After months of speculation and leaked images, Google has finally unveiled the Pixel Watch at its annual developer conference.
It has been, without question, the worst-kept secret in tech, but at least we now have confirmation that Google’s first in-house developed wearable is heading towards consumers’ wrists later this year.
I’m excited, for two reasons. Firstly, I think we’re finally going to see some decent competition for the Apple Watch, and, secondly, I have a feeling this is going to throw me even more deeply into the world of the Pixel phone.
Let’s get into the details!
Ooh, it’s circular!
Google IO wasn’t a launch event for the Pixel Watch – it was more of a tease for what’s to come later this year when Google’s wearable is released alongside the Pixel 7 phone.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you’ll already have seen the design direction for the Pixel Watch. Yesterday, Google simply confirmed that it is indeed circular, and does have the rumoured Apple Watch-like replaceable bands and twiddly crown.
The Pixel Watch is a lovely looking thing. I’ve always been rather indifferent about the Apple Watch design; its square chassis is neither inspiring nor beautiful – in fact, it’s arguably one of the most functional, boring designs on offer from Tim and co. The Pixel Watch is beautiful. More importantly, it follows the lead of practically every wristwatch that has ever been made – it features a circular face.
It’s important to keep in mind that we know very little about the hardware at this stage. Will it be durable? How sharp and readable is that screen? Will the screen be always-on? What will the battery life be like (and how will it be charged)? Is Google going to follow Apple’s lead and give us different options for the casing material?
More importantly, how is Google going to handle all of that personal fitness data? Despite reassurances that they won’t be using it for advertising purposes, can we really trust them?
We’re told that more details are on the way, but from a design standpoint alone, Google is off to a very good start with this one.
A match made in heaven?
As SVP of devices and services at Google, Rick Osterloh, reeled off the features for the Pixel Watch, it felt like he was reading from the Apple Watch spec sheet.
The “improved Wear OS UI” will deliver smart notifications, full integration with Google Assistant, and make the most of the new Google Wallet. It’ll also tie in nicely with your home devices and enable you to ‘be more present’ at home and work. Oh, and it’ll be 4G-capable without the need for a phone, too.
You know, like an Apple Watch.
But the more exciting stuff is likely to come from a partnership Google first revealed in 2019 when it acquired Fitbit for $2.1 billion. We’re promised “industry-leading health and fitness experiences”, thanks to continuous heart rate and sleep tracking and the ability to work towards personal fitness goals.
You know, like an Apple Watch.
That was pretty much the extent of the reveal in terms of fitness capabilities, but it could be the crowning glory for the Pixel Watch and ensure that it really is capable of playing on the same field as Apple’s wearable.
The Fitbit integration, I assume, will extend as far as software and sensor technology leveraged from Fitbit’s time as one of the world’s first mass-market wearable tech firms. That’s probably why Google appears to be so comfortable trading off the Fitbit name – a tactic that’s likely to win it plenty of eyeballs and trust come launch time.
How it can beat the Apple Watch
Search and the resulting ad revenue might be forever Google’s priority, but Sundar Pichai and chums know how big the opportunity is for the Pixel Watch.
Privacy concerns to one side (I guess we have to take their word on that one, as tough as that might be), there are several areas in which I think the Pixel Watch can kick the Apple Watch into touch.
The first is one I’ve already mentioned – design. I’d much rather have a circular smartwatch than an 80s-inspired square slab of aluminium on my wrist. Google’s effort is prettier than the Apple Watch and looks more like, well, you know – a watch.
Cross-device compatibility is also likely to be a boon for the Pixel Watch. Although never mentioned during yesterday’s presentation, it’s pretty much a given that it’ll play nicely with most Android devices, which opens up Google’s wearable to a colossal number of potential users.
Speculation that it might be compatible with the iPhone has finally been dashed by Google (I wonder who spat their coffee out first at that idea first), but that’s missing the point. Android is a far more inclusive platform than iOS, thanks to the breadth of hardware on which it runs. So, if you’ve got a phone that’s half the price of Apple’s cheapest effort, you’ll probably still get to play with Google’s new wearable.
Battery life fascinates me, too. Fitbits have always smashed the Apple Watch in that regard, although this is hardly surprising when you consider the differences in computing power and overall function of the two platforms. It’ll therefore be very interesting to see how much of that battery prowess is carried across to the Pixel Watch. Could we finally be looking at a smartwatch that lasts more than a couple of days on a single charge?
When is the Pixel Watch available?
The Pixel Watch will be launched alongside the Pixel 7 smartphone in autumn this year. I will of course be getting my hands on one as soon as I can for a full review and comparison with the Apple Watch.
Google hasn’t revealed the price of the Pixel Watch yet, but a report from the BBC suggests that it’ll be a ‘premium product’ when it arrives later this year. My guess? We’re probably looking at between £299 – £399.
What an exciting way to kick start the 2022 tech scene, eh?