Rating:
5/10
?
  • 1 - Does not work
  • 2 - Barely functional
  • 3 - Severely lacking in most areas
  • 4 - Functions, but has numerous issues
  • 5 - Fine yet leaves a lot to be desired
  • 6 - Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 - Great and worth purchasing
  • 8 - Fantastic, approaching best-in-class
  • 9 - Best-in-class
  • 10 - Borderline perfection
Price:
Starting At $350
Google Pixel Watch
Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

After years of pleas from fans, the Pixel Watch finally shows us Google’s vision of a smartwatch. Can Fitbit integration and a focus on design give Android fans an Apple Watch equivalent? That’s what Google has set out to do.

In some ways, Google has had its hands in smartwatches for a long time. The company released Wear OS (then called Android Wear) way back in 2014, but it has stayed away from making its own hardware. Google even partnered with Samsung to launch Wear OS 3 in 2021.

That’s the situation Google enters with the Pixel Watch. Samsung has cornered the Android smartwatch market, while Apple has been dominating the smartwatch world in general. It’s time to see if Google has been paying attention and if it’s learned enough to launch a compelling first-generation product.

Here's What We Like

  • Excellent minimal design
  • Very comfortable to wear
  • Pixel UI looks nice on a watch
  • Solid performance

And What We Don't

  • Way too expensive
  • Battery life is barely passable
  • Software feels unfinished
  • Proprietary bands
  • Fitbit "integration" is nothing special

How-To Geek's expert reviewers go hands-on with each product we review. We put every piece of hardware through hours of testing in the real world and run them through benchmarks in our lab. We never accept payment to endorse or review a product and never aggregate other people’s reviews. Read more >>

Hardware & Design

Google Pixel Watch
Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

  • Dimensions: 41mm (41mm x 41mm x 12.3mm)
  • Display: 1.2-inches, AMOLED
  • Weight: 36g (without band)
  • Build material: Stainless steel body, Gorilla Glass display
  • Water resistance: 5 ATM

Smartwatches—perhaps more than any other gadget—have to look good. You can hide your phone in a case or your pocket, but a smartwatch is on your wrist for everyone to see. Google made a big deal about the design of the Pixel Watch, and I think this is one of the areas where it delivered.

The Pixel Watch’s design is about as minimal as you can get. There are no sharp edges or angles to be found. The black model especially looks nearly featureless; its screen wraps around the edges and meets up perfectly with the stainless steel bottom half. The crown dial and subtle “Recents” button are the only things that break up the polished gemstone look.

This is the part where I was going to talk about how the Pixel Watch is smaller than most smartwatches. However, the technical dimensions tell me the Pixel Watch is bigger than the 40mm Galaxy Watch 5 I was wearing beforehand. It’s amazing how much that rounded design makes the watch look and feel petite.

The other advantage of the rounded design is you can wear the watch comfortably for sleep tracking. I’ve never liked wearing gadgets while sleeping, but I barely noticed the Pixel Watch on my wrist. The bands are comfortable, and there’s nothing for your clothes or sheets to catch on.

Pixel Watch bands quick release.
Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

Speaking of bands, let’s talk about Google’s proprietary watch bands and quick-release mechanism. First of all, I don’t like proprietary bands. Google doesn’t have hundreds of companies standing by to pump out accessories like Apple does, so the selection will always be limited. Proprietary bands are also generally more expensive. It’s one of the most disappointing parts of the watch for me.

To make matters worse, it’s not even that great of a mechanism. There’s a small button that you press down so the band can slide over it. I always feel like my finger is in the way when I’m doing this. Putting bands on is easier, but I’ve had trouble removing them. I think regular ol’ quick-release bands (with a simple spring bar) are easier to use.

Pixel Watch buttons.
Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

The last design feature to talk about is the buttons. One is a “crown” dial that also acts as a button, while the second is just a plain button. The crown has a good feel to it and works well, but the second button is not in a great spot. It’s on the bottom half of the watch and above the dial, which makes me feel like I have to reach for it more than I would like. As a result, I haven’t used the button much.

Overall, I think the design is the strongest point of the Pixel Watch. Google got this part right. I really like how it looks, and it’s very comfortable to wear. My biggest gripe comes from the proprietary bands. I can admit it looks pretty slick to have the band seamlessly merge into the watch’s body, but I’d rather not be limited to a small selection of bands.

Software: Misses the Mark

Pixel Watch app list.
Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

  • Wear OS version: 3.5

Let’s talk software. This is Google’s strength, right? I much prefer the UI on Pixel phones over any other Android skin, and I was hoping for more of the same on the Pixel Watch. Well…

The Pixel Watch is running Wear OS 3.5, and this is really our first look at what Google itself thinks Wear OS should look like. On pure aesthetics, I like what Google is doing. It has the same vibe as the Pixel UI for phones: bold fonts, simple icons, matching accent colors throughout the UI, and the occasional gradient. Google’s watch faces and Tiles are nice, and I like how notifications look.

However, the way the software actually functions is a different story. Switching from the Galaxy Watch 5—also Wear OS—I was not expecting the Pixel Watch to feel as disorienting as moving from Android to iPhone. The Pixel Watch software feels like a completely different OS, and I’m not sure I like it.

Pixel Watch UI
Pixel Watch UI navigation flow. Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

One of the reasons I prefer the Pixel UI on phones is simplicity. I’ve been hard on Samsung for bloating its phones with features, whereas Google doesn’t do that. The Pixel Watch (and its companion app) take this approach too far. I feel very restricted, and some important things are straight-up missing.

A few great examples are the Do Not Disturb and Bedtime modes. When you enable either one, it isn’t reflected on the companion device. So if you turn on Do Not Disturb on your phone, notifications will still buzz the Pixel Watch. Kinda defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? This same feature works as expected on the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy watches.

Pixel Watch weather Tile.
Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

Speaking of Samsung watches, there’s one thing Google changed that I like. The Tiles—which are essentially app widgets—are in a looping carousel that you can swipe left or right through. However, Samsung houses the Tiles on the right side of the watch face only. If you use a lot of Tiles, it’s pretty annoying to get to the end of the list.

A change I don’t like is that the app list isn’t a swipe away on the home screen. You have to press the crown button to open it. The app list features a vertical layout with one app per line, and you can only see about three apps at a time on the 1.2-inch display. I much prefer Samsung’s grid of app icons, which can even be rearranged—Google’s is locked to alphabetical order.

Pixel Watch and companion app.
Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

The companion Pixel Watch app is well-designed, but it’s incredibly barebones. Samsung’s Wear companion app allows you to control pretty much everything from your phone, whereas Google’s has very few options. Samsung’s aforementioned app grid, for example, can be rearranged on the phone. I kept looking around for more settings in the Pixel Watch app and there just wasn’t much to see.

The Best of Google?

You would expect a smartwatch from Google to offer some sort of elevated experience with Google’s many services. That’s not the case at all with the Pixel Watch. Google’s Wear OS apps are available on Samsung Galaxy Watches too. Google Assistant, Maps, Wallet, Keep, Home, and even Google’s Weather app are all there.

The main “Google apps” you can’t use on other Wear OS smartwatches are the Pixel Watch faces and Fitbit apps. Otherwise, your Galaxy Watch can be just as Google-y as the Pixel Watch. Even paired with a Pixel 7, I don’t feel like I’m getting any better of an experience by using two Google devices together.

Honestly, I could share quite a few more knit picks with the software, but it all boils down to feeling unfinished. Wear OS can be much, much better than this. All you have to do is look at a Galaxy watch. It’s a little frustrating that this is the best Google could do.

Fitness Features

Pixel Watch Fitbit UI.
Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

Fitbit is a big part of what Google is selling with the Pixel Watch—the box has “With Fitbit” plastered on the front. After acquiring Fitbit in 2019 (finalized in 2021), this is our first look at a Google device with Fitbit integration. Well, actually, “integration” is a strong word.

The “integration” is nothing more than some Fitbit apps on the watch and the ability to connect to the Fitbit mobile app. “With Fitbit” is an accurate description. The Pixel Watch certainly doesn’t feel like a Fitbit—it’s a smartwatch that happens to use Fitbit.

Integration aside, how does Fitbit actually work with the Pixel Watch? Three Fitbit apps are installed on the device: Fitbit ECG, Fitbit Exercise, and Fitbit Today. The ECG app and sensors are designed to detect atrial fibrillation (AFib); it instructs you to place your finger on the crown and sit still for an accurate recording.

Fitbit apps on Pixel Watch.
Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

Fitbit Exercise and Today are pretty standard fitness apps. “Exercise” is where you’ll find activities to track, like running, walking, CrossFit, biking, and much more. “Today” is a readout of your steps, calories burned, heart rate, and other daily metrics. The Fitbit apps are well-designed and easy to use, and their Tiles are great too.

One thing the Fitbit integration is lacking is automatic workout detection. This is a standard feature on the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy watches, and it’s a super handy fallback for those times when you forget to start tracking. While it may seem like a small thing, this is a glaring omission when compared to the competition.

Enough about integration; let’s talk data. I went for a run with the Pixel Watch/Fitbit and the Galaxy Watch 5/Samsung Health. The results were within what I would consider a reasonable deviation.

Running Stats Pixel Watch + Fitbit Galaxy Watch 5 + Samsung Health
Distance 4.02 miles 3.97 miles
Average Pace 8:36 8:50
Average Heart Rate 181 bpm 176 bpm
Max Heart Rate 198 bpm 199 bpm
Average Speed 6.9 mph n/a
Calories Burned 594 Cal 554 Cal
Average Cadence 163 spm n/a

The real story is in how much data you get from each device and its respective app. The Fitbit app shows far less information than Samsung Health. That’s partly due to the Pixel Watch missing some sensors.

It doesn’t have temperature or bioimpedance sensors (body composition), and its blood-oxygen tracker is not yet enabled. More than that, the Fitbit app is intended to be simple, so you’re presented with far less data to sift through.

As I mentioned, the Pixel Watch is very comfortable to wear, so I decided to give sleep tracking a try. This is one thing the watch can automatically detect. And in my testing, it seems to work pretty well. My start and end times were mostly accurate, and my sleep score was a pretty good representation of how I felt I slept. The only problem with sleep tracking is battery life, but more on that later.

Fitbit sleep results.

The elephant in the room is Fitbit Premium. Pixel Watch users get six months of free Premium—just enough time to get you hooked. After that, you’ll need to pay $10 per month for detailed sleep tracking, Daily Readiness, breathing rate, stress management, and more. You don’t need Premium to use the Pixel Watch, but it’s annoying that many of these things are basic features included with the Apple Watch and Galaxy Watches for free.

Fitbit is a definite improvement over Google Fit, but there’s a long way to go before the Pixel Watch can be considered a serious fitness device. There’s just too much missing. Google seems to want to position the Pixel Watch as an Apple Watch competitor before it has even beat the other Wear OS devices.

Battery Life & Performance

Pixel Watch on charger.
Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

  • Battery: 294 mAh
  • Charging: 18W
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Storage: 32GB
  • CPU: Exynos 9110

The Pixel Watch has a 294 mAh battery, and Google claims it can get “up to 24 hours” of battery life. That has been pretty accurate in my testing, but I wouldn’t say that’s a good thing.

Now, if you don’t care about sleep tracking, I think the battery life is mostly fine—especially if you’re in the habit of charging every night. You can still make it the full 24 hours and a bit more if you wear the watch all night, but that leaves you in an awkward charging situation. I typically woke up with around 20-30% battery left, and those were days when I didn’t do any activity tracking.

You’ll have to decide if you want to charge the watch right away in the morning or top it off sometime before sleep so it’s not so depleted when you get out of bed. The good news is the Pixel Watch charges very quickly. If you wake up with around 20%, it will charge up to 100% in under an hour.

Pixel Watch heart rate monitoring.
Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

One thing that absolutely hurts battery life is the 24/7 heart rate tracking. The Pixel Watch takes your heart rate every second of every hour of every day, and you can’t turn it off. This is yet another area where Google simply doesn’t give you enough control. On other watches, you can decide how frequently you want your heart rate to be recorded.

General performance is totally fine. The Pixel Watch has a four-year-old processor, but I didn’t notice a significant downgrade compared to the performance of the Galaxy Watch 5’s newer processor. That could be thanks to the 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage.

Overall, I give battery life a passing grade, but just barely. You will need to find a good charging routine if you use sleep tracking. Those who aren’t interested in sleep tracking will have no problem making it through the day but don’t expect to stretch that to two days. Performance isn’t something to worry about.

The Best Smartwatches of 2022

Best Smartwatch Overall
Apple Watch Series 8
Best Budget Smartwatch
Amazfit GTS 2 Mini
Best Fitness Tracker
Garmin Venu 2
Best Smartwatch for Battery Life
Fitbit Versa 3
Best Smartwatch for Kids
TickTalk 4
Best Android Smartwatch
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5
Best Smartwatch Overall
Apple Watch Series 8

Should You Buy the Google Pixel Watch?

Pixel watch next to a Galaxy Watch 5
Pixel Watch vs. Galaxy Watch 5. Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

The last thing to talk about is pricing. The Pixel Watch costs $350 ($400 for LTE). There’s no getting around the fact that it’s an expensive smartwatch. For comparison, the Apple Watch Series 8 is $400, and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 is $280.

Frankly, the Pixel Watch is at least $100 overpriced. Of the three watches mentioned above, the Pixel Watch is firmly in third place in terms of features. As much as I like the hardware and design, it’s not enough to justify paying $80 more than the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, which I still consider to be the best Android-compatible smartwatch.

On top of the upfront cost, you also have to think about the extras. Google’s cheapest band for the Pixel Watch is $50. You can get a comparable universal 20mm silicone band on Amazon for less than $10. And if you get hooked on those Fitbit Premium features, you’re paying an extra $10 per month just to use the watch to its fullest.

Look, I’m usually willing to overlook some flaws for a first-generation product, but this feels different. The Pixel Watch is not a Kickstarter project. This is a device from the third-largest tech company in the world. Google has had plenty of time to work on Wear OS and consider what people love about the Apple Watch.

The Pixel Watch feels like a quiz handed in by a kid who wasn’t paying attention in class. There’s a clear list of features you must have to compete with the Apple Watch and Samsung’s best Galaxy Watch. Google did not check all of those boxes, but it priced the Pixel Watch as if it did. The Galaxy Watch 5 is still the clear choice for an Android-compatible smartwatch. Take notes, Google.

Rating:
5/10
Price:
Starting At $350

Here’s What We Like

  • Excellent minimal design
  • Very comfortable to wear
  • Pixel UI looks nice on a watch
  • Solid performance

And What We Don't

  • Way too expensive
  • Battery life is barely passable
  • Software feels unfinished
  • Proprietary bands
  • Fitbit "integration" is nothing special
Profile Photo for Joe Fedewa Joe Fedewa
Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has been covering consumer technology for over a decade and previously worked as Managing Editor at XDA-Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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