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All these Pixel Watch updates are hyping me up for the Pixel Watch 2
If you asked me eight months ago where I pictured the Pixel Watch would be by now, I’d have named dozens and dozens of updates and new features I wanted, on top of obvious additions like more watch faces. Alas, the first six months of the watch’s existence were pretty boring, update-wise, so much so that I started wondering if Google had abandoned the project soon after it launched it. Hey, all we got was fall detection plus a couple of random features for six months!
But the pace of Pixel Watch updates was greatly accelerated about a month ago. We started seeing new apps and functions as well as better third-party developer support, until it all culminated with an important quarterly feature drop in June. All of this may be a bit late for Google’s first-gen smartwatch, but it’s getting me hyped up for the Pixel Watch 2.
Are you looking forward to the Pixel Watch 2?
Better apps and third-party integrations
Because of battery life concerns, my Pixel Watch usage is pretty limited: notifications, music control via Spotify, and random smart home controls. All three of these experiences have recently received important upgrades on all Wear OS watches, Pixel Watch included.
A new WhatsApp app, new Spotify tiles, and an updated Google Home have made my experience so much better.
First, the new WhatsApp app on Wear OS has everything I need to carry out conversations with my family and friends, specifically voice message support. Everyone I know uses these and being able to listen to them and answer straight from my watch is a fantastic upgrade. I can now cook, do chores, or chill on the sofa without keeping my phone near me to reply to messages. And when I’m on the train or walking and don’t want to get my phone out of my pocket, I can use the WhatsApp app too. Plus, there are tiles with shortcuts for all the people I frequently contact.
The new Heavy Rotation tile that Spotify introduced is another nice addition. Playing music from my watch was never the most straightforward action because I had to find and launch Spotify first, but now I can just tap one of my frequently played playlists and get going, easy peasy. There’s a podcast tile too and a DJ tile if you live in a country where the feature is available. It isn’t in France yet.
Google has also made several changes to the pretty basic Google Home app on Wear OS. Now, the app shows my favorite devices on top so I don’t have to tap, scroll, tap, scroll to get to my vacuum or fan. I can even trigger my favorite automations with a tap or use the color wheel and temperature slider for my lights. There’s still more I want to see here, but the app has become a lot more useful to me thanks to these changes.
Not to forget other minor updates like tiles for sunrise/sunset, UV conditions, YouTube Music, and Google Keep notes. I’ve recently added my Keep shopping list as a tile so I can quickly consult it when I run low on an item or when I’m at the supermarket.
Updated health and activity tracking on the Pixel Watch
We were all baffled when the Pixel Watch launched with a deactivated SpO2 sensor. The latest update has finally activated it and now my watch tracks my oxygen saturation at night and shows me the result every day for extra peace of mind.
High and low heart rate warnings also made it to the Pixel Watch with the latest feature drop, though I haven’t seen any of them yet — I suppose that’s a good thing! I hope I never need that feature, but at least I know the watch will ping me should things go haywire at some point for no reason.
Google also supposedly added automatic detection for pauses and resuming during exercise tracking, but that didn’t work during my outdoor walk last Saturday. I waited a couple of minutes for the watch to catch up and realize I’d sat down and when it didn’t, I manually paused tracking. It didn’t automatically resume when I got back up and finished my walk, so I had to manually trigger it too. The reason, I later discovered, is that you have to manually enable Auto Pause in the Exercise app on the watch, for each exercise type.
New and essential health and activity tracking features have finally made it to the Pixel Watch.
Now that I’ve turned this option on, I’m excited about it. I’ve taken a few hikes and outdoor walks and often forgotten to pause tracking during rests, which consumes battery and messes up the stats. Or worse, I forgot to resume after pausing. I’d still like the Pixel Watch to automatically recognize and live-track exercises like other Fitbit trackers, but this is a step in the right direction.
Too little too late for the first Pixel Watch…
Despite all the improvements, I’d argue that these updates are a little too late for Google’s first Pixel Watch. Sure, those who bought the watch and plan on keeping it for a couple of years will love the new features, but many already gave up on it like my Android Authority colleagues Kaitlyn Cimino and Ryan Haines.
These features should’ve been there on day one, or at most three months post-launch, not eight months later. And we haven’t even scratched the surface of all the weird restrictions that are still there. The Pixel Watch’s manual bedtime mode is baffling, and so is the lack of automatic live exercise recognition and period tracking. I still can’t tap on the location of a calendar event to get directions, nor can I look up transit directions from the Maps app on the watch. Google Wallet still doesn’t show my loyalty cards.
In perfect first-generation Google product tradition, these features should've all been there on day one.
And more importantly, ecosystem integration is still lacking. I’d like to unlock my Pixelbook or Pixel 7 Pro from the watch, see the casting notification on my watch to easily control smart speakers around my home, and get a nudge to use the Camera app on my watch when I open it on my phone.
Plus, can we all agree that we need more watch faces? The few available choices are uniform and the very opposite of fun or information-dense.
… but things are on the right path for the Pixel Watch 2
If recent rumors are to be believed, the Pixel Watch 2 would launch alongside the upcoming Pixel 8 and 8 Pro in October and will feature an upgraded Snapdragon W5 series chip. Unlike the current Exynos processor, the W5 series is built specifically for smartwatches and promises to improve performance and — most importantly — battery life. That’s the biggest letdown we mentioned in our Pixel Watch review so I’d count it as a win if the second-generation watch can reach two days with always-on activated and a little more with it off.
Maybe it's a little too late for the first Pixel Watch, but things are looking up for the Pixel Watch 2.
Additionally, Wear OS 4 is supposedly coming later this year with Material You colors and an easier backup and reset process for smartwatches. Add this to all of the features that have already been implemented and the Pixel Watch 2 is certainly looking more enticing than Google’s first effort. Ideally, I’d also like a larger size option, automatic live exercise tracking, and a temperature sensor for better female health tracking, but the glacial pace of updates is forcing me to temper my expectations.
Even though Samsung and Apple are still far ahead, I can’t use either of their watches because I’ve been wearing a Fitbit for the last decade and all my data is there. The Pixel Watch is my only option. I’d really like to see it succeed, and after months of questioning, I’m happy to see things move in the right direction.