After a mixed debut, here are the features we want in a second-gen Pixel Watch
The Google Pixel Watch was one of the more interesting devices that arrived in 2022 – not least because we’ve been waiting the best part of five years for the rumors to finally come to life.
And while there were some elements Google knocked out of the park with its debut device, like the classy design, strong Wear OS performance and industry-leading sleep tracking, it also had some catastrophic lows.
Elements such as the poor battery life, in fact, hold it back from even being the top smartwatch for Android users – a title we’d still give to Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 5 series – let alone the best smartwatch on the market.
It also meant we had a tough time awarding the Pixel Watch as one of the Wareable Tech Awards winners for 2022, despite plenty of nominations.
Ultimately, though, it isn’t the first device to suffer from debut jitters, and we’re expecting Google to remedy some of the sore spots for the Pixel Watch 2.
We’re still some way off the second-gen smartwatch arriving – with it likely launching in October 2023 at the earliest – but, below, we’ve highlighted six ways Google can get closer to the smartwatch summit.
Improve the battery life
There’s no other place to start, really. The battery life on the Pixel Watch is as crippling as we’ve experienced on a big-name smartwatch, and it means what should be a 24/7 device very rarely performs as such.
Unless you’re willing to make some pretty big compromises, such as charging it overnight or carrying a charger with you pretty much all the time, the Pixel Watch’s staying power is a good few hours off being useable.
Google claims 24-hour life with the original model, and, while this is able to be squeezed out, we often found supplies start to run dry after around 15-20 hours.
As we say, there will be some users who won’t find this a problem, but anybody interested in features like untethered exercise tracking or the always-on display will be charging at least once per day, and that’s fairly unforgivable.
The good news is that it can only really get better from here, but the bad news is that it will have to double (at least) to match rival models like the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch.
Just how much Google improves the battery life will likely be a big determining factor in how the Pixel Watch 2 is received, so here’s hoping it’s able to blow the original’s capabilities out of the water.
Boost the internals
Much has been made about the Pixel Watch’s use of an older Exynos 9110 10nm SoC, which is a generation behind the Galaxy Watch 5.
And while the experience of using the Pixel Watch didn’t suffer (thanks in part to 32GB of RAM on board), it’s going to need cutting-edge power management and efficiency to catch up with rivals in the battery department.
Indeed, in our interview with Fossil’s VP of Product Brook Eaton, he told Wareable that Wear OS 3 was an “opportunity to start to do more with the coprocessor” to boost battery life.
For Pixel Watch 2, we want Google to wow us with Wear OS’s true potential.
Deliver a health tracking innovation
The Pixel Watch offers the odd premium health tracking feature, such as the ability to take ECG readings, but, overall, it’s an area where the watch feels at least a couple of generations out of date.
And with Fitbit proving to be an innovator in this niche previously, we’d love to see Google carry the mantle and put more of an emphasis on health tracking in the Pixel Watch 2.
We’ve seen Samsung pioneer features like tethered blood pressure readings and body composition analysis from the wrist, and Apple has recently debuted women-focused health features off the back of the Series 8’s temperature sensor.
The Pixel Watch 2 needs all these same features if it’s going to become a serious alternative, but it also needs to offer something you can’t get on other smartwatches.
Porting over the Fitbit Sense 2’s continuous electrodermal sensor for deeper stress insights would be a good start, but, really, the Pixel Watch 2 should be aiming for an exclusive headline health feature.
Something like an early version of glucose monitoring still obviously feels like a way away even for established smartwatch manufacturers, so we wouldn’t count on Google being the blazer of that trail, despite its obvious financial might.
However, native blood pressure monitoring could represent a possible avenue, or perhaps Google goes all-in on hydration tracking.
Whatever it is, it needs a standout health feature to avoid it becoming lost in the shuffle.
Offer a larger case size option
While it’s not unusual for smartwatch manufacturers to offer a singular case size, this feels like an easy area in which Google can help give the Pixel Watch more appeal next time around – as well as close the gap to Apple and Samsung.
We actually loved the design of the debut smartwatch – so much so, we’d argue it’s the nicest-looking on the market – but a slightly bigger option for those with larger wrists certainly wouldn’t go amiss.
We should applaud, as well, the fact the Pixel Watch’s 41mm case size was the most unisex one-size option we’ve seen in a smartwatch.
In the past, rivals have often made their singular case option far too big for most women and those with smaller wrists, so at least the Pixel Watch didn’t fall foul of that trope.
As an aside to a larger case option, more case colors would be a natural addition, as well, but this bothers us much less.
Enhance the sports tracking experience
For most people, we think that the sports tracking experience on the Pixel Watch is at a good level. All the basic metrics are present during workouts, and, due to the Fitbit integration, it’s all kept in a hub that allows you to intuitively access the feedback.
However, with some improvements, it could really begin to threaten the top smartwatches.
We found some minor accuracy issues with the heart rate monitor at high intensities during testing, and the GPS, while certainly good enough to get by, doesn’t offer any different tracking types for when you need that bit more reliability.
Then there’s the depth of these tracking features. We’re beginning to see smartwatches become much more capable sports watches, providing more advanced in-workout and post-workout feedback, and the Pixel Watch still feels a couple of years behind some alternatives.
Streamline the Fitbit integration
By and large, the Fitbit integration with the Pixel Watch is very strong – it syncs perfectly well with the Fitbit app, and the on-watch experience makes it feel like a proper tie-in without compromises.
We also didn’t have an issue with the way the Pixel Watch app was split from the Fitbit app. Google is far from the only culprit in this regard, and, really, as we found, you’ll actually be spending most of your time in the Fitbit app.
However, the fact you need separate logins for Fitbit and Google does feel a little unnecessary. It’s a small one, but it would help Fitbit feel a bit more like part of the family, rather than a tacked-on collaborator.