So, like a lot of people, I’ve had a Pixel Watch hanging off my wrist for about 6 months now, and there’s a lot I like. The problem is, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it to family and friends because this isn’t something that works for everyone; in fact, you’ll likely need to adjust your routines to suit the watch.
That’s not to say the Pixel Watch is a bad piece of hardware, far from it. I have become really attached to the physical hardware; it’s sleek, lightweight and has dealt really well with daily life. It has handled everything from gym workouts to emergency services calls and crashing around with my kids and looks slightly weathered but not abused after all this time.
The hardware is excellent
Even now, looking at the Pixel Watch, I smile because so many facets of design have been absolutely nailed for a device that can truly be considered unisex. It’s a very fine line to walk, but I believe the screen size and depth of the device work for most potential users regardless of gender.
The glass dome is really smooth, and the crown is easy to interact with. It really is so simple and pleasurable to use. I’m regularly swiping through tiles to access the apps and features I want, after a while, it becomes muscle memory, and your smartwatch just becomes part of daily life.
The cost of alternate bands can be forgiven for a first-generation device. There isn’t the larger scale manufacturing and distribution already established, and there aren’t third-party options out there to keep pricing competitive.
The main problem is still the battery
As I mentioned in the review, you’ll need to establish a charging routine and probably, invest in a second charger. I have one on my desk at home and one in my daily carry kit. Each day, when I start my bedtime routine, the watch goes on to charge and again when I go for a shower in the morning. With the two blocks of time each day charging my watch, it’s rare, but not unheard of, for me to get into trouble with the battery.
The fact remains you shouldn’t need to work to the capabilities of a device, it should just work for you. In this case, because of my personal routines, this does work but I’d rather it was similar to other smartwatches I’ve used in the past. I’ve got a Garmin watch that will go 5 days between charges, My Fitbit Charge 5 goes four to five days between charges which makes it easier to travel with the device.
It isn’t the only factor, but I do regularly think about my day ahead and whether the battery is going to last; or whether a quick top-up at my desk may be in order.
Daily use, interactions, and Fitbit just work
It’s a Pixel device, so understandably, it works with a Pixel phone, but any Android will do. That level of integration is excellent, and, as mentioned in my review, the notifications are excellent. The ability to choose apps that you get notifications for is, while normal, not universal on all smart wearables so it’s a really nice touch.
We knew something would happen when Google purchased Fitbit, and once the Pixel Watch was announced, that was clear. The inclusion of Fitbit functionality in the software and interface is welcome, given Google’s history of killing features and the lack of take-up and cohesion from Google Fit.
On reflection, it was a really smart decision because a lot of people — myself included — have been using and wearing Fitbit devices for years. It’s somewhat akin to the Android vs iOS debate of old; once you’re invested in a platform its hard to leave. So the acquisition actually opened up a huge potential market for Google to get new users onboard its wearable platform.
Moving forward: There’s still room to improve
Clearly, the battery needs to be better, offering at least two days, preferably more, and there are a few ways this could be achieved. One is better optimisation of the software to minimise battery use.
This is a pretty slippery slope, though, as we regularly see with some phone manufacturers that shout about their battery life; aggressive optimisation can significantly affect the timeliness of notifications. This can’t happen…
Another area where the battery is being hammered is heart rate monitoring. For accuracy on the heart rate variability, the device takes a reading every single second. I can’t help but feel, for the users who are buying this particular device, that’s overkill. The elite-level athletes who are going to truly appreciate this data are going to wear specific devices for athletes, probably from the likes of Garmin.
I’d happily sacrifice that reading being reduced to every 10 or 15 seconds if it meant that the battery life could consistently be extended by a few hours each day. Even a simpler solution potential solution is to allow two or more Fitbit devices to connect to a Fitbit account at the same time. I could drop my Pixel watch on charge when I head for the gym, knowing I’d be well set for the next 24 hours of use on my return.
The other is to work on a way to get a larger capacity battery into the device, which could be as easy as a larger device as well. Ultimately as a consumer, I actually don’t care that much how they do it, but Google needs to find a way to make the battery last a couple of days without me needing to sacrifice function on my — rather expensive device.
Software updates need to bring more
We’re pretty used to software updates these days; in fact, we expect it. So a monthly update for the Pixel Watch really doesn’t warrant any fanfare. In reality, there hasn’t been anything to write home (or to you guys) about with any of the updates — except fell detection in March, but that was promised from the time of release — that I can recall. It’s basically been bug fixes right from the start.
That’s not a bad thing to stabilise the product and make it more usable. One feature I know I’ve mentioned in the past is an automated do not disturb mode, perhaps linked to your phone’s bedtime routine… Please, Google?
What about the Fitbit features too? They’re not all present in the Pixel Watch, and that creates some restrictions in the tracking that is available via the device. Other Fitbit devices have Sp02 and skin temperature sensors.
This allows you to monitor your blood oxygen saturation which helps with both performance and recovery for athletes. While skin temperature can be used to monitor several general health areas and potential ailments.
The Pixel Watch 2
To be clear, we’ve not got any information specifically about a Pixel Watch 2 appearing in our lives any time soon. This is what I really want to see from Google in order to show that the Pixel Watch wasn’t a one-off, flash-in-the-pan device. To show that Google hasn’t just purchased Fitbit for the customer base, to then add Fitbit to the database at Killed by Google.
There is so much to like about the Pixel Watch; there have clearly been many hours invested in the design and delivery of the product. Surely, there has to be some long-term vision and budget aside for the next generation.
Given how well Google has done on this first effort, I sincerely hope there is another Pixel Watch in the works!