The problem is, the touch surface is easy to accidentally activate, especially when the Buds are dangling around your neck. I burned through the Pixel Buds' batteries twice because my neck had un-paused Spotify without me noticing, leaving me screwed for the commute home. The fact that this happened twice is surprising if only because of the Buds' battery life — in general, they last between four to five hours on a charge,
Of course, the Pixel Buds mainly exist as a vessel for Google's Assistant. You access it by saying -- what else? -- "OK, Google" or by holding your finger against the right earbud, but the tell-tale Assistant bloop only happens when you do the former. It should really happen when you press the earbud, too, if only to make absolutely clear when the Assistant has actually started listening for a command.
Once you get the hang of things, the experience of talking to Google Assistant through the buds is mostly identical to using it on your phone or through a Google Home. That's often a good thing, but I wish Google had done a little more to tune Assistant for wearable use. When I ask it to play a certain song, for instance, Assistant only does so after telling me the name, the artist and the service it's playing on. Uh, maybe just play the damn track, Google.
Sometimes, Google Assistant appears to listen to what I'm saying and then fails to do anything about it. These weren't arcane commands, either — I asked the Assistant to play a song or playlist I had requested multiple times before, and it just hung. This was such a pervasive issue that I sent my first review unit back to Google on the suspicion that it was defective. The replacements I received didn't exhibit the same problem quite as often, but it still happened once or twice. My network connection was strong, and I make it a point to speak extra clearly to virtual assistants, so I can't really explain what's causing these failures.