Review: Google Pixel Watch 2

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Erin L

Erin L

 

Google Pixel Watch 2 review

A year after entering the smartwatch game, Google is back with the new Google Pixel 2 smartwatch. I recently got a sample watch from Google to test out and review a few days ahead of its public launch.

It was no secret that Google had been trying to get into the smartwatch business for years. But they needed to make a statement with their opening salvo into a market already saturated by big players such as Apple and Samsung. After all, these players had almost half a decade’s worth of a head start. So, when they announced that they were acquiring Fitbit, a startup already beloved in the wearable fitness tracker space, there was excitement (and maybe a little trepidation) in the air.

With Google’s massive marketing, R&D, and development resources, it seemed like a guarantee that their new smartwatch would be a worthy opponent to the Apple Watch and Galaxy Watch.

And they didn’t disappoint with the Pixel Watch when it was finally launched in 2022. It was such a huge success that it already surpassed the Galaxy Watch as the number two in the number of units shipped, next only to the formidable Apple Watch.

So, now that the Pixel Watch 2 has just been released, what’s changed, and what’s better?

Google Pixel Watch 2
4.5

Summary

If you’re an Android user in the walled garden of the Google/Android ecosystem, this is a great smartwatch and a strong follow-up to the Pixel’s smartwatch debut.

Pros

  • Design is attractive
  • Improved chip and bigger battery
  • Fitbit health and tracking features + emergency help options
  • Comfortable band
  • Scree is easy to read
  • Touch interface works well

 

Cons

  • Bezel and case could slim down
  • Doesn’t integrate with Apple products

What is Google Pixel Watch 2?

Google Pixel 2 smart watch

This is Google’s second smartwatch, designed to work with the Google Pixel line of phones, and any newer Android device.

There’s a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth version ($479CAD) or a cellular-connected LTE option that costs a bit more ($549) and this is only a marginal price increase over the original watch.

My hands-on video review

It has built-in Fitbit technology for health tracking and fitness, plus it will do all the standard smartwatch tasks like send texts, calls, calendar alerts and more to your wrist (as long as you’re using it with an Android phone). It also, naturally, has built-in Google Assistant, which as a rule works far better than Siri.

Speaking of Siri, in what will be a major blow for Apple users looking for a more stylish smart watch option, the Watch will not work with iOS devices.

What’s in the Box?

In the box you get your Watch with an updated 4-pin charging pad and there’s an extra band for adjusting fit too.

Set up

Getting the Watch set up was super fast and easy in my testing: Just bring the charged Watch close to your Pixel phone and then let the magic happen. Set up is automatic, requiring just a few confirmation taps from you, and the download of the Pixel Watch app—then you’ll be ready to go. You can also link an existing Fitbit account in the setup to port that data to your Pixel Watch.

Fitbit Account merging – not perfect

Since Google’s purchase of Fitbit a couple of years ago, work has been underway in the background to morph Fitbit into a Google-linked feature. To that end, Fitbit accounts will be going away, and you will need to create a Google account or merge an existing Fitbit account with a Gmail/Google account.

It seems some of the best features on the Pixel Watch 2 are not available until you merge or update your Fitbit account with Google.

I experienced a delay in merging my accounts (had two accounts and needed to delete the old one) and as a result, was unable to view more than just the basic stats on the watch for seven days until my account was merged manually. Fortunately, I got great service from the Fitbit customer care team.

What’s new with Pixel Watch 2?

On the surface, it’s not going to look like very much is new at all; the watch looks essentially identical to the original. Where are you’ll find significant improvements is under the hood.

Design & Display: Familiar Yet Refreshing

Google Pixel 2 smart watch

The Pixel Watch 2 keeps the round 1.5 inch touchscreen design of its predecessor. It’s a welcome carry-over because this means it can keep its sleek and versatile design that easily translates from a board meeting to a Zumba class without breaking a sweat, which isn’t something that can be said about some other smartwatches out there.

The display is as crisp and vibrant as ever, and the touchscreen is responsive, making app navigation an absolute breeze. However, for people who had issues with the noticeably large bezels from the original Pixel Watch, I’m afraid to say that’s still the case with the Pixel Watch 2. Perhaps craftily, most of the dark watch faces on the AMOLED screen can make it look like they’re not even there, but they are extremely noticeable anytime your watch face fills the screen.

Aside from the bezel, another polarizing design choice for some is the size. While it’s perfect for slim wrists (and women’s wrists like min, in particular), it can look a bit wee for people with larger wrist diameters. I’m going to consider this a plus however, since I’ve spent more than enough time complaining that watches are designed for male wrists and are comically large on a woman. There;’s also just one size of Watch 2, which doesn’t make everyone happy, except for me.

The digital crown seems a bit thinner and protrudes less, which is a welcome help for anyone wearing longer sleeves.

Performance & Battery

Google Pixel 2 smart watch charger

 

Under the hood is where the true improvements were made on the Pixel Watch 2. It’s now equipped with a more current Snapdragon W5 chip – the same chip used on the latest Galaxy Watch Series 6.
But what does that chip mean for you? Smoother performance and longer battery life!

The W5 chip sips power, especially when compared head-to-head with the Exynos 9110 on the original Pixel Watch. If you’ve heard about the complaints about the less-than-ideal battery life of its predecessor, then this development is a (huge?) upgrade.

To make battery life even better, Google has also fitted the Pixel Watch 2 with slightly bigger batteries. Combined with the chip upgrade, you can expect a significant improvement in the overall battery life even with the Always-On Display activated. Google’s promising a full day’s worth of juice this time which means you no longer need to plug the watch back in before you go to sleep to take advantage of its sleep-tracking features.

In my testing, I found there was definitely better battery life, even as I left the Always-On display on. I got about 28-29 hours of life before it nudged me that it would go into standby mode. About 2 hours later the display switched to a simple time-only screen, which actually lasted a further 10 hours before it shut down completely.
If you do find yourself needing to top off your watch batteries, then at least you don’t have to wait so long as the faster charging speed will have your tracker back on your wrist in no time. I was able to recharge to 80 percent in about 40 minutes and to 100 percent in 75 minutes.

Of note, the Pixel Watch 2 now comes with a new Pogo pin charger instead of the Qi wireless charger of the original. The only caveat here is that you do have to carefully line up pins on the charging puck with the connectors on the back of the Watch.

Health & Fitness Features: Your Personal Trainer, Therapist & Running Buddy All in One

Google Pixel 2 smart watch

 

Thanks to Google’s connection with Fitbit, the original Pixel Watch was among the best at health and fitness tracking features in the dedicated smartwatch space—and I’ve written for years about the effectiveness, accuracy, and efficiency of Fitbit devices, and I’ve been a huge fan.

The Pixel Watch 2 now boasts three new sensors – a multi-path heart rate reader, a skin temperature sensor, and an electrodermal activity sensor. For sports enthusiasts and even professionals, the multi-path heart rate reader is probably the most interesting update. It’s technology lifted from Fitbit’s arsenal, which enables a more accurate heart rate reading even when doing strenuous activities that require swinging your hands, such as sprinting and playing basketball.

The electro-dermal sensor, other hand, gives the Pixel Watch 2 some stress-tracking capabilities through changes in the sweat glands, that can be linked to stress levels. The skin temperature sensor, on the other hand, will be used to measure your body temperature so that you can track your health even more effectively.

These three new sensors help keep track of your holistic health, and while they’re not technically to be used for medical diagnosis, they can be effective at detecting deviations in your baseline values and alerting you to potential health risks.

The Pixel Watch 2 also offers automatic workout start and stop reminders that can detect 7 common workouts, including walking, outdoor cycling, and more. I can confirm my twice-daily dog walks were picked up automatically after about 10 minutes, same as they were with my last Fitbit tracker. Just tap to confirm (but it will still count you steps even if you don’t).

For more athletic types, Heart Zone Training will guide you to meet your goals with voice and haptic cues that can help you move through your 4 personalized heart rate zones. And with Pace Training, those cues will help you stay on pace or get back to your ideal pace if you’ve fallen behind.

Safety & help features

Pixel Watch 2 has a few new features to augment the existing safety technology, like Fall Detection and Emergency SOS.

Something called Safety Check allows you to schedule a timer for situations where you might want your friends or family to know where you are. After the timer expires, Safety Check will prompt you to confirm you’re OK, or if you’d like to start sharing your location or contact emergency services. If no response is received, Safety Check will trigger Emergency Sharing, which shares your real-time location and situation with your pre-selected emergency contacts. You can also use Emergency Sharing with contacts for a designated amount of time so your loved ones can see your real-time location, or enable Medical Info to share personal health information with emergency services, like blood type, allergies, or conditions.

New safety features are accessed on the watch by swiping down from the top and choosing the Settings gear then selecting Safety & Emergency from the menu. Worth noting is that in some cases these features (like fall detection) do you need to be turned on for them to work.

With Safety Signal, Fitbit Premium members can get phone-free connectivity to safety features even without activating a full carrier LTE plan on their cellular-enabled watch.

Fitbit Premium – pay-to-play

It’s probably also worth pointing out that some of the more advanced features of the watch and of the fitness tracking are reserved for Fitbit premium members. Fitbit Premium costs a surprising $13CAD/month or $10USD and gets you things like recorded workouts and more granular data on sleep or stress.

Better haptics & alerts

One of the things I noticed is that the haptic cues (the vibrations) seem a bit stronger, and I also noticed I was getting more audible cues too in a variety of sounds and tones.
Control smart home from your wrist

Pixel Watch has the ability to control your smart home gadgets, thanks to that built-in Google Assistant (and Google Home) function. That means you can turn lights on and off, unlock doors, even open your garage all by just triggering the assistant.

The verdict

I really liked the first Pixel Watch, so it may not be surprising that overall I like the Watch 2.

Some users (not me) might find the lack of a significant design overhaul a little disappointing, looking for a slimmer profile and smaller bezels. And while the Pixel Watch 2 offers improved battery life, it might still fall short for those who need their watch to last multiple days without charging.

One of my biggest complaints about dedicated smartwatches has been the lackluster battery life. If you want to use your watch to stay productive all day, and to monitor your sleep at night, at some point you’ve got to take it off to get that charging done. But with faster charging in watch 2, that helps.

Let’s look at the pros and the cons.

On the Pro side, the design is attractive, the improved chip and bigger battery helps the watch last longer. Plus with all the Fitbit health and tracking features, plus the emergency help options, this is a great watch for day to day, fitness enthusiasts or those with health conditions. I think the band is comfortable and the screen is easy to read, and the touch interface works well.

On the Con side, I’d love to see the bezel slim down and the watch face get bigger— and the case to slim down just a smidge. Apple users may be disappointed the Watch 2 won’t work for them, but that is just the kind of walled garden Google is hoping to set up to lure you over to team Pixel.

In short, this is a great watch for android phone users and I can absolutely recommend it to you.

Here’s the price breakdown: There’s a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth version for about $479CAD or a cellular connected option that costs a bit more at $549— and this is only a marginal price increase over the original watch. Prices in the USA are $349US and $399 respectively. You can get it from Google or places like Best Buy and Amazon. You can also still get the original at Walmart.

You’ve got plenty of other options for smart watches… Check out what you can get from a far less expensive and longer lasting Fitbit tracker, or see what Samsung’s newest smart watch is like right now.

 

**A note about Affiliate Links: TechGadgetsCanada & TechGadgetsInternational is supported by our readers. Occasionally I will include affiliate links in my reviews. I do this partly for convenience of the reader (since I’ll almost always include a link to the company website or similar anyway) in case you want to read more or purchase, but I also may get a small commission from the click, which helps me keep the blog running. If you choose to use this link I thank you greatly for supporting the blog. There’s no obligation or cost to you for using these links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Erin L

Erin L

I'm a journalist, tech blogger, writer, TV producer, silversmith& jewelry designer, foodie and world traveler. I blog, write for publications, and supply freelance writing services to Calgary, and the world.

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