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Google’s Pixel Watch marks a new chapter for Wear OS

Google’s Pixel Watch marks a new chapter for Wear OS


With its first-ever smartwatch, Google is no longer a bystander when it comes to Android wearables

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All the varieties of of Pixel Watch cases and bands side by side
There won’t be any third-party Pixel Watch bands at launch.
Image: Google

The Pixel Watch has been heavily leaked and teased over the past year, but today, Google finally revealed the complete details of its first-ever smartwatch. There aren’t too many surprises, but the fact that Google is actually launching the smartwatch marks a new chapter for Android wearables. While the tech giant was once an indifferent bystander, it’s now an active player.

The $349.99 ($399.99 for cellular) Pixel Watch’s design isn’t anything we haven’t seen before at Google I/O or in leaked renders. It’s essentially what the Apple Watch would look like if it had a circular display, complete with a digital crown and side button. That said, the Pixel Watch’s official measurements are much smaller than other premium smartwatches that have launched this fall. The case is a compact 41mm and is relatively thin at 12.3mm. It’s also lightweight for a stainless steel watch at 32g, minus the straps. That puts it closer to the entry-level Galaxy Watch 5 and the Apple Watch Series 8 rather than the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro or the Apple Watch Ultra.

The Pixel Watch isn’t going to have the most impressive battery life

The smaller size is good news for those with petite wrists, but it also means the Pixel Watch isn’t going to have the most impressive battery life. It’s got a 294mAh battery and an estimated 24 hours on a single charge. That’s not terrible for a smartwatch that emphasizes smarts over fitness, but it falls short of the roughly two days you’ll get on the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro and the Ultra. Google spokesperson Andrea Holing told The Verge that this estimate was arrived at with the always-on display turned off: 240 notifications; 280 time checks; 50 minutes of tethered navigation; 45 minutes of working out while connected via LTE, tracking location via GPS, and streaming locally stored YouTube Music; and a five-minute phone call over LTE. Battery life will always heavily depend on individual use, but it looks like you’ll have to temper expectations if you want to use the AOD. To take the sting out, Google’s added fast charging to the watch via a USB-C cable. You can get up to 50 percent in a half hour, while a full charge will take about 80 minutes.

We’ll have to see how the Pixel Watch holds up in terms of durability. While it’s got 5ATM of water resistance and the case is stainless steel, it’s only got Corning Gorilla Glass 5 for the display. That could pose some issues due to the domed display.

The Lemongrass Pixel Watch on a wrist of someone at a skate park.
The Pixel Watch is surprisingly compact at 41mm.
Image: Google

As for processing power, the rumors turned out to be true. Google confirmed that the watch runs on Samsung’s last-gen Exynos 9110 chip, which was last used in the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3. However, the Pixel Watch has an additional Cortex M33 co-processor to optimize battery life. This is the same tack Qualcomm’s taken with its wearable chips, to varying degrees of success. It’s also boosted RAM up to 2GB, which I’ve yet to see on an Android smartwatch. It’s an intriguing combo when you consider that inadequate processing power has long stymied Wear OS as a platform.

The Pixel Watch has Bluetooth 5.0, LTE, Wi-Fi, and NFC for contactless payments. It sports a compass, built-in GPS, an altimeter, an SpO2 sensor, a heart rate sensor, a “multipurpose” electrical sensor, and motion sensors like an accelerometer and gyroscope. It’s also got a built-in microphone and speaker for Google Assistant and calls. Like Samsung and Apple, Google is also adding a number of safety features, like emergency SOS, international emergency calling, and later this winter, fall detection. Keep in mind that cellular Pixel Watches will cost an extra $50, not including carrier fees.

Meanwhile, the Pixel Watch runs on Wear OS 3.5 and has a completely different UI than what Samsung’s got on its Wear OS watches. You can swipe in either direction to view Tiles. You swipe up to access notifications and down to quickly switch up settings. Google’s version of Wear OS 3 also includes Pixel Watch-specific watchfaces as well as custom complications. Some good news: Google’s Holing also said that none of the Pixel Watch’s features will be exclusive to Pixel phones. That’s a marked difference from Samsung’s Galaxy Watches, where many of its marquee features require you to have a Samsung smartphone.

Pixel watch with all the band options laid out on the left and right sides.
Some of the bands will feature lugs to elevate the look, while others won’t.
Image: Google

The watch will also be more overtly integrated with Google services out of the box. That includes Google Wallet for contactless payments, turn-by-turn navigation with Google Maps, and Calendar and Gmail notifications. The watch will also feature Find My Device, Google Assistant, and the Google Home app for smart home control. For music, Google’s also including three months of YouTube Music Premium with each Pixel Watch.

Meanwhile, all the health features will be powered by Fitbit. Each watch also comes with six months of a Fitbit Premium membership, which includes access to guided workouts, advanced sleep tracking, the Daily Readiness Score, and meditation sessions. And while you can take FDA-cleared EKG readings, there won’t be any temperature or stress tracking, as the Pixel Watch doesn’t have the sensors to support those features.

A quick note on health data privacy: while Google recently announced that Fitbit users in the future will need to log in with their Google accounts, the company says it will continue to keep Fitbit health and wellness data separate from Google Ads data, as required by global regulators.

I got my hands on the Pixel Watch right after today’s announcement, and it’s clear that the company’s competitive north star is the Apple Watch. The design, fit, finish, and materials are all much closer to what Apple has been doing for years than Samsung or other Android-based wearable makers have produced. The small size of the Pixel Watch was comfortable on even a large wrist, yet the domed glass made the display easy to read. We’ll have more to share on what using the Pixel Watch is actually like in future coverage, so stay tuned.

It’s too early to say whether the Pixel Watch will be a success

It’s too early to say whether the Pixel Watch will be a success. A lot of that will depend on the chip, battery life, and whether its version of Wear OS 3 is good enough to offset any growing pains. That said, on paper, the Pixel Watch looks to be a promising first attempt at changing Google’s wearable narrative — even if it’ll definitely have to play catch-up in the short term.

The Pixel Watch is available for preorder starting today and comes in black, silver, and gold. The standard version will cost $349.99, while the cellular version is $399.99. The watch is available for preorder starting today, October 6th, and is expected to hit shelves on October 13th.