Google Pixel Watch hands-on — the Wear OS watch I’ve been waiting for
Google Pixel Watch specs
Price: $349 (LTE), $399 (Cellular)
Colors: Matte black, silver gold
Weight: 1.26 ounces
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi, NFC, GPS, LTE (optional)
Compatibility: Android 8.0 or higher
Water resistance: 5 ATM
Battery life: 24 hours
The Google Pixel Watch seems to be the smartwatch that Pixel phone users have been waiting for. Good looks, smart software and the help of a certain acquired company’s fitness tracking features have set Google’s debut smartwatch up to score.
As a version 1.0 device, some skepticism about the Pixel Watch is a must. Separating the device’s actual performance from the mountain of anticipation built up over the years will be the balancing act of my eventual Pixel Watch review. For now, a brief hands-on with the Pixel Watch demonstrated what it might be like to have both the best of Google and Fitbit united.
The result is a wearable experience different enough from the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and similar enough to the Apple Watch Series 8. What do I mean by that? Wear OS on the Pixel Watch surprisingly stands apart from the software on Samsung’s smartwatches, in way that emulates the intuition and interconnectivity of the Apple Watch. At least, that’s what I took away from my initial time with the Pixel Watch.
Google Pixel Watch price and release date
The Pixel Watch costs $349 for a GPS + Bluetooth-only configuration, while the LTE-compatible version costs $399. This makes the Pixel Watch a bit more affordable than the Apple Watch Series 8 ($399) but pricier than the Galaxy Watch 5 ($279) and recently-released Fitbit Sense 2 ($299).
The Pixel Watch release date is October 13, with preorders available now. Here’s our guide to Google Pixel Watch preorders, in case you’re interested in having one on launch day.
Google Pixel Watch design
The Google Pixel Watch is a simple-looking smartwatch, I might even call it minimalistic. It comes in just one size — 41mm — and features a rounded design with a 3D glass dome. This raised effect distracts from the display’s thick bezel, but doesn’t change the fact that a good chunk of the display is unusable. It seems practical to accommodate a virtual bezel like on the Galaxy Watch 5, but alas.
Instead, navigation takes place with swipes or with the digital crown on the side that looks quite similar to the Apple Watch’s digital crown. The crown button has some tactile grooves, which felt nice during my hands-on. Above the digital crown, the Pixel Watch has a small button that opens recently-used apps, which is a convenience that only came to the Apple Watch’s side button this year.
In terms of style and customization, the Pixel Watch comes in three colors: matte black, silver and gold. Google is launching the Pixel Watch alongside a range of interchangeable straps. There are seven total band types in a multitude of colors, with all being exclusively compatible to the Pixel Watch. Swapping the bands presents slight learning curve, as it’s a proprietary mechanism, but I got the hang of it after a few tries.
Google Pixel Watch Fitbit features
Fitness tracking on the Google Pixel Watch is entirely powered by Fitbit, meaning users will get both basic activity data as well as access to Fitbit Premium’s holistic health features.
The watch can track more than 40 workout types, while also counting your steps and monitoring your heart rate 24/7. With Fitbit Premium, which costs $9.99 per month, or $80 per year, you unlock more advanced features like a Daily Readiness Score, sleep tracking analysis, meditations, wellness reports and more.
Google is offering a complimentary 6 months of Fitbit Premium for Pixel Watch users, which is the standard promotion for all the best Fitbit devices. I will say it seems Fitbit Premium has become less optional, locking the most compelling health tools behind the membership. You might not need it if you’re only looking for basic activity metrics, but I’ll have to see the full scope of everything you do (or don’t) get with the Pixel Watch’s fitness tracking before I can be sure.
Google Pixel Watch with Wear OS
As you might expect, the Pixel Watch leverages Google’s suite of services with Wear OS, offering practically every program a person might use on a daily basis. This includes: Google Maps, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Pay, Google Home, YouTube Music and Google Assistant.
A number of the best smartwatches for Android (both old and new) run Wear OS, but it’s different. From the experiences I recall, these smartwatches offer only a few Google services — never the entire gamut, and never any apparent rhyme or reason for what’s supported and what’s not. It’s about time Google made a smartwatch optimized for its wearable software.
As such, the Google Pixel Watch features Wear OS’s familiar tile-based navigation that moved as smoothly as I’ve ever seen it. It also has support for third-party apps with the Google Play, theoretically making the Pixel Watch a better companion for your needs. (This is a huge benefit eliminated from this year’s Fitbit smartwatches, but that’s a rant for another day.
Another thing worth mentioning about the software specifically is the exclusive Pixel Watch watch faces. Google has created 19 customizable watch faces, including one that brings Google Photos images to your wrist. Speaking of Google Photos, there’s a camera remote feature that lets you control the camera of a companion Pixel smartphone. I’m quite excited to test this out.
Google Pixel Watch battery life
The Google Pixel Watch battery life is rated for 24 hours of battery life. That’s perhaps a bit less than I was hoping to see, especially with Galaxy Watch and Apple Watch getting battery upgrades this year. Still, 24 hours isn’t that unusual for a smartwatch with an Always On Display; I wouldn’t consider it a con just yet, but we’ll have to see how long it actually lasts in testing.
For charging, the Pixel Watch comes with simple magnetic to USB-C charger that kind of looks like a pebble. Google estimates 45 minutes of charging gets 9 hours of battery life.
Google Pixel Watch outlook
Other the Apple Watch Ultra, I can’t think of a smartwatch that’s been more anticipated than the Google Pixel Watch. Now that it’s here and I’ve tried it on, it’s hard to say whether it lives up to the type.
I think the Pixel Watch’s success will hinge on whether Google services and Fitbit health tracking strike the perfect balance of connectivity and fitness tracking. At least, that’s the question I’ll try to answer when I get the opportunity to fully review the Pixel Watch.