The Google Pixel Watch is a remarkable piece of wearable technology. With a glossy, smooth flat face that curves to meet an equally curved stainless steel body, it has a more poured-in appearance than manufactured. The building process is nearly seamless.
Because of that curve, there is more Gorilla Glass 5 facing you than there is on the Apple Watch 8, which improves the smartwatch’s elegance and, in our opinion, hides one of its flaws: a somewhat larger black bezel around the screen.
Without a doubt, this AMOLED display is vivid, vibrant, and responsive, but it is also considerably smaller than the Apple Watch 8’s rectangular face. However, Google makes great use of the smaller screen space, and during normal use, we never felt the need to complain.
When paired with an Android phone running version 8.0 or higher, such as the Google Pixel 7 Pro or the Pixel 7, the Google Pixel Watch displays a constant stream of notifications that can be accessed by swiping up on the touch screen or automatically. There are applications, maps, directions, and (some) controls for smart homes.
It’s also a competent health and fitness wearable, though a lot of that functionality is provided by the clumsy Fitbit integration. We wish Fitbit didn’t appear to lead a separate but equal existence inside the wearable, despite the fact that it has been around for years and was recently acquired by Google. Fitbit adds significant exercise and tracking depth to Pixel Watch.
GOOGLE PIXEL WATCH DESIGN, MATERIALS, AND DISPLAY
- Exquisite design and build
- Dome on the back might need to slim down
- Band connection takes practice
The Google Pixel Watch is a smartwatch that blends metal, chrome, and glass with an undeniably stunning level of sophistication. The wearable’s relatively small screen (1.2-inch, 450 pixels x 450 pixels) is given the best chance to shine by the design’s subtle yet supportive aesthetic.
That display is noticeably smaller than the nearly 2-inch Apple Watch 8 display, for comparison. The Google Pixel Watch debuts with a startlingly thick black bezel between the circular display and the metal chassis, in contrast to Apple’s seven-year effort to reduce the bezel around its watch face and stretch the screen to the very edges of the Iox-X glass.
Although we were unhappy with this decision, we hardly noticed it in daily use. The glass curves, which deceive you into believing the device edge is closer to the display than it actually is, are to blame for this. When you receive a text alert, the curves make the limited amount of text the 320ppi display can show you feel claustrophobic. The Apple Watch has a slightly denser 326ppi display, but it also has a larger screen. This is where you really notice the size limitation.
You can access a few pre-loaded watch faces by holding your finger down on the screen until the menu of watch face options appears, some of which have helpful complications that provide quick access to different features.
While the Pixel Watch’s face is flat, its dome-shaped sensor-filled back is not. The Pixel Watch is a less cozy bedside companion because it is bigger than the sensor bump on the Apple Watch 8. We experienced it, and it wasn’t particularly comfortable, if the wrist that is wearing the watch ends up under your pillow or body.
Even though our watch came with a flexible, gray Active Band, you can pick from a huge selection of hues and materials. The only drawback is that changing the band requires some learning.
Google carved two band channels into its watch, just like Apple did. The marriage between the wristband and watch is complete once the band is fastened.
GOOGLE PIXEL WATCH SETUP, SENSORS, AND FITNESS
- Not all the sensors, but the ones you need
- It’s a full Fitbit device
- Fitbit integration could be tighter
Setting up the Google Pixel Watch is neither difficult nor unusual. It worked well with Google’s new Pixel 7 Pro phone and was mostly ready to use after a couple of updates and one account sign-in. We think that pairing and setting up other Android phones will be just as easy.
This is not just a smartwatch, though. The Fitbit is also built into the Google Pixel Watch. This is mostly a good thing, but sometimes it feels like Google is holding back on the Fitbit integration. This is partly because you need a separate Fitbit account from your Google account to use almost all of the health and fitness tracking features. Google tells you to install the Fitbit app on your phone and make a Fitbit account if you don’t already have one.
This can sometimes make you feel like your workouts, health stats, and activities are a layer deeper than they should be. On the Apple Watch, one of the first apps I can choose is Workout. On the GooglePixel Watch, the first app I can choose is Fitbit Exercise, and then I can choose All Exercises. We did like that the app will show you your most recent workouts. This means that the one you want to use is probably only one level down from the top of the watch interface.
A left swipe on the screen is the best way to get to activity metrics, health stats, and advanced exercises quickly. This gives you instant access to your steps, heart rate, three exercises (with a link to “more”), sleep stats, schedule, weather, and directions.
The watch comes with a six-month trial of Fitbit Premium, which gives you access to things like mindfulness tips, workouts you can do whenever you want, and more advanced sleep tracking. We tried it to be thorough, but I don’t think you need it for the watch to feel like a complete workout and health companion.
As already said, it can measure your heart rate, and the numbers we got from our Apple Watch 8 seemed to be pretty close to what it said. An ECG is also included. To use this, we had to sit down, relax, hardly move, and put our finger gently on the Pixel Watch crown without touching any other part of it. This wasn’t too hard. It took about 30 seconds to realize that our sinus rhythm is normal.
We’ve been told that the Pixel Watch has a sensor to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood, but it’s not working right now.
There are a lot of ways to work out, like walking (even though it doesn’t matter if you walk inside or outside) and strength training. We used both of these, and the controls for start, stop, and pause were a lot like those on the Apple Watch.
GOOGLE PIXEL WATCH PERFORMANCE AND SOFTWARE
- Wear OS has been waiting for this
- Makes good use of the dual-core Exynos 9110
- Hands-free Google Assistant
Wear OS on the Google Pixel Watch is the most complete version of the software since it was first made almost a decade ago.
Almost every swipe reveals a new set of ways to interact with the device. With a swipe from the top down, you can get to all of your settings and apps, such as Airplane mode, Theater mode, screen lock, flashlight, Wallet, and more. With a swipe to the left, you can get turn-by-turn directions, and if you’ve added your home and work addresses to your Google Account, your home and work addresses are already on the watch.
When you swipe up from the bottom, notifications appear. Swiping from the right gives you access to tracking your activities, workouts, and health. This quick access to a wide range of features is better than the Apple Watch 8, which only lets you swipe from the top or bottom of the screen to get to Watch features. Swiping left or right only changes your watch face.
You press the crown and then turn it to scroll through the list of apps on the Pixel Watch. On this list are apps like Agenda (your calendar and to-do list), Alarm, Assistant, Fitbit Exercise, Fitbit Today (a quick look at all your health stats), the flashlight, Wallet (you can add credit cards so you can tap and pay with your Pixel Watch), Messages, YouTube Music (you get a free trial with the watch), and even hand washing.
Google talked a lot about its Camera App when it showed off its Watch. This app lets you control your Pixel 7 camera from your phone. This wasn’t already on the Pixel Watch, so we had to use the phone to find it and put it on. Once we did that, we could open the app on the watch and use the small screen as a viewfinder for our phone. Is it awesome? yes. Does it help in any way? We’re still not sure.
There’s also a direct link to the Google Play watch app store, so you can find more cool apps for your watch to add.
As smart and useful as you would expect from a device called the Google Pixel Watch, the Pixel Watch’s Google Assistant integration is smart and useful.
When you press and hold the button for Google Assistant, the screen will say “How can I help you?” The microphones are sensitive enough to pick up regular-volume questions. We’d rather just say “Hey Google” to get to Google Assistant, especially when our hands are busy with something else (think working out with weights). In this case, the Pixel Watch is just as good at hearing us and answering our questions as long as it is connected to the internet.
The built-in controls for media are easy to use. Because we’re rebels, we put Apple Music on our Pixel 7 Pro, and we used the watch’s crown to play, pause, skip, and change the volume.
The Pixel Watch has a nice map feature, but we were surprised to find that we couldn’t zoom out to see the whole world.
The Google Pixel Watch is just like other wearables in that it reminds you to stand up, move around, and take all of your steps for the day. Wearable nannies are getting old, but the Pixel Watch has you covered if you still need them.
Almost every night for a week, we slept with Pixel Watch. We didn’t realize at first that we had to allow the Fitbit app to access our sleep data, but even when we did, the watch still tracked our first night of sleep. The free version keeps track of how long you slept. The Premium version adds a sleep score based on a number of sleep-related metrics, such as the amount of time you spent in deep sleep and REM sleep and your heart rate while you were sleeping.
The information is about the same as what you get with an Apple Watch, but Apple doesn’t give you a score.
But, as we said above, the Google Pixel Watch isn’t as comfortable to wear. More than once, the sensor bump on the Pixel Watch woke us up by pressing on our wrist.
GOOGLE PIXEL WATCH BATTERY LIFE
- A15 Bionic (iPhone 13 Pro class) is still a winner
- Still hard to find the performance limits
- New internal design might be helping with performance
Google says that the Pixel Watch can last for 24 hours on a single charge. We got about 26 hours of battery life when we didn’t use the always-on display, which the watch warns can shorten battery life. We do, however, suggest using the always-on display because it makes it much easier to see at a glance.
But not everything went smoothly in this area.
Managing your charge cycles is the key to using a smartwatch to track your sleep. If you wear a smartwatch all day, you probably won’t wear it to bed.
Right before bed, the watch was almost out of power, so we put it on the charger that comes with the Pixel Watch. Since it’s Qi-compatible, it will work with a variety of wireless chargers.
The good news is that the watch fast-charged from 0% to 24% in 10 minutes. We took it off the charger when it was at 30%. Google says that the Pixel Watch should be charged to at least 30% before you wear it to bed. But when we woke up, the watch was dead. Luckily, it must have died just before we woke up, because most of the data from the night’s sleep was still there. Still, it looks like you might need more than a 30% charge before you can start eating.
As expected, using the always-on display cut the battery life so much that we didn’t have at least 30% charge left before bedtime and had to remember to charge it for 30 minutes before going to bed.
The Google Pixel Watch is a nice-looking piece of hardware that you can wear. It stands out and, most importantly, helps.
It’s a great match for the new Pixel 7 phones from Google. Even though we’d like the Fitbit integration to be smoother, the small hoops we had to jump through (those jumps don’t count toward our daily step count, unfortunately) were soon forgotten as we used the watch to track our workouts, walking, heart rate, sleep habits, and more.
Having Google Assistant on your wrist is one of the best things you can do. We love our Apple Watch and Siri, but thanks to Google’s huge knowledge base, Google Assistant is still smarter.
The screen is a bit on the small side, but as we said above, you don’t notice it too much unless you’re reading text.We don’t like the big sensor bump on the back, especially when it presses into our wrists while we sleep. We also don’t like how the band connects and comes off, and we’re not sure how long the battery will last (Android Watch battery life is often measured in days, not hours, after all). You might think that the one-size-fits-all approach is a drawback, but the 41mm case is a good size for many wrists.
Overall, this is a great smartwatch that was made on a top-notch platform. It’s also a little cheaper than some of its competitors, and it feels like a real rival to Apple’s best products. If Google fixes the back, changes the band, and makes the battery a little bigger, the Pixel Watch could be the best smartwatch on the market.