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Google Pixel Watch 2 Hands-on: Fitter and Fitter

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The Google Pixel Watch 2 attacks a number of weaknesses of its predecessor, especially the battery life. In addition, a few exciting features from Fitbit's smartwatch lineup make it onto the new Google watch. You can read more about these features and the drawbacks in the first review of the Pixel Watch 2 at nextpit.

Prices and availability

The Google Pixel Watch 2 launched at the same $349 (Wi-Fi) and $399 (4G) prices as its predecessor. If you are interested in the new Google smartphones at the same time, you should definitely take a look at the pre-order deal for the Pixel 8 Pro—for a short time, you will get the Pixel Watch 2 for free with the flagship phone.

The new Pixel smartphones and the Google Pixel Watch 2 are now available for pre-order. The delivery starts next week.

Design and display

The Google Pixel Watch 2 retains the unique design of the predecessor-with all its advantages and disadvantages. This means that the new model feels like a pebble that has been sucked round by the sea. However, it is only available in one size in 2023, and a larger model with a larger display and battery would have been desirable for massive wrists.

Google Pixel Watch 2
Google Pixel Watch 2 with its digital crown. / © nextpit

The casing is now made of 100% recycled aluminum and is even 10% lighter. Now, at the latest, there's really no excuse not to use the 31 g light watch as a sleep tracker—but we'll come back to that later. The aluminum casing and Corning Gorilla Glass 5 feel high-quality and robust. Google underlines this once again with the IP68 certification and water resistance up to 5 ATM.

The right side of the casing once again features the digital crown, which also serves as a button. Google promises that the tactile feedback has been improved—but we failed to notice them during the launch event. What is pleasing about the returning design is that the proprietary Pixel Watch wristbands from the previous model still fit. However, Google also introduced a number of new wristbands (and matching watch faces) along with the smartwatch.

Google Pixel Watch 2
Google Pixel Watch 2 is now easier to read outdoors. / © nextpit

The AMOLED display on the front again has a resolution of 384 x 384 pixels and thus brings it to a pixel density of 320 PPI. Google has increased the maximum brightness to 1,000 nits.

The Pixel Watch 2 is available in four different color variants at launch:

  • Case in Matte Black / "Obsidian" (black) fluoroelastomer strap.
  • Polished Silver case / "Bay" (blue) fluoroelastomer strap
  • Polished Silver case / "Porcelain" (white) fluoroelastomer strap.
  • Champagne Gold case / "Hazel" fluoroelastomer strap

Wear OS 4.0

The Pixel Watch 2 runs Wear OS version 4.0, which was jointly developed by Google and Samsung. The latest version brings a few interesting improvements, especially for productivity, health and security.

The Pixel Watch 2 is powered by a Snapdragon 5100 processor with a Cortex M33 coprocessor. In any case, Wear OS 4.0 runs wonderfully fast on the smartwatch—and probably also more energy-saving. This time, Google activates the always-on display by default and thus promises a runtime of 24 hours.

Speaking of promises: The Pixel Watch 2 is supposed to get three years of software updates for Wear OS.

There are also a few new features in terms of productivity: The calendar and Gmail apps for Wear OS have been given a new look. And transferring data from one Google Watch to the next or backing up your data via Google One should now be easier.

Google Pixel Watch 2
Google Pixel Watch 2 keeps the Fitbit branding in features and the interface. / © nextpit

The Google Assistant has also learned a few new tricks. For example, you can now directly ask for health data, such as: "How long did I sleep last night?". Matching to that, the Pixel Watch 2 now also offers Medical ID. You can store your blood group, allergies, and the like in the watch so that emergency services can access this data in case of an emergency. Another new feature is fall detection on the smartwatch, which then automatically notifies the stored contacts.

And of course, the Google Play Store with its countless apps is available again. The watch has 32 GB of space for apps, music, and more. Unfortunately, UWB is not available in the Pixel Watch 2 again this year.

Sensors and fitness

The Google Pixel Watch 2 makes some progress in fitness features compared to the predecessor-both in hardware and software. However, despite all the progress, there is still room for improvement here as well as there.

Fitbit app and the eternal premium issue

The Pixel Watch 2 has the same separation between a smartwatch and a sports watch as the predecessor. The fitness subsidiary Fitbit takes over all sports functions. Accordingly, you also use the Fitbit app on your smartphone for all fitness features, which Google completely redesigned just this week. The design is simpler and tidier, and all functions are now divided into the three tabs "Today", "Coach" and "You".

The Today tab is a configurable dashboard with your most important tracking data—from steps to sleep to nutrition. Under Coach you'll find various workouts and meditation exercises. Finally, the You tab shows you how close you are to your self-set goals, whether and when an irregular heartbeat was detected, for example, or whether you have earned certain badges ("Walked all over Japan once!").

Google Pixel Watch 2
Google promises more precise readings. / © nextpit

As with the predecessor—and all Fitbit smartwatches—the Pixel Watch 2 also has a big caveat: If you want access to all fitness features, you need a subscription to Fitbit Premium. That will cost you around $80 per year. However, you get six months of Fitbit Premium for free when you buy the watch. After two years with the Premium subscription, you will not only have paid $349 or 399 for the Pixel Watch 2, but $489 or $539.

However, it is pleasing that the new Fitbit app is less annoying with the Premium subscription. The references to the paid subscription are fewer and more discreet, and there is more free content in the Coach tab. For example, you'll find 15 free video workouts and 15 free meditation and mindfulness exercises.

The offer for paid customers has also grown. You'll find not only Fitbit's own workouts but also well-known training series. The best known here is probably LesMills, which is represented with 25 videos for premium customers.

Sensors for pulse, GPS and more

Finally, the Google Pixel Watch 2 has also gained quite a bit in terms of sensors. While the first Pixel Watch was on par with the inexpensive Fitbit Versa 4 in terms of fitness features, the Pixel Watch 2 now offers all the features of Fitbit's current top model Sense 2. That means: New compared to the predecessor are the cEDA sensor including mindfulness features and stress measurement as well as the ECG function and the skin temperature sensor.

Unfortunately, the Pixel Watch does not support external Bluetooth sensors for cadence, speed, or even just pulse. However, Google promises a new heart rate sensor for improved pulse measurement. Among other things, the new multipath PPG sensor is supposed to deliver 25 times more data than in the first Pixel Watch and thus be 40% more accurate. What this means in practice will be seen in the nextpit test.

Google Pixel Watch 2
Google Pixel Watch 2 array of sensors up close. / © nextpit

Finally, an automatic workout detection for a total of seven different sports has been added. And for runners, there is a pace feature that helps find the right speed. Google also adds a few new workout screens to the smartwatch so that you always have the right data in view during training.

Of course, the Pixel Watch 2 also features GPS. However, Google does not use the dual-band GPS that is increasingly popular in smartwatches and sports watches.

Google Pixel Watch 2 battery

The battery life was a big weakness of the first Pixel Watch-and Google wants to improve it. Although the Google Pixel Watch 2 is not bigger or heavier, Google has managed to increase the battery capacity from 294 to 306 mAh.

However, the new SoC should ensure that the battery now lasts for 24 hours with an activated Always-On display more than the 4% additional capacity. Unfortunately, we could not test the Pixel Watch 2 long enough to verify this—but we will do so later, we promise.

Charging is the usual leisurely process: According to the manufacturer, it takes 45 minutes to reach 80% battery capacity with the included proprietary charging cable. A complete charging process of 100% is only completed after 80 minutes. Wireless charging via Qi is unfortunately not supported.

Early Verdict

Yes, the Google Pixel Watch 2 improves in many important aspects compared to the predecessor—and unlike the first Pixel Watch, it also drops in price. However, there are still a few issues that we would have liked to see more of after the first test. In particular, I find the closed Fitbit ecosystem, which does not allow external sensors in 2023, a shame—even the actually more closed Apple is a big step ahead here.

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Stefan Möllenhoff

Stefan Möllenhoff
Head of Content Production

I have been writing about technology since 2004 with a strong passion for smartphones, photography, and IoT, especially in the world of smart homes and AI ever since they debuted. I'm also an avid cook and bake pizza at least three times a week using my Ooni Koda 16. In order to compensate for all the consumed calories, I indulge in sporting activities on a daily basis while strapping on at least two fitness trackers. I am strongly convinced that you can DIY a lot of things if you put your mind to it - including a photovoltaic system and power station.

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