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It's About Damn Time: Google Pixel Watch Makes its Debut

The highly-anticipated Pixel Watch is on sale this month, but it's already missing some features.

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A photo of the Pixel watch
The new Pixel Watch is suave, but it’s already missing a feature I want.
Image: Google

After years of speculation, Google has finally taken the wraps off the Pixel Watch, its debut attempt at a first-party wearable. We’ve been waiting for this for a long damn time—Pixel Watch rumors started circulating before the pandemic even struck. And now that it’s a reality and we’ll soon be able to wear the Pixel Watch, it’s a wonder how it will resonate with every other wearable already available. Here’s a preview of what to expect with Android’s newest smartwatch.

Another round Android smartwatch

Android experimented with rectangular watch faces long ago, but Wear OS seems most comfortable being circular. The Google Pixel Watch is a 41mm device and weighs about 36 grams without the watchband. It’s a little denser than the 41mm Apple Watch Series 8 and nearly 7 grams heavier than the 40mm Samsung Galaxy Watch 5. I did get a chance to wear the Pixel Watch briefly in a meeting with Google and I found it comfortable. I’m just relieved they make them smaller than they used to.

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There were plenty of Pixel Watch leaks prior to the reveal positing that the bezels on the display were huge compared to Samsung’s offering. The good news is that they’re not that bad. The Pixel Watch has a bit of a “dome” effect, which gives the smartwatch a little more depth than, say, the Galaxy Watch’s relative flatness. Frankly, it’s the kind of trimming you’d find on an Apple Watch—that’s what Google’s going after. The display has always-on capabilities and a maximum brightness of 1000 nits in daylight. It’s water resistant up to 50 meters and only comes in one size.

Inside, the Pixel Watch runs on a Samsung-made Exynos 9110 SoC, though there’s also a Cortex M33 co-processor that helps facilitate some of the on-device AI smarts. It’s a similar concept to how the Pixel smartphone functions, as this is what Google deems its edge against other choices in the platform. There’s also 2GB of memory inside the Pixel Watch and 32GB of storage for things like music, photos, and apps.

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Battery life will be the first thing I look at when I test the Pixel Watch. This one has a 294 mAh battery pack, which is a tiny bit bigger than the Galaxy Watch 5. Like the Pixel 7/7 Pro, Google promises up to 24 hours of battery life on the Pixel Watch, though the fine print indicates that actual battery life may be lower. Battery life can make or break any smartwatch or fitness-centric wearable. It’ll also be interesting to see how the Pixel Watch fares against the Apple Watch. As for charging speeds, Google says the battery can reach 100% with about 80 minutes on its USB-C magnetic charger.

I am concerned about how the Pixel Watch will compete as a fitness device. Google outfitted the device with a blood oxygen sensor, an optical heart-rate sensor, and an ECG monitor. But unlike the new Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and Apple Watch Series 8, there is no temperature sensor, which means it already lacks features. The Apple Watch uses the temperature sensor to help with fertility tracking, and Samsung will supposedly offer similar features in a future software update. At the very least, the Pixel Watch does have fall detection and Emergency SOS via cellular.

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Google’s Fitbit-infused Wear OS

A photo of the Pixel Watch with Fitbit's Active Zone Minutes on screen
Fitbit will sprout up notifications on your progress throughout the day.
Image: Google
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This version of Wear OS may look a little different than what you’re used to on a Samsung device, though its core function remains the same. For instance, the Pixel Watch uses a different application launcher compared to Samsung’s take on Wear OS, where the apps are listed in order rather than presented in a map-style format. Regardless, you can still tap and swipe around the interface to get through menus and customize watch faces with complications. I am curious to see what I’ll be able to customize on the Pixel Watch’s interface.

One thing to note about this particular wearable is that its fitness-centric features are centered around Fitbit. Fitbit will track your heart rate, offer a sleep score, and track all your health metrics. Even with the promise of separated data, it’s something to consider before approaching this device, especially if you’ve been on the Samsung wearable track and have data synced with Samsung Health. I hope to compare the two wellness apps when I get the Pixel Watch in for review.

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Google says Fitbit “experts” worked with Google Research and Machine Intelligence teams to make the Pixel Watch’s heart-rate monitoring the most accurate. I’m eager to relate this to similar claims from the latest Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch.

Google will offer a six-month Fitbit Premium membership for Pixel Watch users to give you a taste of what the ecosystem provides if you haven’t already tried it. For folks like myself with other health platforms, we’ll have to figure out if it’s worth migrating.

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Easy strap swap

A photo of the watch straps
Pixel Watch’s strap-swap mechanism is neat, but I’ll have to buy all new straps.
Image: Google
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One thing I already like about the Pixel Watch is its interchangeable strap-connection mechanism. Rather than pinching the screws on either side of the watchband, you can push a button to slide it out. It felt much easier on the nails than the current method, though nothing beats the ease of Apple’s slide-out watch bands. I am bummed that my existing Galaxy-compatible watch straps won’t work with the Pixel Watch. I will have to procure more watchbands to pair with it.

When the Pixel Watch goes on sale, Google will offer several watch bands, including a sweat-resistant stretchy band made of recycled plastic and a crafted leather band. As for the Pixel Watch, you can pre-order it now in the Google Store or buy it outright starting on October 13. It’s $350 for the Bluetooth/wifi model and $400 for the LTE version.