Google Pixel Watch specs
Price: $349 (LTE), $399 (Cellular)
Colors: Matte black, silver gold
Weight: 1.26 ounces
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi, NFC, GPS, LTE (optional)
Compatibility: Android 8.0 or higher
Water resistance: 5 ATM
Battery life: 24 hours
The Google Pixel Watch might not be a perfect smartwatch, but it’s the one Pixel phone users have been waiting for. Good looks, smart software and the help of a certain acquired company’s fitness tracking features make a strong showing for a first-generation device.
Separating the device’s true performance from the excitement of a brand-new flagship smartwatch for this Pixel Watch review wasn’t a simple task. The best of Google and Fitbit united? It almost sounded too good to be true; and, for the most part, it lives up to its promises. Google apps run smoothly and Fitbit’s health-tracking is as holistic as ever.
But as the days went on with the Pixel Watch, some inconveniences presented themselves that are uncharacteristic for a $349 smartwatch, though unsurprising for a version 1.0 device. The battery life feels very un-Fitbit, and the big bezel is a missed opportunity. There was also a worrying moment when I thought I would never get the watch strap back on my review unit, though I did eventually get a grasp on the interchangeable band mechanism.
Despite these reservations, the Pixel Watch offers wearable experience different enough from the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and similar enough to the Apple Watch Series 8. By that I mean Wear OS on the Pixel Watch surprisingly stands apart from the software on Samsung’s smartwatches, in way that emulates the intuition and interconnectivity of the Apple Watch. And that’s why I’d consider it one of the best smartwatches of the year.
Google Pixel Watch price and availability
The Pixel Watch costs $349 (£339 / AU$549) (opens in new tab) for a GPS + Bluetooth-only configuration, while the LTE-compatible version costs $399 (£379 / AU$649). This makes the Pixel Watch a bit more affordable than the Apple Watch Series 8 ($399) but pricier than the Galaxy Watch 5 ($279) and recently-released Fitbit Sense 2 ($299). (See the rest of the differences between the Google Pixel Watch vs. Fitbit Sense 2.)
The Pixel Watch release date was October 13, 2022, and since then we’re continuing to track the best Pixel Watch deals. Note that the Pixel Watch launched alongside the Google Pixel 7 and Google Pixel 7 Pro, which would both make ideal companion devices for the company’s smartwatch.
Google Pixel Watch review: Design
The Google Pixel Watch is a simple-looking smartwatch, I might even call it minimalistic. It comes in just one size: 41mm. Those with larger wrists might complain about the lack of a larger option; that said, it fit me perfectly.
The face features a rounded design with a 3D glass dome. This raised effect distracts from the display’s thick bezel, but doesn’t change the fact that a good chunk of the display is unusable. Perhaps my prior experience with Samsung watches is to blame? I can’t help but think it’s a missed opportunity to incorporate in digital rotating bezel in that space.
It seems like no mistake that the Pixel Watch is a “dark mode” device. The interface and all of Google’s watch faces have black backgrounds to further conceal the bezel. The only watch face that amplifies in the bezel is the Google Photos watch face, which I actually quite like from a personalization perspective, even if it emphasizes the watch’s small size.
The digital crown on the side looks quite similar to the Apple Watch’s digital crown, complete with some tactile grooves. Above the digital crown, the Pixel Watch has a small button that opens recently used apps with a short press, which is a convenience that only came to the Apple Watch’s side button this year. A long press of that button wakes Google Assistant.
The Pixel Watch comes in three colors: matte black, silver and gold. Google launched Pixel Watch alongside a range of seven interchangeable straps types in a range of materials and colors, all exclusively compatible with the Pixel Watch. Swapping the bands presents a learning curve, as it’s a proprietary mechanism. Honestly, I struggled a lot at first, at one point convinced I wouldn’t be able to get the band back on. But I did get the hang of it eventually and am optimistic about the changing the straps based on style or occasion.
Google Pixel Watch review: Fitness tracking
Google Pixel Watch fitness tracking is entirely powered by Fitbit, meaning users will get both basic activity data as well as access to Fitbit Premium‘s holistic health features.
The watch can track more than 40 workout types, while also counting your steps and continuously monitoring your heart rate. I was impressed by the heart rate measurements, which not only updated constantly on watch faces with heart rate complications but also adjusted quickly during workouts. In a yoga practice, I wore both my Apple Watch Series 8 and Google Pixel Watch, and found the Pixel Watch’s displayed my heart rate changes at least a full second faster than the Apple Watch. In addition to heart rate monitoring, the Pixel Watch can be used to take ECGs to detect possible signs of atrial fibrillation.
When it came to GPS tracking during walks and runs, the Pixel Watch’s distance readings lined up exactly with Apple Watch both on open roads and my local track. All the while, the workout interface showed my metrics including distance, time elapsed, steps (for walking), pace and earned Active Zone Minutes.
Active Zone Minutes is an activity metric Fitbit introduced in 2020 on the Fitbit Charge 4 (which has since been replaced by the Fitbit Charge 5.) Your goal is to spend 150 minutes per week in moderate or high effort heart zones, as per guidance from the WHO. Depending on your current activity level, it can seem like a daunting target but it’s meant to be motivational for those looking to spend more time on their fitness.
Google Pixel Watch review: Fitbit Premium
With Fitbit Premium, which costs $9.99 per month, or $80 per year, you unlock more advanced features like a Daily Readiness Score, sleep tracking analysis, meditations, wellness reports and more.
Google is offering a complimentary 6 months of Fitbit Premium for Pixel Watch users, which is the standard promotion for all the best Fitbit devices. I will say it seems Fitbit Premium has become less optional, locking the most compelling health tools behind the membership. You might not need it if you’re only looking for basic activity metrics, but I don’t know that I would enjoy the Pixel Watch experience without it.
Daily Readiness Score is a big reason that’s the case. After calibrating with four days of monitoring your sleep and activity from your Pixel Watch, Fitbit gives you a score every morning of how ready or not you are to get moving each day. When I have a great night’s sleep, my readiness score indicates I’m prepared for plenty of activity. When I slept poorly, Fitbit lets me know it’s OK to take it easy that day. A recovery feature like Daily Readiness Score is something I like about the Oura Ring Gen 3 and wish the Apple Watch would borrow, since over-training can (and in my case, has) lead to injuries.
Advanced sleep tracking is also a Fitbit Premium pillar. You get an overview of your sleep stages, as well as data based on your long-term sleep trends. Bar none, Fitbit has the best sleep tracking in the game, though the Pixel Watch doesn’t get the Sleep Profiles feature available for the Fitbit Sense 2 and Fitbit Versa 4. Sleep Profiles compare your sleep habits to a corresponding animal, which can help with understanding your patterns but isn’t a tool I particularly miss.
Again, I’m inclined to believe skipping Fitbit Premium will limit the Pixel Watch experience. Paid companion programs have become common in the wearables market, from Apple Watch and Oura Ring to Amazon Halo and Whoop. If you did want to avoid handing over a monthly fee, you’d still get activity tracking and readings from the watch’s health sensors. Menstrual tracking features aren’t locked behind a paywall, either, which I think many users will appreciate.
Google Pixel Watch review: Wear OS features
As you might expect, the Pixel Watch leverages Google’s suite of services with Wear OS, offering practically every program a person might use on a daily basis. This includes: Google Maps, Google Calendar, Google Pay, Google Home, YouTube Music and Google Assistant.
Google Maps helped me get around, Google Calendar (called Agenda in the apps menu) sent me 10-minute meeting alerts, and I turned on my Philips Hue lights from the Google Home app on my wrist. I also relied on Google Assistant queries quite a bit. Having Google Assistant here is actually a big perk in my opinion; sure, it’s an expected one, but still good and very comparable to the Apple Watch’s Siri for things like timers, asking for the weather. You can make phone calls on the Pixel Watch, too.
A number of the best smartwatches for Android (both old and new) run Wear OS, but it’s different. From the experiences I recall, these smartwatches offer only a few Google services — never the entire gamut, and never any apparent rhyme or reason for what’s supported and what’s not. In the case of the last Galaxy Watch, for example, we were promised Google Assistant but functionality didn’t arrive for several month. It’s about time Google made a smartwatch optimized for its wearable software; everything just works.
As such, the Google Pixel Watch features Wear OS’s familiar tile-based navigation that moved as smoothly as I’ve ever seen it. Though it’s different from the menus on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, revealing Samsung truly takes its own spin on Wear OS. But like the Galaxy Watch, the Pixel Watch also has support for some third-party apps like Spotify and Strava through the Google Play Store. This is a huge benefit eliminated from this year’s Fitbit smartwatches, but that’s a rant for another day.
It’s a breeze to open relevant settings from your watch on your phone, and you can also ping your phone if you’ve misplaced it. You can use the watch app on your phone to create customizable watch faces, including one that brings Google Photos images to your wrist. I used an image of my dog, obviously. Speaking of Google Photos, there’s a camera remote feature that lets you control the camera of a companion Pixel smartphone. This is one of my favorite Apple Watch features, so I was glad to see a version of it on the Pixel Watch.
Google Pixel Watch review: Battery life
The Google Pixel Watch battery life is rated for 24 hours of battery life. That’s perhaps a bit less than I was hoping to see, especially with Galaxy Watch and Apple Watch getting battery upgrades this year. In my testing, I could hardly eke out that long, with GPS draining 20% battery life per hour. That said, on a day I didn’t workout or use activity tracking, the watch did last the full 24 hours.
It’s not that a daily charge is that unusual for wearables, but felt a bit jarring switching from the Fitbit Sense 2 with up to 6 days of battery life to watch that lasts a fraction as long. Perhaps the Pixel Watch’s stamina wouldn’t seem so disappointing if it didn’t run so much like a Fitbit watch.
As for charging, the Pixel Watch comes with simple magnetic to USB-C charger that kind of looks like a pebble. It charged from nearly dead to full in about an hour, which is on pace with the charging abilities of most popular smartwatches.
Google Pixel Watch review: Bottom line
Other the Apple Watch Ultra, I can’t think of a smartwatch that’s been more anticipated than the Google Pixel Watch. Now that it’s here and I’ve tested it, I can say it both does and doesn’t live up to the type.
On one hand, Google services and Fitbit health tracking strike the perfect balance of connectivity and fitness tracking. Bar none, it’s the best showing of Wear OS yet. The Pixel Watch also reaffirms Fitbit as one of the strongest wellness platforms on the market. This is a great smartwatch to get if you’re a Pixel user.
On the other, my couple of complaints reminded me that the Pixel Watch is still a first-generation product. As it goes, there’s room for improvement. I’m already chewing on what I’d want to see from the second-gen model: Two size options, more health sensors and the option to have multiple devices paired to a Fitbit account are additional upgrades that I believe would make the Pixel Watch better. I say that purely with excitement for what’s to come.
Still not sure if the Pixel Watch is right for you? Here are 3 reasons to buy and 3 reasons to skip the Google Pixel Watch.
Next: Here’s why I bought a Fitbit Versa 4 instead of the Google Pixel Watch.