Google has been in the smartwatch game since 2014 with the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live running Android Wear. Still, you might be surprised to find out that it has never had its own branded wearable. We hear rumblings each year that Google is releasing a Pixel Watch, but it still hasn't. Revamps of its phone OS with Android 12 and the wearable platform with Wear OS 3, however, now means 2021 is the perfect time for Google to release a Pixel Watch.
Samsung currently has a monopoly on the latest iteration of Wear OS with its recently launched Galaxy Watch 4 series and as great as Samsung is at many things, this smartwatch isn't shaping up to be the Wear OS savior many fans hoped for. As of now, Google is leaving many of its long-time wearable partners in the dark on exactly when the update to Wear OS 3 will come. Doing so only makes the platform more reliant on Samsung. There are many reasons that Google needs to stop messing around and make a Pixel Watch, and owning the platform is only one.
A Pixel Watch didn't make much sense... until now
The first device to get the Pixel moniker was the Chromebook Pixel in 2013, and it wasn't until 2016 that Google released a phone using the name. Since then, we've gotten more devices to continue growing the Pixel brand with earbuds, wireless chargers, more Chromebooks, and a pencil. The other major players in consumer electronics, Apple and Samsung, have their own premium ecosystems, but each of those has the one thing Google doesn't — a smartwatch.
As much as I would like to have gotten a Pixel Watch years ago, it didn't make as much sense as it would now. That's because before Wear OS 3, every smartwatch available was going to essentially run the same software. However, Google is finally treating the new version of its wearable software like it does its Android phones. Each manufacturer that uses the platform will skin it as they choose, as Samsung did with the Galaxy Watch 4 and One UI Watch.
A Pixel Watch gives Google a chance to expand its experience with its smartphones onto another screen. There are plenty of Pixel-only features, and now that it's fair game to brands to customize the new Wear OS 3, Google can reasonably use it itself. Yes, it can be frustrating when only certain features are locked to a single device or brand, but as much as we all may dislike it, we can't stop it.
There are plenty of excellent Android smartwatches on the market, and though not all, some will get the new Wear OS 3 update. Watches like the new TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra and new Fossil Gen 6 devices are slated for the update, as are the other smartwatches on the Snapdragon 4100 platform. So long as Google continues to support its partners in the wearable space, there is plenty of room for multiple Wear OS brands.
Why Google needs to get into the smartwatch game
By adding a Pixel Watch to its hardware portfolio, Google could also finally make Google Fit a more robust service. This would also serve current and future Fitbit devices well, whether those products run Wear OS or not. Perhaps by owning its own wearable, Google would finally see the shortcomings of the Google Fit platform. While the service is OK, it is far behind Samsung Health, Apple, and even Fitbit.
If rumors are to be believed and Google does launch a Pixel Pass alongside the upcoming Pixel 6, a smartwatch would be a perfect add-on. Google has plenty of services that pair up wonderfully with its hardware offerings, but looping in a wearable could be a fantastic cherry on top of the Pixel experience.
Integrating a wearable would also have implications for Google in the smart home realm too. Google already has the ability to know where you are based on your phone and the smart speakers, thermostats, and cameras folks have in their homes. I could see some helpful automation be made possible by adding in a smartwatch, too. There are some potential privacy issues here, of course, but so long as it is opt-in, we should be fine.
Current Wear OS smartwatches have plenty of faults, from performance to software. But Google is trying to fix some of the software woes with the Wear OS 3, and unfortunately, many of the wearable partners are at the will of Qualcomm with some of the performance issues. However, the Snapdragon 4100 series, with proper memory support, runs the current Wear OS quite well. Aside from revamping the operating system, Google could offer improved performance on a Pixel Watch with a custom chip as it is with its upcoming phones.
By putting an in-house processor in a smartwatch based on the Tensor SoC for the Pixel 6, Google would own the stack and fully control how the watch performs. This setup is how Samsung's Galaxy watches and the Apple Watch can do things that no other Wear OS watch currently can.
Google's lack of effort in the past for its wearable platform both in software and hardware is putting it behind the eight ball, but now is the perfect time for a Pixel Watch. If Google truly wants to compete in the hardware world against the giants that already have a headstart, it can't afford to waste any more time.
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