The Pixel Watch 2 fixes a lot of issues that the original Pixel Watch had. It’s a good Android wearable, but it’s not quite the “best” of Android the way other Pixels are.
Pixel Watch 2: Video Review
|Improved performance||Watch bands remain a chore to change|
|Improved battery life||Proprietary charger|
|Strong Fitbit integration||But if you want expanded Fitbit features, that’s a subscription|
|Buy The Pixel Watch 2!||Buy On Amazon|
It’s safe to say that the excitement and anticipation surrounding Google’s first “Pixel” watch last year was quite high. While it was inevitably going to lean on Google’s ownership of Fitbit, the prospect of Google creating the idealised Android smartwatch had a lot of appeal.
Frankly, the smartwatch space has needed a hero Android watch for some time, something to compete fully with what Apple does with devices like the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2.
Is the Google Pixel Watch 2 that device?
Not… quite. It’s closer to the ideal than the original watch was, and most of what it does is very good indeed.
At the same time, while Google could only make that Pixel Watch first impression once, for its second outing it’s largely played it safe, improving where it really needed to but not bringing the Watch and accompanying operating system quite all the way to excellence.
That being said, if you’ve got an Android phone and you want a very good smartwatch, this is your best bet – I’m just a tad annoyed that there isn’t a full equivalent to the Apple Watch’s excellent performance for Android users.
Google Pixel Watch Review (Finder)
Visually, Google’s made basically no changes to the Pixel Watch 2’s design. You’re still looking at a 41mm AMOLED display with side mounted dial and button.
It’s actually a different material on your wrist, with Google swapping out stainless steel for aluminium in the Pixel Watch 2. That does make it marginally lighter, but that’s one of those on-paper measurements that you’re not likely to perceive in regular daily use.
The 41mm size will work well on most wrists, but it is a touch disappointing not to see a larger Pixel Watch option for those that might like it. Both Apple and Samsung do offer that kind of flexibility in sizing when it comes to smartwatches, but if you want a Pixel Watch 2, it’s one-size-fits-all-or-nothing-at-all.
The Pixel Watch 2 ships in four colour combinations in Australia, although it’s really only three actual watch colour variants. The front is always black – nobody wants a bright silver watch screen – with the rear colour mostly perceptible at the sides of the watch in polished silver, champagne gold or matte black.
Google supplies those bodies with Bay or Porcelain Bands and the silver body, Obsidian bands with the Matte Black body or Champagne Gold with the Hazel band, which is the model that Google sent me for review.
That’s not the end of the colour story, however, as the Pixel Watch 2 supports the same bands as its predecessor. On the plus side continued compatibility is a nice feature to have. It does work with third party bands too, though Google would undoubtedly prefer you purchased its official band models.
On the minus side, swapping bands out is a somewhat tortuous button-and-twist process, especially compared to the smooth and easy way you can switch bands on the Apple Watch.
I don’t love the Hazel colour, but all of this is quite subjective, and my advice here would be to buy the Pixel Watch 2 body colour that you like, because that’s the only detail you can’t change after the fact.
While the external aspect of the Pixel Watch 2 hasn’t altered perceptibly, that’s not true of what lies underneath the glass.
The Pixel Watch 2 features a Qualcomm SW5100 quad-core processor, up from the dual core processor found in the original Pixel Watch.
That’s claimed to give both improved performance and improved battery life – more on that later – and for the most part, it certainly feels a little faster and more responsive on the wrist after a month’s testing time.
The improvements don’t stop with the processor either. It’s also sporting improved health sensors, covering heart rate tracking, skin temperature sensors and stress/cEDA sensors for better tracking of general health and exercise metrics.
Here again the Google Pixel Watch was a decent enough operator in this regard – and I can’t see the sense in upgrading from a working Pixel Watch for what that’s worth – but it never hurts to have better general health tracking.
The Pixel Watch 2 runs on wearOS 4, which means (as you’d expect) it’s packed with Google apps and acces to the range of wearOS apps that are available. Here there’s no avoiding the comparison with Apple’s watchOS, which frankly just offers a richer experience.
The catch there is that it’s not like you can pick or choose, because the Apple Watch is an iPhone-only experience – and the Pixel Watch 2 likewise only works with Android handsets.
You also get Fitbit integration, which is equal parts welcome and annoying in my view, for pretty much the same reasons that I had with the original model. Fitbit’s a well regarded fitness platform, and clearly if you’re coming to the Pixel Watch from an existing Fitbit wearable, that’s a plus because you can keep the same metrics over a longer period of time.
With full disclosure, I’ve been flipping between the Pixel Watch 2 and Apple’s Apple Watch Ultra 2 for the past month as I’ve been reviewing both, which means both of them have a rather schizophrenic view of my personal fitness activities – but I accept that I’m a fringe case here.
Where it gets more complex for everyone is in the fact that Fitbit Premium features sit behind a paywall. Yes, you get six months of Fitbit Premium for “free” with the watch, but then Fitbit will give you a 90 day trial anyway, so it’s really just 90 days on top of that.
Once your six months are over, if you want advanced sleep tracking or your daily readiness scores, be ready to part with $14.99/month for the privilege.
Is that cheaper than a gym membership? Almost certainly, but then Fitbit Premium doesn’t have gym machines or sweaty overmuscled gym bros taking up all the space… actually, that latter point is a good argument for not taking up a gym membership, but that doesn’t really lessen my point here.
The Pixel Watch 2 is also available in an LTE configuration if you want watch-free operation, though you’ll have to be with a carrier and on a plan that supports this. The LTE variant commands a $100 premium in Australia, plus whatever monthly fees your telco charges you for the privilege.
The original Google Pixel Watch promised “up to” 24 hours of battery life, but I always found that this was only really an achievable figure if you left the always-on display set to switch itself off most of the time.
The big promise for the Pixel Watch 2 is that this limitation no longer exists, and it’s possible to leave time and notification displays active for a full day without needing to recharge the watch.
It’s right, too, and this is one of the biggest and best upgrades on this year’s Pixel Watch. Getting into a second day’s usage is rather easy even with the display always on, which extends the amount of time you can comfortably and easily keep it on your wrist. It also makes sleep tracking considerably easier, because I haven’t had to stress the watch running out of power or being horribly low if I keep it on overnight.
The other big charging change with the Pixel Watch 2 is that it no longer uses wireless charging. Instead you get a charging puck with pogo pins in it, similar to the way that Google’s Fitbit wearables work. It’s apparently a limitation of the way Google built in the new heart rate sensor, leaving less space for an inductive coil behind the Pixel Watch 2’s aluminium frame.
I don’t love pogo pin chargers, not for reasons of attachment accuracy – no real problems there – but simply because the extended pins are naturally more prone to breaking over time.
It’s also a pity that the Pixel Watch 2 isn’t just straight Qi compatible, because that would make it easier to charge from multiple charging devices, not just Google’s custom solution. Google does at least sell replacement Pixel Watch 2 charging pucks, though at $49 a throw you wouldn’t want to have to replace them all that often.
Google Pixel Watch 2: Alex’s Verdict
The Pixel Watch 2 is a big improvement on the original Pixel Watch, and that’s commendable. Battery life is hugely improved, general performance is improved and while I can’t outright say that the heart rate sensor is doing more than on the original Watch without cloning myself, maybe in triplicate so I can test with both watches and have a “control” Alex ready to roll as well, it certainly managed my fitness and sleep metrics well during my review period.
However, it’s not quite as refined as it could have been. It would be nice to see further size alternatives, as well as some expanded wearOS integrations and features that mark out the Pixel Watch 2 from other Android wearables. The Pixel Watch 2 runs the same price as Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 6 (though not the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic) and in theory should be the “best” of Android given Google’s in-house advantage. It’s not – it’s just another Android smartwatch, and I’d argue that maybe it should be more than just that.
Google Pixel Watch 2: Pricing and availability
The Google Pixel Watch 2 retails in Australia for $549 (Bluetooth/WiFi) or $649 (LTE) outright.
The unit tested was loaned to me by Google for the purposes of review.
|Buy The Pixel Watch 2!||Buy On Amazon|