I'm impressed by what I've visually seen of the Google Pixel Watch so far, but if 9to5Google's (opens in new tab) source is correct then that attractive exterior is actually sitting on top of a markedly old interior – one that is actually 4 years old.
According to the source, the system on a chip inside the Pixel Watch is the Exynos 9110. That's the same system that was in the original Samsung Galaxy Watch, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3.
In other words, Google's 2022 smartwatch will be running on a chip from 2018. Uh oh! That doesn't fill me with confidence at all.
The report is surprising, because most industry watchers thought Google would be using the same chipset as the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, the Exynos W920. That's a 5nm processor with Cortex-A55 cores, but the one Google is apparently going with is a 10nm processor with Cortex-A53s. According to Samsung, the newer system on a chip delivers 20% better performance and ten times the graphic performance of its predecessor.
So why is Google using such an old chip, and should we care?
Pixel Watch: on, off and on again
The most likely explanation is that the Pixel Watch has been in development for ages, and in the early stages the Exynos 9110 was the state of the smartwatch art. The Pixel Watch project was cancelled, and when it was finally resurrected the processor didn't change. Maybe the design was too advanced for Google to start again with the newer processors introduced during the Pixel Watch's time in limbo. Or maybe the ongoing chip shortage meant that Samsung can't supply enough of them. Either way, Google is stuck with a chip that was cutting edge four years ago but considerably less cutting now.
So does any of this matter? I think it does, because while CPU and graphics performance aren't as important in watches as they are in phones, tech hasn't stayed still while Google did the will-we-won't-we dance over the Pixel. By the time the Pixel ships we'll be on the Apple Watch Series 8 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, but it's gearing up to battle the Apple Watch Series 4 and the Galaxy Watch 3. Will Fitbit integration be enough to give Google's watch the edge over its more sophisticated rivals?
It feels a bit like history is repeating here: as great as the Pixel phones are, devices such as the Google Pixel 6 and Google Pixel 6 Pro are four-star phones when the equivalent Samsungs are five – so for example while the Google Pixel 6 Pro is the best Pixel phone ever, it's not the best Android phone. That's the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. It seems like Google is setting out to make a good smartwatch in a market where Samsung makes great ones – and the Galaxy Watch 5 is already galloping over the horizon.