The road to a Google branded Pixel Watch has been a long one. It’s taken eight years, a rebranding of Android Wear to Wear OS, buying parts of Fossil’s smartwatch tech and the entirety of fitness tracking company Fitbit, but it’s here now and to say Android fans are excited is an understatement.
Just like when launching the Pixel phone in 2016, the Pixel Watch is entering a market where a number of competitors including Fossil, Mobvoi, Samsung, and more have established themselves already. Priced at $549 ($649 for LTE connectivity), the Pixel Watch is a premium option where those same competitors often sell at a cheaper price point but it’s powered by Google and the concept of ambient computing and the inclusion of Fitbit health tracking may be enough to get you looking at the Pixel Watch.
Scott and I have collaborated on this review. I’ve been using the Pixel Watch for just over a week, while Scott has had his for a few days, but here’s how it went.
Hardware and Design
The Pixel Watch is a great looking watch. It’s available in three colours: Champagne Gold, Polished Silver (which Scott received from Google), and the colour Google sent me for review, Matte Black. Each comes with a different coloured band, though you can easily switch those to create a different look.
Google has gone with the traditional circular design for the Pixel Watch. The touch display is covered by domed glass made of Corning Gorilla Glass 5 with the rounded appearance similar to a river worn stone.
The display, which, with a ‘Brightness boost up to 1000 nits’ is excellent for viewing inside and outside There’s an ambient light sensor built-in, thankfully not hidden in a ‘flat tyre’ like early Wear OS watches, which will automatically brighten it for you if you need it.
There’s a large ‘haptic crown’ with bevelled edges for easy grip, and there’s also a (much) more discrete side button just above for additional functionality. There’s no lugs for connecting watch bands to interrupt the lines of the watch and maintain that clean circular look.
The haptic crown, side button and touch display are your main ways of interacting with the watch, with the option to single, double or long press the crown or side button.
As the name would suggest the haptic crown has excellent haptics, giving you nice, ‘clicky’ feedback as you scroll through your app list, or even just zoom in and out of Google Maps. Pressing the crown will bring you home or access your app list, while double pressing the crown brings up Google Pay for payments (You need a lock screen to enable Google Pay though) and long pressing will bring up restart options.
The problem with this double press to bring up Google Pay is that the delay is too long so that the list of apps appears before the Wallet screen shows up which often leads you to pressing it again and again. The lag for that happening is too long – it should just jump straight into the Pay/Wallet screen.
The side button offers more access to apps with a single tap showing recent apps, while a double tap takes you to the last app used. Long pressing brings up the Google Assistant which will then let you ask questions or issue commands.
At 41mm, the Pixel Watch doesn’t feel overly large and looks good on smaller wrists. But it does leave me wanting an additional larger model for anyone with larger wrists, or a preference for larger, more chunky watches.
That smaller size does bring about the question of display and bezel ratios. Google advised us that the 41mm Pixel Watch includes a 30.48mm display, meaning you have 10.52mm worth of bezels around the outer edge which is fairly significant, though hidden well. The domed glass over the watch face certainly hides it well, as does the choice of watch faces – though you can get a good look at the bezels when using a Photo for watch face, flashlight or using the remote shutter option on your phone camera (a neat little use case).
Overall, I’d prefer less bezels on the Pixel Watch and a larger display, but with the black backgrounds I tend to prefer on my watch faces it works.
There is both a speaker and microphone in the Pixel Watch, allowing you to take a call, talk to Google Assistant or receive notifications. You can also pair Bluetooth headphones to the Pixel Watch so you can exercise while listening to music, or take calls.
While the latest Pixel phones are powered by Google’s Tensor processor, the Pixel Watch runs a Samsung Exynos 9110 SoC with a Cortex M33 co-processor. There’s 2GB of RAM and 32GB of on-board storage for apps, music storage and more. We suspect that Google will want to get their Tensor chip into the Pixel Watch eventually in the coming years but at this stage they are focusing their Tensor optimisations on the Pixel phones.
Previous Wear OS watches have suffered from lag due to the ageing Qualcomm processors used, but the partnership between Samsung and Google to merge Samsung’s Tizen OS with Wear OS and produce a watch which performs well has borne fruit with the Pixel Watch and it’s snappy, fluid and responsive. You can switch apps with ease, swipe through tiles and more without any waiting, lag or any indication that the watch is struggling except for a few lags while double pressing the crown for Google Pay.
The Pixel Watch comes with a large and small band in the box to help with getting the perfect fit. I can just use the smaller one, but the larger one is far too big, but both fit and shows it fits a wide variety of wrists.
The new band attachment system is proprietary, though seemingly an evolution of the ‘Mode’ bands from Android Wear days. It’s an excellent connection system, once you’re used to it, which makes the bands seem to just come out of the watch in one piece.
The mechanism itself is a bit finicky to get used to though, but it gets easier the more you do it. To change bands you press the release button near the top of the band, then simply slide the band back towards the release button and it pops out. Putting a new band on simply reverses this process, running the new band into the trench to connect it.
While the supplied Fluoroelastomer Active Band is comfortable to wear andthat connector certainly suggests you should change bands to suit the circumstance. There are stretch, woven and leather options on the Google Store already which look great, but there’s also Metal bands due to arrive early next year.
There are a couple of issues with the new bands though. First, the proprietary connector means you can’t just grab any good looking band you like. Second, the options available on the Google Store are fairly pricey but do look good. Thankfully it looks like sellers on AliExpress are supplying third-party bands already which are a cheaper option. I’d also love to see a lug adapter kit so you could attach your own choice of bands – hopefully soon.
Battery Life and Charging
The Pixel Watch includes a 294mAh battery which will solidly get you through a day of use, though you will find a few caveats to that. Enabling the Always On Display, tilt-to-wake or using the GPS to track your workouts will shorten that battery life, sometimes down to as little as 12 hours.
A typical day for me can generally be a couple of walks with the dog, a gym session and then the usual walking around. After a two year lay-off from the gym though, I’m getting back into shape, so on occasion I do like to go on a run or bike ride which I like to track on GPS – and of course this reduces the battery life fairly quickly and the constant heart-rate checking also can’t be great for extending battery life.
Using LTE also impacts battery life, though not hugely, unless you leave the phone at home. I still managed to get through the day, but was definitely looking for a charger a little earlier than without it active.
Previously I’ve charged smartwatches overnight, but given the Pixel Watch includes sleep tracking which needs you to have around 30% battery left when you nod off, I found myself charging at work in the morning, as well as giving the watch a quick top up charge before leaving work if it was looking low, just to ensure I’d have enough juice to get through the night for those all important sleep stats.
Thankfully charging the Pixel Watch is fast. There’s a magnetic charging cable with a USB-C connector included in the box which attaches to the back of the watch to charge. The charger has a small concave area for lining up with the domed rear of the Pixel Watch, with magnets to hold it in place. The magnets feel a little weak though as the watch slides around while charging, but it hasn’t fallen off.
You can charge the Pixel Watch on the Pixel Stand 2, but the bands tend to get in the way of the watch laying flat enough to start charging. Removing the bands will help with this, and on the Pixel Stand 2 I had to balance it on the crown to get it started – so while you can do it, it’s not practical, so the official charging puck is the best way to go.
The official stats for charging, according to Google, will see the Pixel Watch charge up to 50% in 30 minutes, 80% full in 55 minutes and get to a full charge in around 80 minutes – all of which jibes with my experience with charging the Pixel Watch. That said, you may want to take your charger with you, or buy a second if you want to charge more often.
Sensors and Connectivity
Built-in to the Pixel Watch are a good array of wireless connections including Wifi, Bluetooth and LTE if you want to pay the additional $100, which allows you to go completely remote from your phone. You of course get NFC for mobile payments – and yes, paying for things with your watch is awesome.
I did have a couple of Bluetooth disconnects, though it reconnected after I refreshed. Overall though I had far fewer disconnects with the Pixel Watch than I had with older model watches.
There’s also a good array of sensors for health, tracking your movement and more including Compass, Altimeter, Blood oxygen sensor, Multipurpose electrical sensor, Optical heart rate sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope and Ambient light sensor.
It all works fairly well, though I found the Pixel Watch to be a little generous with step counts when compared to other trackers I’ve tested. The GPS is definitely fast to lock on and start a workout, though can be a little off if you move through a covered area. Heart-rate seems accurate, though I’ve never tracked it at one-second intervals before.
There isn’t Blood Pressure Monitoring on the Pixel Watch, but there is ECG tracking through the Fitbit app. ECG requires a Fitbit Premium subscription, but you get a 6 month sub when you buy a Pixel Watch at the moment. I’ve never tracked ECG, but apparently I have a normal ECG. It is disappointing though that it is hidden behind the paywall – at least, after six months it is.
At this stage, the LTE connectivity is a Telstra exclusive feature as $5/month extra called Telstra One Number. This extends calls, messages and everything to your watch which is pretty neat. Unfortunately there’s no word on when this will be extended to other carriers.
Wear OS 3.5
The Pixel Watch will connect to your Android 8.0 and above phone using the Pixel Watch app available on Google Play. The Pixel Watch will not work with iOS, nor will it connect with Android phones running the low-end ‘Go’ version, though we have few phones running this version of Android in Australia.
The Pixel Watch will receive an over the air (OTA) update out of the box. You will also receive updates in the form of security and feature updates regularly, with Google advising the watch will receive updates up until October 2025.
Setup is an easy follow the bouncing ball type affair and once you’re finished connecting to your phone, an initial setup tutorial pops up on the watch to guide you through how to use Wear OS. As a user of Wear OS previously, the bump to Wear OS 3.5 wasn’t completely overwhelming, but can be more so for new users and the tutorial certainly helps out in that respect.
Navigating Wear OS 3.5 is quite simple though. You start with your Watch face and can swipe left or right to view ‘tiles’ of information including weather, timers, apps and more . A swipe down will bring out your quick settings, while a swipe up will let you see recent notifications.
If it all seems a bit confusing, you can run through the tutorial again to refresh yourself on how it works by going to Settings > General > Start tutorial.
While you can configure a lot of the settings on your watch, the Pixel Watch app on your phone is also where you can change watch faces and tiles, as well as set all your preferences for things like display timeout, tilt to wake, always-on-display, restrict which apps notify you and loads, loads more.
Due to the smaller display on the Pixel Watch, while I COULD configure options on the watch I often went to the Pixel Watch app on the phone because it’s easier to see (another call for a larger model Pixel Watch!). You can do all the configuring of complications (the little widgets on watch faces) for each watch face, view and add different information tiles, set the display timeouts and even search for new apps, watch faces and even games in the Wear OS Play Store section.
Aftermarket watch face apps such as Watchmaker and Facer work on the Pixel Watch as well making the sheer number of watches available to you astounding. These apps also allow you to build or edit your own watch face, making the complications you want, where you want them.
Thanks to a decent history of Android Wear and then Wear OS development, there is a LOT of content available on Google Play for the Pixel Watch. There’s big name apps ready to go on the Pixel Watch including Spotify, Calm, Runastic, My Fitness Pal, Bitmoji, Strava and more.
The default selection of watch faces available is good, but there’s so many more available. I loved the Utility watchface, but as usual your mileage may vary, so definitely check out both the pre-installed, and the ones in the Play Store if you don’t find one on-board you like.
Overall, Wear OS3.5 on the Pixel Watch is snappy, full of options for watch faces, apps, games and services and it works really well.
There are a number of apps pre-installed for you including basic watch functions, Calendar, Maps, Wallet and more. There’s also Google Fit, which offers basic health tracking, but it’s the Fitbit integration that a lot of Pixel Watch users will come over for.
A large part of the Pixel Watch story was the purchase of Fitbit in 2019, which took another two years to complete. The Pixel Watch showcases Fitbit, with an array of Fitbit apps such as Fitbit Sleep, Fitbit ECG and Fitbit Exercise pre-installed.
These apps kick off well thanks to 6 months of Fitbit Premium being included – but be warned that Fitbit Premium costs $14.99/month or $129.99/year after that so maybe set a calendar reminder so you can consider how much you use it before it charges you.
Fit bit is where the ECG tracking is tucked away, offering over 1000 workouts and over 400 pieces of mindfulness content as well as metrics, scores and dashboards to show your progress. It’s a personal choice as to whether you feel it’s worth continuing the sub after the 6 month free option is used, so maybe set a calendar reminder before it charges you.
Fitbit is excellent at health tracking though. The Fitbit experience not only tracks your activity, but your rest and recovery as well, making sure you’re in the right place to do another workout.
A great feature for fitness tracking that Fitbit has introduced are Active Zone Minutes. Active Zone Minutes are simply to keep you on track with recommendations from the American Heart Association and World Health Organization, both of whom recommend you spend ‘at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or a combination of both, each week’.
So, to get Active Zone Minutes, you simply work out and let the Fitbit do the rest. You are awarded Active Zone Minutes based on your workout putting your heart-rate into one of three areas: Fat Burn, Cardio, and Peak. You are awarded 1 Active Zone Minute for spending a minute in Fat Burn, while a minute in Cardio and Peak will net you 2 Active Zone minutes. It’s all about getting you to that recommended weekly level.
My only real bug bear with the Pixel Watch and the Fitbit integration is the lack of auto-tracking for workouts. I switch through a good number of workout styles while at the gym, Yoga, Weights and cardio, so remembering to switch exercises for tracking is a little frustrating – especially when Fitbit includes Auto-Start, Stop and Pause of exercises on their latest Sense 2 and Versa 4 smartwatches.
Getting used to the Fitbit layout and way of life can be a little confronting at first, but it’s actually quite straightforward if you simply start with the basics and the integration with the Pixel Watch works very well.
Should You Buy This Watch?
After eight years of waiting, the Pixel Watch delivers on a lot of things including being a beautiful device with an easy to read display and good fitness tracking capabilities.
There is a lot of work to do though. The battery life and the need to charge twice a day is a big issue if you want to do few battery intensive things as well as sleep tracking. There’s also the lack of auto-detect for workouts on the Fitbit side which makes a dedicated Fitbit like Sense 2 or Versa4 a better, though not as physically appealing option.
That said, the Pixel Watch is definitely on the right track for a first generation fitness tracker and you can expect software tweaks to come down the line to the watch over the coming years. But for right now, the Pixel Watch is a good, solid start for Google and definitely worth checking out.