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After 6 months with the Google Pixel Watch, all I want is a Pixel Watch 2
As I sit here contemplating how to start this retrospective article, I glance down at the Google Pixel Watch on my wrist and realize it’s down to 13% battery. I shrug; time for the daily top-up, I guess. So I take it off and put it on the charger knowing I will likely leave it there way longer than necessary because I’ll just forget to wear it again after 90 or so minutes.
And therein lies my biggest issue with Google’s first smartwatch. It doesn’t matter how much I like the glass dome design and how smooth it is to interact with as long as I can’t actually use it to its full potential. Like my colleague Aamir recently expressed, I end up using this smartwatch in all the dumb ways because I just want to get to the end of the day without a dead battery. And despite my best efforts, I’ve had many, many empty batteries over the last six months.
Pixel Watch battery life, or lack thereof
I have been wearing Fitbit trackers consistently for more than 10 years, but I haven’t had to actively think about charging any of them as much as I do the Pixel Watch. I already bought a second charging cable and a small, portable USB-C charging puck ($11.99 on Amazon) to carry around when I travel. That’s how cautious I am, and yet…
Picture me plopping my watch on the puck during a 30-minute drive in Slovenia, all so I have enough juice to last me through a short afternoon hike in Bled. I didn’t want to do that, but I had to. Or better yet, imagine me cursing under my breath because I forgot to charge the watch as soon as I woke up and now I have to head out in five minutes with a 20% battery. I guess most of today’s steps will be lost to history. And then the Fitbit app will have the audacity to judge me for not reaching my daily goal! Meanwhile, my husband didn’t even pack his Fitbit Versa charger for our four-day trip and still tracked all his walks, sleep, and three full hikes.
The irony of a fitness tracker being more problematic to use during active days isn't lost on me.
Because Fitbit and Google won’t let me pair the Watch and a regular tracker to the same account, I find myself in a constant “when do I charge this?” conundrum, even more so on days when I’m very active. The irony of a fitness tracker being more problematic to use on active days isn’t lost on me, trust me. A 90-120 minute full charge isn’t easy to slot in, because what should I sacrifice? Steps or sleep? Some days it’s this, other days it’s that. So every month, I end up with at least two or three days of missed sleep tracking. Just look at these screenshots.
The silly battery life was one of the biggest drawbacks we mentioned during our initial Pixel Watch review, and I’d argue it’s a more crucial issue than we first thought. This restriction ends up dictating all my interactions with it. Do I actively track my morning walk to see my live stats on the watch and risk losing 10-20% of juice in an hour, or do I let it do its less useful background tracking and keep those precious percentages? Do I conveniently check Todoist or other cool Pixel Watch apps or do I take my phone out instead? Do I dare open Spotify on the watch to listen to music or do I just stick with my phone, using the watch as a glorified playback remote? Every decision and every usage over the last six months has been tied to this single factor.
The battery life restriction dictates all my interactions with the Pixel Watch, stopping me from enjoying everything else I like about it.
This makes it tough to enjoy everything else that the Pixel Watch does right. It’s beautiful on the wrist — more than any pictures do it justice — and the glass dome is just a fantastic design. Despite how many good Pixel Watch cases and bands there are, putting it in one almost feels sacrilegious.
I also can’t overstate the importance of it not snagging on long sleeves and jackets enough. I often avoided interacting with other smartwatches in the wintertime because of how annoying it was to reach them under my clothing. That’s not the case at all with the Pixel Watch.
Plus, it’s so fun to interact with. Swiping on the dome is smoother than some of the best smartwatches I’ve tried and is on par with the Apple Watch. Also, the crown continues to be a joy to spin, with perfect scrolling haptics. Google nailed a lot of the design decisions; too bad it thought 24 hours of longevity was good enough.
Google’s questionable software commitment
Although Google has rolled out monthly security updates to the Pixel Watch since its launch, and one rather significant update in March 2023, most of them have been nothing but bug fixes. Fall detection, which was promised when the watch launched in October, only landed in March. And it took Google all of three months to enable a single-tap toggle for the battery saver (the feature was teased in December and launched in March). None of that is a sign of proper commitment to the watch or the platform.
Most of the updates have been nothing but bug fixes. New features are few, very few, and far between.
This has been very frustrating for a daily Pixel Watch wearer like me. By now, I would’ve expected a dozen new watch faces, the activation of the SpO2 sensor — we know it’s there, it’s just disabled — and an automatic bedtime mode at the very least. Not to mention the addition of all the small missing features to Google’s own apps. I don’t understand how Google Maps still doesn’t support transit directions on the watch, or how Google Wallet won’t let me show my loyalty cards there.
I’ve already explained everything that’s missing on Wear OS on the Pixel Watch, so I won’t go into that again. Suffice it to say, there’s room for improvement.
Why I really want a Pixel Watch 2
Having worn both a fitness tracker and a Wear OS watch for several years now, I was and still am the perfect Pixel Watch target user. I don’t miss those double-wristing days at all, but I want a more reliable single solution that lasts at least two days on a charge; that’s the restriction I’m willing to work with. A second-generation Pixel Watch would, hopefully, fit that bill.
Rumors of the Pixel Watch 2 have been very scant so far, if nonexistent. Ideally, this successor would come in two size variants, one of them being larger than the current watch. A bigger display and bigger battery would be very welcome too. Both versions should also have smaller bezels and a more power-efficient processor — Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon W5 Gen 1 wearables chip could be awesome here. Basically, I want the hardware specs to match the design of the Pixel Watch so I can use it to its full potential and enjoy doing so.
I want the hardware specs to match the Pixel Watch 2's design so I can use it to its full potential and enjoy doing so.
In this ideal future, the next Pixel Watch would also have most, if not all of the latest Fitbit Sense 2 sensors and automatic workout detection. Specifically, I expect at least the SpO2 and skin temperature sensors to be there. This is Google’s unique selling point for its smartwatch and not capitalizing on that is madness. Who wants to pay $350 for a smarter Fitbit that doesn’t do everything a slightly dumber Fitbit already does?
But I guess the main reason I want a Pixel Watch 2 is that it would solidify Google’s commitment to wearables, its smartwatch platform, and its burgeoning hardware ecosystem. We’d still be far from Apple’s clear strategy and solid line-up, but seeing a second watch from Google might indicate to developers that it’s worth investing in and adapting their apps to the platform. I’ll know we’ve reached that when my local French bank and the Parisian transit system show up on the Play Store on my watch.