Published On: Wed, Jan 18th, 2023

Google Pixel Watch review: Superb watch stifled by bad battery


Google Pixel Watch Review

Pixel Watch review: Google has created a stunning first-attempt at a smartwatch (Image: GOOGLE)

Google Pixel is a stunning smartwatch with a best-in-class Fitbit experience …but it’s plagued by awful battery life

What We Love

  • Stunning Industrial Design
  • Gorgeous Clock Faces
  • Great Watch Strap Options
  • Superb Fitbit Experience
  • Fast Charging
  • Seriously, That Design

What We Don’t

  • Only One Size Available
  • Fiddly Band Switching
  • Expensive
  • Awful Battery Life

Google Pixel Watch is one of the best-looking smartwatches around: its stunning circular design and curved glass give it the appearance of a gorgeous, perfectly-formed teardrop.

Whether you’re working up a sweat in the gym, trekking in the mountains, open-water swimming, or clinking glasses in a cocktail bar… the Pixel Watch will always look exquisite, unisex, and feel extremely comfortable on your wrist.

Regrettably, the software experience from Wear OS isn’t quite as seamless as the exterior. And when it comes to battery life, Pixel Watch is bottom of the leaderboard by some margin.

Of course, the Pixel Watch is the first stab at a smartwatch from Google, so it’s severely disadvantaged in side-by-side comparisons with the Samsung Galaxy Watch range, Fitbit Sense, and …which have all been gradually fine-tuned and improved with years of incremental upgrades.

However, with a price tag of £339, Google Pixel Watch is often more expensive than its more experienced competition. And that does invite side-by-side comparisons.

There’s no doubt, Google Pixel Watch is a diamond in the rough – it harbours vast amounts of potential and that is very exciting. But anyone looking to treat themselves to a new smartwatch today might be better suited with another option, or keeping their savings locked away until the inevitable second-generation Pixel Watch (hopefully) unleashes some of thet untapped potential we’ve seen in this first attempt from the makers.

google pixel watch green design

Pixel Watch has a circular display – not the ubiquitous square touchscreen (Image: GOOGLE )

Google Pixel Watch review

Pixel Watch was rumoured almost as soon as the first-generation Apple Watch hit store shelves worldwide. A steady stream of blurry paparazzi shots from factory floors and whispers of planned features kept the dream alive. But with each new hardware event and Google IO without any word on the Pixel Watch …hopes soon started to fade.

And then, out of nowhere, Google announced the long-awaited Pixel Watch in late 2022 alongside its all-new .

But a lot has changed in the seven years since the launch of that first-generation Apple Watch.

First off, Apple Watch has become the best-selling watch on the planet and introduced a slew of new fitness capabilities. Meanwhile, rivals like Samsung have used the time to steadily refine their smartwatches with features like fast-charging, an electrocardiogram, and a bioelectrical impedance analysis sensor to measure body fat and skeletal muscle.

Google has tried to compensate for its late arrival into the category by acquiring Fitbit, which has developed an array of hugely-popular fitness trackers and smartwatches. This incredibly savvy move allows the Pixel Watch to benefit from a number of clever fitness features from Fitbit.

But despite the brilliance of the Fitbit fitness features, Google Pixel Watch still feels like a mixed bag. This is only exacerbated by the fact that it’s sitting alongside rivals – like the latest from Apple and Samsung – with years of software and hardware tweaks to refine the experience. In comparison, Pixel Watch feels like a pretty rough diamond.

Scroll down for our in-depth Pixel Watch review, with everything you need to know about this long-rumoured smartwatch.

Design

Pixel Watch is one of the best-looking smartwatch we’ve ever strapped onto our wrists. Seriously, it’s gorgeous.

Google’s wrist-worn gadget has an incredibly compact design – with its always-on display measuring 41mm in diameter. For comparison, Samsung offers its Galaxy Watch5 with a choice of either 40mm or 44mm, Galaxy Watch5 Pro boasts a larger 45mm screen, and Apple Watch Series 8 ships in either 41mm or 45mm. So, Pixel Watch is pretty much in line with the competition’s smallest watches.

Those who want more screen real estate from their smartwatch will need to look elsewhere since, with this first-generation hardware at least, Google has settled for a one-size-fits-all approach.

Pixel Watch opts for a circular design, similar to hardware we’ve seen from Samsung and Motorola over the years, which means it can easily be mistaken for a traditional timepiece from a distance. For our money, the round design is a nice change of pace from the dominance of square-shaped smartwatches, thanks to the huge marketshare of Apple and Fitbit.

That circular screen also means traditional clock faces look much more at-home on Pixel Watch than the slightly awkward circular faces floating in the middle of the Apple Watch. That said, whereas the square-shape of the Apple Watch makes reading notifications, checking turn-by-turn notifications and scrolling through calendar appointments a complete breeze – these same smartwatch features can be a little awkward on the round display. At the default font size, text is clipped by the edges of the screen as you scroll.

For our money, the circular design of the Pixel Watch is a nice change of pace from the ubiquity of square-shaped smartwatches

Aside from the round face, Google has also fitted its smartwatch with a glass dome that covers the screen.

According to the US company, this particular design flourish was inspired by droplets of water and is supposed to guarantee the Pixel Watch easier slides underneath a cuff or coat sleeve when checking the time. Admittedly, in our time with the smartwatch, we’ve never had any issue with the Pixel Watch snagging on our cuffs when checking a notification.

That said, it’s not something that we’ve struggled with when using any other smartwatches either.

What the droplet-like design definitely does offer is jaw-droppingly gorgeous hardware that really stands out from the crowd. The delicate, curved screen ensures the Pixel Watch never looks out of place when dressed up for an evening out in your finest …something that cannot be said of more rugged watches, like the Garmin Fēnix 6 or .

The one-of-a-kind bulbous design also creates an optical illusion that makes the Pixel Watch look much more compact than some of its competitors – despite it sharing the same screen size as many of its closest rivals. If you prefer a chunky, Dive Watch-style design for your wristwork jewellery, then you’re going to be disappointed with the latest from Google.

There is a crown on the right side of the Pixel Watch, which is used to scroll through menus without covering the touchscreen with greasy smudges. It also means you won’t cover the contents on-screen. Apple has opted for a similar solution, and it works very well in both cases.

For our money, we still prefer the spinning bezel seen on some Samsung-designed smartwatches, but your mileage may vary.

Google has fitted a single button above the crown, which has an incredibly low profile. Seriously, it’s almost flush with the rest of the case – that takes some time to get used to.

Google Pixel Watch UK

Pixel Watch is only available in a single screen size: 41mm (Image: GOOGLE)

The last design quirk to address is the propriety quick-release mechanism used to change straps. Unlike Samsung, Google doesn’t allow Pixel Watch owners to pair bands with the standard 20mm watch fitting with its gadget timepiece, instead you’ll need to purchase specific straps from the Google Store or Amazon UK.

Google has crafted some stunning straps for its new wearable, including Active bands for workouts, Stretch bands with no clasp that need to be pulled onto your wrist, woven bands, and two-tone leather designs. This should cater to most activities – whether you’re swimming in a pool, out to dinner, attending a job interview, or jogging.

Google has picked colours designed to complement the rest of its hardware lineup, including the Pixel 7 Pro smartphone and Pixel Buds Pro.

Unfortunately, switching to a brand-new strap is not a painless process, thanks to the finicky mechanism found on the Pixel Watch. Straps are locked in place with a twist, like securing the lens of a camera. It results in a very tight, secure fit with no unsightly gaps. But there’s no sugar-coating it, it’s not a fun process. As a result, you might miss out on the fun of customising your smartwatch for a particular event or outfit, which is a shame.

Wear OS Software

Pixel Watch is powered by the latest version of Google’s Wear OS operating system. With the arrival of a Google-designed smartwatch, we’d hope to see a renewed focus on this software, which has languished in recent years – allowing it to be lapped multiple times by rival watchOS from Apple.

Sure, Wear OS isn’t as slick as the competition, but it does the basics very well. And those who are deeply in Android will find that it integrates well with their existing setup and hardware.

For starters, Pixel Watch brings hands-free access to the Google Assistant from your wrist. Raise your wrist, then use the wake phrase “Hey Google” and you’ll be able to dictate text messages, start phone calls, ask for directions from Google Maps, check the weather, get answers to trivia questions, schedule reminders, find out about upcoming calendar appointments, and more.

If you’ve got smart lightbulbs, video doorbells, connected thermostats, or security cameras at home, these can all be controlled with a few swipes (or a voice command) with your Pixel Watch. While this has been possible with rival smartwatches for some time, nothing makes it feel like you’re living in the future more than dimming the lights and cranking up the heating for movie night using your watch.

Google Pay is preinstalled for tap-to-pay contactless payments with the Pixel Watch. As long as your bank allows you to pair your credit or debit card with an Android phone, you’ll be able to use contactless payments with the Pixel Watch too.

As you’d expect from a Google-designed wearable, turn-by-turn directions are handled by Google Maps, music streaming via YouTube Music, smart home gadgets are managed with Google Home, notes are managed with Google Keep, and appointments can be scheduled with Google Cal.

There’s a solid amount of third-party support too, so you’ll be able to download Wear OS apps for Spotify, MyFitnessPal, Calm, and Strava, to name a few. That said, there are some pretty high-profile omissions in the catalogue, so you’ll want to check whether that one app that you rely on every day is available before you add the Pixel Watch to your shopping basket.

google pixel watch water resistant

The Pixel Watch case is water resistant, so you don’t need to worry about rainfall …or a swim (Image: GOOGLE)

Fitness Features

Fitbit was acquired by Google last year. However, if you haven’t been keeping abreast of the latest Silicon Valley buyouts and deals, it might be a little jarring to see the Fitbit app preinstalled on your Pixel Watch. Not only that, but Google bundles a six-month subscription to its Fitbit Premium service with every purchase too.

After all, Google has its own fitness tracking app – Google Fit – that’s available on Wear OS smartwatches and Android phones.

Confusingly, Google Fit is technically available on Pixel Watch, but it’s not installed out-of-box, so you’ll need to seek it out in the Play Store. Even more baffling, while Google Fit can record your steps and GPS in the background, it’s unavailable to access continuous heart-rate data from the sensor fitted to the Pixel Watch. Instead, this functionality is exclusive to the Fitbit app.

If you’re a longterm Google Fit users, Pixel Watch owners might want to use the Google Takeout app to export fitness data from Google Fit into the Fitbit app. This will enable you to store all of your data, including historic heart health information and GPS data from past workouts, in a single place.

Aside from the confusion about whether this is an all-Google device (as its place alongside the likes of the Pixel 7 Pro in the lineup would suggest) or a flagship Fitbit smartwatch to replace the Fitbit Sense (as the reliance on Fitbit technology seems to imply) the fitness tracking baked into the Pixel Watch is pretty solid.

While Wear OS is undoubtedly behind the competition, Fitbit packs a number of features that you won’t find on the market-leading Apple Watch, like Daily Readiness Score, which analyses recent data to assess whether you’re ready to workout or should prioritise recovery.

Daily Readiness Score is designed to help you prioritise your overall well-being by ensuring you’re not pushing your body to the limit each day without time to rest and recoup.

Google Pixel Watch Fitbit

Fitness tracking on the Pixel Watch is handled entirely by Fitbit (Image: GOOGLE)

Elsewhere, Fitbit offers a slew of other health features, including continuous heart-rate tracking, ECG, breathing rate, step counts, floors climbed, total calories burned, and detailed sleep tracking with breakdowns of the amount of time spent in light, deep, and REM sleep. You can follow along with step-by-step workouts from Fitbit trainers too.

Challenge friends with Fitbit trackers within the app to launch competitions and fitness-themed games to keep you motivated. You’ll also receive badges when you hit certain milestones.

It’s all incredibly impressive and works flawlessly with the Pixel Watch. There are millions of Fitbit users worldwide, so chances are you’ll have a few friends to challenge within the app …something that seems much less likely if Google had restricted all Pixel Watch owners to its Google Fit experience instead. Nonetheless, the segregation of these two experiences is still a little confusing and we’d hope to see a merging of these two competing services in the near future so the Pixel Watch experience feels a little more cohesive.

Lastly, beware that some Fitbit features are exclusive to its paid-for Fitbit Premium subscription tier. After the six-month subscription bundled with your Pixel Watch, you’ll need to pay £7.99 per month to keep the same health tracking capabilities from your new smartwatch.

Battery Life

The Pixel Watch’s battery life is shockingly bad. One of the main selling points of this smartwatch is the always-on display – a must-have feature for any modern smartwatch – yet, with this setting enabled, you’ll struggle to make it to the end of the day without the Pixel Watch dying on your wrist. Yes, it’s that bad.

Compared with the latest hardware from Fitbit, which easily endures a couple of days between charges, the lithium-ion cell tucked inside the Pixel Watch is appallingly short-lived. Apple Watch owners are accustomed to charging their wearable every 24-hours, but that means you’re able to get through an entire day of workouts, steps, and one night of sleep tracking before you have to reach for the plug.

With the Pixel Watch, we’d have to charge the smartwatch before setting about our day, then charge again before thinking about trying the sleep tracking. Believe it or not, that’s with the battery saver mode permanently enabled.

Killing the always-on display means the Pixel Watch is guaranteed to last a full day away from the charger. But you’ll still want to keep the bundled charging puck nearby if you want to track sleep (a requirement to take advantage of useful features like the Fitbit Daily Readiness Score, for example).

Bafflingly, the Pixel Watch follows a swathe of smartphones from the team at Google, including the Pixel 6a and Pixel 7 Pro, with industry-leading battery life. These handsets are almost unkillable with the battery saver mode enabled, despite boasting cutting-edge features like 5G supports, always-on displays, and more.

Pixel Watch battery life charging

Charging the Pixel Watch doesn’t take long, but you’ll be doing it pretty frequently (Image: GOOGLE)

Pricing and Availability

Pixel Watch starts from £339 for the Wi-Fi only model. If you want to be able to make and receive calls and texts when your paired phone is out of Bluetooth range, you’ll need the pricier 4G LTE model, which costs £379 in the UK. All Pixel Watch models ships with the Active Band, with the other straps sold separately for £59 for the Stretch band, £59 for the Woven band, and £79 for Leather bands.

Pixel Watch paired with Pixel 7 Pro

Pixel Watch is designed to compliment the design of other Pixel-branded products from Google (Image: GOOGLE)

Final Verdict

Pixel Watch is a mixed bag. The gorgeous hardware design is stylish, compact and elegant. Whether you’re looking to keep tabs on your activity in the gym or want a feature-packed timepiece to wear to dinner, the Pixel Watch looks the part.

The sleek circular design is a stark reminder of just how stagnant the design of its closest rivals, Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch, has become – with both of these gadgets keeping things largely unchanged for the last half-decade or so.

Wear OS is stable and competent, with support for some of the biggest third-party fitness and music apps. However, we’d like to see Google go all-in on either Google Fit or Fitbit as the current situation is pretty messy (if you want to pair the Pixel Watch with a Samsung phone, you’ll have Samsung Health competing for your health data too…)

Pixel Watch is stylish, compact and elegantly designed …but the terrible battery life really diminishes the overall experience

It’s a real shame that terrible battery life diminishes the experience of using the Pixel Watch. With any luck, Google will address this problem in subsequent updates. But for now, those who don’t want to keep a charging cable in their backpack or want an always-on display might be better suited with a rival wearable.

This wouldn’t be such a dealbreaker if the Pixel Watch wasn’t so pricey compared to its competition.

The Pixel Watch has the foundations of a truly exceptional smartwatch, whether the problems with this first-generation model can be quashed with software updates remains to be seen. Certainly, a second-generation smartwatch seems like it could offer a real alternative to Samsung and Apple …but only time will tell.





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