Android Central Verdict
The Google Pixel Watch has been one of the most highly-anticipated devices to be released over the past few years. Now that the wait is finally over, Google has done a fantastic job delivering a blend of fast and smooth software with an industrial design worthy of its price tag.
Lightweight and comfortable
Plenty of ways to customize watch faces and interface
Battery life is as advertised
Fitbit integration is implemented quite well
Proprietary bands and charging puck
You'll need a PD wall adapter
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Can you believe that it's been more than eight years since Android Wear's inception and release with the likes of the Moto 360 and LG G Watch? Eight long years, we've been waiting and hoping and keeping our fingers crossed that we would see a Google-branded smartwatch. The world has completely changed since the release of Android Wear, as Motorola is not the company it once was, and LG isn't even in the smartphone market anymore.
The wait is finally, and I mean, FINALLY over, as the Pixel Watch was first introduced at I/O 2022 before being fully unveiled during an event in New York. It's just crazy to think that it took Google this long to release a smartwatch, as we've seen Apple, Samsung, and Fitbit dominate the market for years at this point.
Going into this review, I had just about as many questions as everyone else who is even remotely interested in what the Pixel Watch has to offer. How small will it look on my wrist? Are the bezels really all that bad? What about the Fitbit integration that we've heard so much about? Well, after spending some time with the Pixel Watch on my own wrist, I've been able to answer at least some of those questions.
Google Pixel Watch: Price and availability
The Google Pixel Watch is available to order from many of your favorite retailers, including Google's online storefront, Amazon, and others. There is only one size available, 41mm, but you have a choice of four different bands to choose from. Pricing for the Pixel Watch starts at $349 for the Bluetooth/Wi-Fi version and goes up to $399 for the LTE variant.
Google Pixel Watch: Design
I'll have to admit — when I saw the price, I was a bit surprised. I was a bit skeptical about whether Google's first attempt at a smartwatch would warrant a higher price tag than what you can get the Galaxy Watch 5 or Apple Watch Series 8 for. But I've gotta say that I have been pleasantly surprised, for the most part at least.
The model that I have been using is the Matte Black case with Obsidian Active band, although I'm kind of regretting not opting for the Polished Silver case. Regardless of what case you get, there's no denying that the Pixel Watch offers a premium build. The rotating crown has slowly become my primary way of scrolling through notifications, as the little "bumps" that I feel from the haptic feedback are both subtle and very satisfying.
Speaking of haptics, "subtle and satisfying" is pretty much how I would describe the entire experience. I have yet to miss an incoming notification because the buzz on my wrist wasn't strong enough, although, which is great. However, I do wish there was a way to adjust the haptics, just for those times when I might swap out bands for something a bit looser.
As for those bands, Google is offering a plethora of options at launch, starting with the Active band that you'll get in the box. This is just a thick silicone band that reminds me of the Sport Band that comes with the Apple Watch. However, it has the "snap and tuck" design that you'll find on many of the best Fitbit wearables.
The band mechanism itself is pretty cool, as you push a button and slide the band over and out if you want to swap it with a different band. This creates an overall design that just melds together and looks very clean. But I have to say that I do wish Google would have at least released an adapter that allowed everyone to use non-proprietary bands. Instead, the only Pixel Watch bands that are currently available come from Google directly. I'm keeping my fingers crossed those accessory makers will "right the wrong" and release such an adapter so I can use other 20mm bands I've collected over the years.
To be frank, there's another aspect of the design that I continue to forget about, and that's the included button hidden on the right side of the watch above the crown. One push of the button makes your Recent apps menu appear while holding the button in will invoke Google Assistant. Honestly, I've used it maybe two or three times, instead, relying on just interacting with the screen if I need to open different apps.
Google Pixel Watch: Display
There's something to be said about seeing pictures and renders of a product and then actually being able to see it in person. Leading up to the announcement, I was definitely worried that the Pixel Watch's screen would be a disappointment. Bezels are a necessary evil, but the renders and pictures we saw didn't leave me feeling too great about how the Pixel Watch would look on my wrist.
Thankfully, this is one of those times when it's important to see a product in person, instead of relying on the thoughts of others, especially leaks. While the Watch may feel a bit dainty on my wrists, I haven't yet run into an instance when I really wished for a larger screen. Reading notifications is easy enough, and you can jump into the accompanying Google Pixel Watch app to adjust things like the text size or screen density.
As for the display itself, it's really quite vibrant and pleasing to look at every time I raise my wrist. The text and various icons are crisp, as are the menus and different screens that you'll find yourself interacting with. Honestly, while I do wish Google offered the Pixel Watch in a 44mm or 45mm size with a larger display, sticking to one screen size was probably the right move.
Google Pixel Watch: Apps and software
So, yeah. I was definitely in the camp that was disappointed to learn that Google would be using a three-year-old processor with its first smartwatch. I thought this was going to spell the end of the Pixel Watch before it even got off the ground. But I have been pleasantly surprised with just how snappy the entire Watch is.
I have yet to experience any hiccups, other than user error while interacting with the Watch and going through the various menus. Google also makes the initial setup process extremely easy and painless, culminating in the various first-party watch faces that you have at your disposal. Initially, I started out using the Concentric watch face, with Dial, but have since switched to the Half Dial layout so I have a few complications to choose from.
Out of the box, there are a total of eight different watch faces that Google includes, all offering something a little bit different from the other. But you can also dive deeper into each option to customize things such as the accent color and available complications. I've also been so satisfied with the default options that I haven't even tried to install any third-party watch faces from the Play Store, and that will probably remain the case, for a little while at least.
In addition to the watch face complications, Google offers the ability to swipe left and right to access different "Tiles." These aren't all that different from the Tiles that have been available on the best Android smartwatches over the years. And adding more Tiles to the carousel is as easy as swiping to the left, long-pressing on an existing tile, then tapping the highlighted (+) button.
As you would expect, you don't need to rely on your phone to download and install new apps, as the Play Store is right on the Watch. Downloading apps and installing updates feels as though it takes a bit longer, but it doesn't hinder or dampen the experience at all.
The only catch here is that for whatever reason, I can't seem to install the Todoist Wear OS 3 app on my Pixel Watch. For the time being, I'm just chalking this up to something going on with Todoist, as the app is no longer available on my Galaxy Watch 5 Pro or Galaxy Watch 4 Classic. Maybe there's another version in the works or something, but it definitely doesn't seem to be a "Google problem."
Google Pixel Watch: Health and fitness
So this is the section where I have a lot of mixed feelings when it comes to the Pixel Watch. As I've pointed out in some of my other wearable reviews, I'm not the type of person that trains for marathons (or quarter marathons.) But I do keep an eye on my health and like to have a wearable that provides as many tracking features as possible.
During the Pixel Watch announcement, Google leaned really hard into the Fitbit integration that we would be seeing, and as it turns out, there's a good reason for that. Instead of using its own Google Fit app, the Fitbit app handles all of the recordings and tracking for your Pixel Watch. I was hoping for the Pixel Watch app to do that for me, but after talking with AC's Chris Wedel (who went to the event), Google's decision is a logical one.
Fitbit has already done the heavy lifting with all of the different integrations and continues to improve its app with things like Sleep Animals, and more. I was also disappointed to see that the automatic workout tracking that is found on the Fitbit Sense 2 and a bunch of other smartwatches isn't available on the Pixel Watch in the same capacity. Instead, the Fitbit app will "automatically" detect your workout after the fact. But you also have the ability to manually select a workout from the Watch itself.
I am planning to update this review in the near future with comparisons to other wearables such as the aforementioned Sense 2 and my Apple Watch Ultra to see how it stacks up. Going further in-depth with the different workout features and tracking requires more than a few days of time, more than the time I've had with the Pixel Watch so far.
What I have noticed is that the Pixel Watch seems to be much more accurate when it comes to tracking things like my sleep automatically. There's no need to open the Fitbit app on the Watch just to tell it that I'm going to bed. And while more in-depth comparisons are in the works, I feel as though Google and Fitbit have done a much better job at telling me when I fall asleep, and when I wake up, compared to even the Apple Watch Ultra.
Something else that is worth pointing out is that it appears as though the Pixel Watch does not have any way to eject water that might find its way in. Samsung and Apple both offer this with their latest wearables, and despite the 5ATM water resistance rating, this feels like an oversight on Google's part. That's not to say that the Pixel Watch is any less resistant to water than the competition, but I've found myself taking the Watch off when doing dishes just to be on the safe side.
Google Pixel Watch: Battery life and charging
Something I've learned after wearing either a smartwatch or fitness tracker every day for the past few years is that the Always-on Display is helpful, but really not necessary. Even those times when I'm away from home, being able to simply lift my wrist to see the time is enough. In fact, it wasn't even until I started messing around in the Pixel Watch app on my phone that I forgot to even have the AOD enabled.
With that in mind, I'll also be updating this review in the near future comparing battery life with the AOD enabled, versus the feature being turned off. But even with LTE activated, Google definitely nailed the battery life with the Pixel Watch. Google states you'll be able to get 24 hours of juice on a single charge, and that's pretty much what I've experienced. Needless to say, I've been pleasantly surprised overall. While I do wish that it was rated for 36 hours instead of 24, it's still better than what I was getting on my own Apple Watch Series 7 before upgrading to the Ultra.
What is a bit disappointing is that Google opted to use a proprietary wireless charger. It's a drum that I'll keep beating until it becomes the norm, but I really wish Google would've opted for standard Qi wireless charging. Even more than that, I wish Google would have released another version of its Pixel Stand, one that could charge your Pixel 7, Pixel Buds Pro, and Pixel Watch altogether. I'm sure it won't be long until a third-party accessory maker picks up the mantle, but it's still disappointing.
As for the actual process of charging, I found myself in a rather confusing situation. Out of the box, the Pixel Watch arrived with about a 70% charge, so I just plugged it in without paying close attention to the speeds. However, the next day, I was using a multi-charger with a bunch of devices plugged in and noticed that it took almost an hour and a half to go from 4% to 100%.
This doesn't seem all that troublesome or problematic, as the Pixel Watch went from 4% to 55% in 30 minutes. Then, it took almost another hour to go from 55% to a full charge. The day after that, I plugged the OEM Pixel Watch charger into a 4-in-1 Satechi fast desktop charger to get some juice before going to bed. Here's how the charging times ended up:
- Plugged in with 8% remaining
- 5 minutes: 18%
- 20 minutes: 56%
- Unplugged after 42 minutes: 84%
I point this out to say that you'll definitely want to pay attention to what charger you are using with the Pixel Watch. Google claims that the Pixel Watch charges at 5W, and requires a "USB-C PD compatible adapter," but you might want to pick up a dedicated Power Delivery wall adapter just to ensure your Pixel Watch charges at peak speeds.
Google Pixel Watch: The competition
I can't help but feel that the Pixel Watch is being released at a very awkward time. Wear OS 3 has already been out for more than a year, but until recently, the Galaxy Watch 4 was the only compatible smartwatch. The Galaxy Watch 5 came out alongside the Galaxy Z Fold 4, also sporting Samsung's custom take on the wearable platform. But we've recently learned that Wear OS 3 will soon come to more wearables, including those released within the last year or two.
Samsung's Galaxy Watch 5 is the closest competition right now, featuring the same design as its predecessor, and the same internals. But Samsung also priced its Watch 5 at $280 for the 40mm version, and even the Galaxy Watch 5 Golf Edition is less expensive than the Pixel Watch. Of course, there are a few features that Samsung gate-keeps for its own wearables and smartphones, whereas the Pixel Watch is unlikely to do that.
Then, there's the Fitbit Sense 2, which feels as though it was intentionally hampered so that it didn't detract from the Pixel Watch. It's also about $50 cheaper than the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth model. And while the software design has definitely been inspired by Wear OS 3, it's still lacking things such as Google Assistant or third-party app support.
Google Pixel Watch: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if...
- You want to finally enjoy Google's first smartwatch.
- You want the latest that Wear OS has to offer.
- You want a smartwatch with a beautiful design and excellent software.
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You are on a budget.
- You want to use any watch bands with your wearable.
- You need on-device automatic workout tracking or SpO2 tracking.
Eight years. It's been eight long years of feeling like Google was letting the smartwatch world speed past them. But the Pixel Watch is finally here, and while there are some quirks and nuances, it's an incredible piece of hardware. I'm not fully convinced, just yet at least, that it will supplant my Apple Watch Ultra, but I'll be keeping the Pixel Watch on my wrist for the foreseeable future.
I'm also a bit confused about how Google is handling everything with Fitbit. Not the integration of Fitbit's services, which is pretty great, but instead at how the Sense 2 packs more health-focused sensors than the Pixel Watch, while being less expensive. It almost feels as though a potential Pixel Watch 2 will end up outright replacing the Sense line entirely.
What I am excited about is that I finally have a smartwatch, from Google, without any fancy third-party skins, aside from the Material You elements. I can control Google Home from an app on my wrist, without invoking Google Assistant. I'm also floored and excited to see that Google has managed to fine-tune Wear OS to the point that using an old processor paired with a co-processor is resulting in an excellent and fluid software experience.
The Pixel Watch might seem a bit expensive, especially compared to the competition. But it's a price I'm definitely willing to pay, just in the hopes that Google continues to release future iterations in the wearable space.
It's almost perfect
There are a few complaints to be had with the Pixel Watch, but for the most part, it's pretty darn close to being the perfect smartwatch for your Android phone.