As expected, Google announced its second-generation Pixel Watch in 2023 at the Made by Google event in October. And, as anticipated, the Google Pixel Watch 2 is a better smartwatch than its predecessor. It has more features and a refined physical appearance that perfectly aligns with the design philosophy that made the first iteration so iconic.
Saying that the original Google Pixel Watch was the best smartwatch of 2022 would be a bit of a push, but it was an exciting launch, nevertheless. I liked it, although I thought Google had more work to do, so people would seriously consider the Pixel Watch as a viable alternative to the best Apple Watches.
The Pixel Watch 2 edges a bit closer to this goal, but it's not quite there yet. It's sleeker and more capable than before; I really like the new safety features, which I hope more wearable companies will include in their products. Should you buy the new Google Pixel Watch 2? Are the new features exciting enough? Or, more like, are they exciting enough for you to invest in Google's ecosystem? Let's find out.
[First reviewed Oct 2023]
Google Pixel Watch 2 review
Google Pixel Watch 2 review: Price and availability
The Google Pixel Watch 2 was announced in October 2023 and is available to order now directly from Google UK, Google US and Google AU, with prices from £349/ $349/ AU$ 549 (Bluetooth/Wi-Fi-only version). The 4G LTE + Bluetooth/Wi-Fi option is slightly more expensive at £399/ $399/ AU$ 649.
While the price remained the same in the US and Australia, the Google Pixel Watch 2 is sold for a little more in the UK (£349 vs £339 and £399 vs £379, Bluetooth/Wi-Fi-only and 4G LTE + Bluetooth/Wi-Fi version, respectively). The price includes six months of Fitbit Premium and one month of YouTube Music Premium subscriptions.
The Google Pixel Watch 2 is available in four colourways: Polished Silver Aluminium Case/Bay Active Band, Matte Black Aluminium Case/Obsidian Active Band, Champagne Gold Aluminium Case/Hazel Active Band and Polished Silver Aluminium Case/Porcelain Active Band.
Google Pixel Watch 2 review: Specifications
- Dimensions (W x H): 41 mm x 12.3 mm
- Weight: 31 g (without band)
- Case: 100% recycled aluminium
- Lens: Custom 3D Corning Gorilla Glass 5
- Durability: IP68-rated
- Water resistance: 5ATM
- Display: 320 ppi AMOLED Always-on display with DCI-P3 colour, up to 1000 nits brightness
- Connectivity: 4G LTE and UMTS, Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz, NFC
- Chipset: Qualcomm SW5100, Cortex M33 co-processor
- Operating system: Wear OS 4
- Storage: 32 GB
- Memory: 2 GB SDRAM
- Battery life: up to 24 hours (with always-on display)
- Fast charging: yes
Google Pixel Watch 2 review: Design and build quality
- New multi-path heart rate sensor
- Thinner and lighter construction
- cEDA sensor added
The Google Pixel Watch 2 comes in one size (41 mm), similar to its predecessor. However, the wearable has a completely redesigned back with new sensors and the domed cover glass covering the AMOLED Always-on display is thinner. The overall thinness has also been reduced from 13.6 mm to 12.3 mm and weight from 36 grams to 31 grams, thanks to the new housing made from 100% recycled aluminium.
Despite the lighter construction, the Google Pixel Watch 2 has the same IP68 rating as its predecessor. The watch is swim-proof with an official water rating of 5ATM. There is a Swim option among the workout modes, so it'd be strange if you couldn't use it in the water; however, it's not suited for either free diving or scuba diving, unlike the Apple Watch Ultra 2 (probably stating the obvious here).
It's the back of the watch that received the most significant update. The Google Pixel Watch 2 has a new multi-path optical heart rate sensor that's said to provide better readings in challenging situations, such as intense HIIT workouts. The sensor can automatically switch between single and multi-path modes to provide the most optimal (i.e. less battery-intense) operation.
Google also added a cEDA sensor, which is another tech borrowed from the best Fitbits, namely the Fitbit Sense 2. It measures continuous electrodermal activity (microscopic beads of sweat), which is used for body-response (a.k.a. stress) tracking.
Google Pixel Watch 2 review: (New) features
- Stress management
- Safety check
- Full suite of Google apps
The Google Pixel Watch 2 is a competent smartwatch. It has a range of health and fitness features, such as ECG, all-day heart rate tracking, automatic exercise recognition, sleep monitoring and more. It might not have quite as many health features as the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6, nor is it as competent for tracking workouts as the Apple Watch Series 9, but it's pretty good, in general, for monitoring basic health stats.
Google is doing the same thing with the Pixel Watch 2 as it did with the original Pixel Watch, namely advertising features as new despite said features being readily available on other devices. They are new to the Pixel Watch, sure, but not new to the world. A good example is the stress management feature, which is based on the cEDA sensor borrowed from the Fitbit Sense 2.
Another feature and a personal favourite of mine, Safety Check, has been borrowed from the Pixel phone. It allows you to schedule a timer for specific 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.
I appreciate that there is no such thing as a brand-new feature these days; brands take and improve upon aspects of what makes other products popular. And there is nothing wrong with that. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, and if including Pixel phone features on the Pixel Watch 2 will improve user experience, so be it.
The Pixel Watch 2 now has a full suite of Google apps, including Gmail, Calendar and Google Assistant, available straight out of the box, something the original Pixel Watch struggled with. Again, I can't help but feel that we're lagging slightly behind Apple here, which just rolled out offline Siri and has seamless connectivity with iPhones.
This segues me nicely into the topic of connectivity. Google's wearable only works with smartphones running Android (completely understandable). However, Android comes in many flavours, some of which are pretty random, hindering that effortless connection between phone and watch. Truth be told, for the best experience, you need a Pixel phone.
I used a non-Pixel phone for this Google Pixel Watch 2 review, and although it wasn't a terrible experience, I could feel the difference. It's not even that you need multiple apps to access all data; it just feels a bit clunky, that's all. If you want the best Pixel experience, you need the whole ecosystem, like how you need an iPhone and a MacBook to enjoy the best the Apple Watch has to offer.
Google Pixel Watch 2 review: Health and fitness tracking
The Google Pixel Watch 2 tracks and monitors all metrics a decent smartwatch in 2023 should. It goes beyond that by measuring stress, temperature, and a bunch of other health data. Most of this tracking is automatic; it wouldn't make sense to start sleep tracking manually, for example.
Fitbits automatically recognise certain exercises, which plays a part in why they are regarded as the best fitness trackers. While most smartwatches ask you if started doing something, Fitbits just log it without asking you, so I expected the Google Pixel Watch 2 to do the same. And it does that (but also doesn't).
In my experience, the question kicks in a bit late, well after it should have. I tend to walk with a purpose in the morning when I'm trying to catch the train to work, yet the Pixel Watch waits around 12-13 minutes to ask me if I started walking. By then, I already did 1 km, and although it logs that distance, I still think it would be beneficial for it to either not ask me or ask me earlier.
Even if you dismiss the prompt to log the workout, the watch still does it in the Fitbit app, so I wonder what's the point in asking me in the first place? As always, it feels that Google hasn't quite figured out its relationship with Fitbit or how the Fitbit app works.
Speaking of the Fitbit app, I like the new look. Sure, it feels more like a Pixel Watch companion app than the community platform it used to, but that's an inevitable consequence of the assimilation into the Google ecosystem. The updated user interface is easy to navigate, and the app generally looks neater.
The ever-so-slight issue I have with the Fitbit app is that it was designed as a companion app for fitness trackers, not smartwatches. The Google Pixel Watch 2 doesn't track advanced running and cycling metrics like the Apple Watch Series 9, so it's not a terrible issue, but the data you get out of the Pixel Watch 2 and the Fitbit app is rudimentary, at best.
Circling back to the tracking capabilities of the Pixel Watch 2, I found the GPS to be slow to pick up signals. On a more positive note, you can wait around until the GPS is latched on, which is better than the Apple Watch's countdown approach. The watch seems to track distances fairly accurately, though, especially for a non-performance wearable.
Google Pixel Watch 2 review: Battery life
I wasn't blown away by the battery life and especially the charging speed of the original Pixel Watch. The least I'd expect of a wearable that needs continuous charging is for it to charge fast, so I can just pop it on the puck for five minutes and keep wearing it afterwards.
Thankfully, the Pixel Watch 2 introduces significant improvements in both categories. Battery life has been increased to 24 hours with the always-on display active, and the wearable can go from zero to 100 per cent of charge in 75 minutes. I'd like it if there was a 5-minute quick top-up option, but the watch charges comparatively fast, and dropping it on the charger for 45-60 minutes a day will allow some time for your wrist to breathe.
Google Pixel Watch 2 review: Verdict
It's hard not to draw a comparison between the Pixel Watch 2 and the Apple Watch Series 9. Apple's wearable has almost a decade's worth of headstart, and some might say it's unfair to expect Google's apex wearable to be capable of the same stunts. But Google has decades of experience collecting user data and optimising user experience, not to mention its resources, so there is that. Not to mention the backing of Fitbit's expertise in tracking health and fitness.
The Pixel Watch 2 is on the right track to catch up with the Apple Watch... eventually. The new wearable is arguably better than its predecessor, but it needs to be further refined still. Let's create an ecosystem that allows people to benefit from what makes Google one of the most successful tech companies in existence.
The form factor is on point, and thankfully, Wear OS isn't a pain to use anymore, thanks to the fast processors and machine learning-optimised processes. Fitbit's tracking is on point, and the apps are improving, too. I'd like it if there were fewer apps involved (Fitbit, Wear OS, Watch and Google Fit), but at least the main ones are good to go, which is excellent.
The user interface is good on the watch, although the mixed tiles/scroll menu combination is a bit confusing. The tiles push Wear OS functions and hide others; ideally, I'd like to see all my main stats using the tiles, not just a few. Overall, the experience is far from terrible, and it's a pleasure to view the interactions unfold on the beautiful AMOLED display of the Pixel Watch 2.
Google now has to figure out a way to bring it all together. I want a capable smartwatch that's part of a larger ecosystem but dazzles on its own. I want a wearable I can use for tracking workouts both actively and passively. I want a watch that does it all the best way possible because I want nothing less from Google.
And please, please, stop giving the Pixel Watch 2 away for free when people buy a Pixel phone because no one will take an add-on seriously. Ever.
Google Pixel Watch 2 review: Also consider
There is another smartwatch, apart from Samsung's latest wearable, that does Wear OS well: the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 5. It's not nearly as good looking as the Pixel Watch 2, but it's lightning fast and runs the same operating system as Google's top-tier wearable. Read my full Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 5 review.
If you're not that keen on Wear OS, try Huawei's classy Watch GT 4. It's an excellent smartwatch with long battery life, refined features, and improved user experience. It's not perfect, and the Huawei Health app could use a bit of tender loving care, but it's sold for a reasonable price and offers plenty of bang for your buck. Read my full Huawei Watch GT 4 review.