After weeks of rumors and leaked photos, Google finally confirmed that the Pixel Watch is real. Today’s announcement is more of a tease than a full reveal, however, with the watch arriving later this fall alongside the Pixel 7.
Given that the Pixel Watch is the worst-kept wearable secret of 2022, there wasn’t anything too surprising in terms of design. As suspected, the Pixel Watch has a circular, domed design and features a “tactile” crown and side button. It’s made of recycled stainless steel and has swappable proprietary bands. It’ll also run on an “improved” Wear OS 3 that features a “refreshed UI” with better navigation and smart notifications. You’ll also have the option to pick a cellular version of the device for standalone connectivity.
Software-wise, Google says the Pixel Watch will have the native Google apps you’d expect as well as a shiny new Fitbit integration. That includes staples like Google Maps and Assistant but also apps like Google Wallet and Google Home that are new to Wear OS. Another feature coming to Wear OS is Emergency SOS. We’ve seen this feature on other smartwatches, and the gist is you can use your watch to contact a trusted friend or family member as well as call emergency services. As for the Fitbit integration, you’ll be able to view insights for heart rate, sleep tracking, and Active Zone Minutes.
The Fitbit integration is the most significant collaboration between the two companies we’ve seen since Google bought Fitbit for $2.1 billion. (Technically, adding Google Assistant to the Fitbit Versa 3 and Sense was the first.) According to Rick Osterloh, Google’s senior vice president of devices and services, this Fitbit integration will go beyond customizing watch faces and be “imbued throughout” the Pixel Watch experience. Users will be able to sync their data with a Fitbit account, meaning they’ll be able to view it within the Fitbit app and on the web. The watch will use all of Fitbit’s latest algorithms for health and fitness.
As for data privacy, Osterloh said in a briefing that Fitbit and Google data will stay private and separate due to promises it made to regulators during the Fitbit acquisition, meaning that any health data collected on the Pixel Watch will remain under Fitbit’s purview, separate from Google. Osterloh also added that while the Fitbit team was deeply involved with the Pixel Watch, Fitbit still has plans for its own Wear OS watch and will continue making its own products.
And that’s about it in terms of concrete details that we have right now. In terms of how much it’ll cost, Google says that it’ll be a “premium-priced product.” Another potential snag is that the Pixel Watch will require a phone running Android 8.0 or later, and you’ll need a Google Account. So, like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, the Pixel Watch will not be compatible with iPhones as previous Wear OS watches were. We asked Google, and it wouldn’t tell us why. Otherwise, the company was tight-lipped about the watch’s specs, wouldn’t tell us what chip it uses or if it will come in different sizes or colors, and so on. Google also wouldn’t say if it has any advanced features like EKG that might require unusual regulatory approval. More details, the company says, will be shared in the coming months.
So, while there’s a lot that we still don’t know, the most notable takeaway is Google’s trying to push its Pixel ecosystem — much in the same way that Apple uses the Apple Watch. Adding apps like Google Home and the Fitbit integration makes the Pixel Watch an attractive option to long-time Fitbit users and anyone who’s invested in Google’s smart home offerings. Of course, a lot of this will depend on how the Pixel Watch performs in real life, its specs, and whether it delivers on all the hype. We’ll have to wait for the watch to launch later this fall to make any sort of judgment. But, at least on paper, Google seems to have a game plan in place — which is more than we can say for its last attempt at making a smartwatch.
Update, May 13th: Added more things that Google declined to tell us.