The Pixel Watch may not be the Fitbit you're looking for

Google Pixel Watch hands-on
(Image credit: Chris Wedel / Android Central)

Update (Oct 11, 16:36 pm ET): Google has given us clarification about Pixel Watch’s auto-exercise recognition feature commonly found in Fitbit devices.

What you need to know

  • Google's latest Pixel Watch is seemingly missing some central Fitbit features.
  • Blood Oxygen tracking is coming in a future update but is seemingly unavailable at launch.
  • Automatic workout tracking may or may not be available on the Pixel Watch, as it's listed in some places and not in others.

Since Google acquired Fitbit in 2021, many tech enthusiasts have been anticipating a smartwatch from the search giant packed with Fitbit goodies. The day finally came this week, and on October 6, Google debuted the Pixel Watch with Fitbit integration. It starts at $349 and is available on pre-order.

However, it looks like not it's not exactly a complete Fitbit experience. The Fitbit integration on the Pixel Watch is not as perfect as one would hope since the smartwatch is reportedly missing some prominent features.

As pointed out by Connect The Watts, the Pixel Watch is missing some nifty features Fitbit users have become accustomed to. They include the ability to automatically start, stop, and pause workouts, swim stroke tracking, irregular heart rhythm notifications, and guided breathing, to name a few.

The report then compares the Pixel Watch with the Fitbit Sense 2, noting some shortcomings compared to Fitbit's latest smartwatch. Features like all-day body response tracking, stress management with EDA sensors, and skin temperature sensors are also missing from Google's new smartwatch.

It's also noted that the Pixel Watch is not compatible with iOS, unlike many of the best Fitbit devices.

Connect The Watts' report is further corroborated by the 9to5Google report in which they've pointed to the feature comparison across Pixel Watch, Fitbit Sense 2, and Fitbit Verse 4 from the Google Store comparison page. The findings match the report mentioned above, as Pixel Watchindeedy appears to be missing prominent features like automatic workout detection and other outlined features.

A comparison of Fitbit features on the Pixel Watch and other Fitbit devices

(Image credit: Future)

On the contrary, however, Fitbit's website mentions that the Pixel Watch supports automatic exercise tracking. The Pixel Watch support page also points out that the Pixel Watch "automatically tracks several activity types," although to what extent is unclear. We've reached out to Google for clarification, particularly on automatic workout tracking and its availability on the Pixel Watch, and we will update this when we hear back.

In our initial Pixel Watch impressions by Chris Wedel, we found a significant number of sensors incorporated in the device. It includes a blood oxygen sensor (which will be available to use in a future update), a heart rate sensor, and a multiple-purpose electrical sensor for tracking health and fitness exercises, amongst several other prominent sensors.

It is unclear at this point whether Google purposely withheld some of these features on the Pixel Watch while they're already available on Fitbit models, although it seems there is likely a strategy to it.

In an interview with CNET, Fitbit co-founder James Park explains why some features are missing, saying that the team behind the watch focused on the advanced heart rate sensor.

"Then you'll see other technologies and sensors around health and fitness move into this line of products over time," he told CNET.

He also pointed out the "portfolio approach," where users looking for better battery life and health tracking might want to consider a Fitbit device instead. Still, our fingers are crossed that the Pixel Watch will receive more health-tracking features with future updates.

When all's said and done, there's seemingly a lot to like about the Pixel Watch. And to be fair, this is positioned differently compared to Fitbit smartwatches. It's definitely a device for users looking for a fuller smartwatch experience that just so happens to have Fitbit features. If that's good enough for you, then the Pixel Watch may be worth a look.

Update

The company stated, "The Google Pixel Watch does not currently have the ability to Auto Start, Stop and Pause a workout on the device, like users can on Fitbit devices. However, it does automatically detect a workout after you've completed it, and logs the summary with your stats within your Fitbit app. This is great for when you forget impromptu exercises or those times you don't even realize you are exercising - i.e. a brisk walk to the store. Over time, we will work to bring more on device workout recognition to our watch portfolio."

Google goes on to say, "As for the swim experience, users can see time elapsed during the swim workout, and then following the workout, users can see data on laps, distance, calories, heart rate, and Active Zone Minutes in the Fitbit app. There is no auto-stroke detection at this time."

While the Pixel Watch lacks a Fitbit device's in-the-moment automatic exercise realization along with pausing and stopping, Google's smartwatch instead offers some insight by way of an after-action report. Users will most likely still miss the idea of looking at their wearable to see how they're doing without manually starting an exercise.

Also, Google's eyes seem to be focused on bringing in more exercise recognition rather than the automatic recognition function. For swimmers, there could be hope that an auto-stroke detection feature will happen in the future. The Pixel Watch missing these key features of Fitbit is disappointing, considering its integration, in terms of fitness, doesn't run as deeply as was once thought.

Vishnu works as a freelance News Writer for Android Central. For the past four years, he's been writing about consumer technology, primarily involving smartphones, laptops, and every other gizmo connected to the Internet. When he is away from keyboard, you can see him going on a long drive or chilling on a couch binge-watching some crime series.

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