expect up to 4.5 hours of listening and 3.5 hours with talking. A 15-minute charge with the case will get you another hour of listening and talking. You can expect more than 24 hours of usage with a fully-charged wireless charging case. It’s also Qi-compatible, so you can charge it wirelessly wherever you go.

Pricing and availability

It retails for US$ 249 in the United States and SG$ 379 in Singapore. In the Philippines, it sells for PhP 14,990, which is worth PhP 3,000 more than the recent AirPods 2 with wireless charging case.

It’s currently available for pre-order in the United States and 25 other countries (such as Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong) while in-store availability will roll out later this week. Apple will start shipping out orders on October 30, 2019.

Availability in other regions are yet to be followed.

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