Google Pixel Watch: Hands-On and Unboxing

Pixel watch box

Google last week announced their new Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro and for the first time, its first Pixel Watch.

The new Pixel Watch is available in just Wi-Fi at $449.99 CAD, or a 4G LTE version at $529.99 CAD that can connect to Telus and Bell (not Rogers; you’ll need a monthly smartwatch plan for data).

We had the chance to play and set up a Google Pixel Watch with a Pixel 7. Here are our quick thoughts on pairing the Pixel Watch and using this new smartwatch briefly, coming from a longtime Apple Watch user.

The Pixel Watch will work with all Google Pixel and Android phones running Android 8.0 or higher. That means it won’t connect to an iPhone, like how an Apple Watch won’t connect to an Android device.

Unboxing the Pixel Watch

Inside the Pixel Watch box you get a USB-C charging cable, the watch straps (small and large sizes included) and the watch itself with its round design, dedicated side button and a ‘Digital Crown’ similar to the Apple Watch.

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The underside of the Pixel Watch shows off a domed design with Gorilla Glass and you can also see the heart rate sensor working:

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On the side we see the watch’s dial and a dedicated button. Scroll the dial down, and you’ll see shortcuts to various controls. Scroll the crown up and you’ll see your notifications. These same actions can be performed by using your finger on the Pixel Watch’s touchscreen. It’s basically the opposite of how watchOS works.

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Setting Up the Pixel Watch

Now setting up a Pixel Watch takes quite a few steps, but to get started it’s similar to pairing an Apple Watch to your iPhone. You just place the Pixel Watch near your Pixel (or supported device) and a pop-up appears asking you to get started. The Pixel Watch app is not installed by default, you need to go get it from Google Play. The same goes for the Fitbit app. It would have been nice for both to come pre-installed.

We ran into some issues with the Pixel Watch app not downloading, but we solved it. The setup process asks you to agree to connect the watch, allow notifications, and location data, plus you need to sign into your Google account for fingerprint authorization.

Once you get past the steps, you also pick which wrist you’re going to have the watch on and which side the crown is. You also get asked to activate Google Assistant, set up a PIN (or pattern), and select apps to download.

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After installing the Fitbit app, the latter only allows one connection, so that means you need to disable other wearables to add the Pixel Watch. Fitbit needs to let you have more than one device ready to be connected automatically. You can ask Google Assistant to start a workout, like you would Siri.

We also needed to install a system update on the Pixel Watch after as well. This can only be performed on the Pixel Watch itself while charging and not via the Pixel Watch app on the Pixel 7. Whereas, for Apple Watch updates, you can get started on the Watch app and then just charge your watch to start the process.

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As for testing out an ECG, you also need to download a separate Fitbit ECG app. It works the same way as Apple Watch to perform an ECG test. But in our multiple tests, the process froze with 1 second left to spare (out of the 30-seconds required).

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The Fitbit app also requires a separate update on the Pixel Watch to start a workout using Google Assistant. It’s not possible to use the Fitbit app without an internet connection, so you need to have your Pixel Watch nearby and connected to your smartphone (unless you have the cellular version). Apple Watch lets you record a workout without your iPhone or internet.

The Pixel Watch heart rate sensor pretty much matched that of our Apple Watch Series 7, showing our current heart rate of just under 60 BPM and resting heart rate of 51-52 BPM.

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The Charcoal Active band is comfortable but is a bit tricky to put on one-handed, unlike our Apple Watch Nike Sport Band. The larger domed design on the underside of the Pixel Watch was not as comfortable as an Apple Watch.

Google says leather bands, metal mesh and metal link bands are coming in the spring of 2023.

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Here you can see the differences in the Apple Watch Series 7 display (45mm) with 326 ppi OLED versus the Pixel Watch at 41mm with 320 ppi AMOLED. The display bezels on Pixel Watch are thicker than that of the Apple Watch Series 7. Also, we favour the Apple design of a large rectangle versus a circular display, as you can see more text. The Pixel Watch display just feels small and information is limited.

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Battery life is rated at 24 hours and the Pixel Watch had no issues being worn overnight to track sleep with Fitbit as well. The Pixel Watch survived a few showers without issue, but there’s no water eject feature for the speaker like the Apple Watch.

The Google Pixel Watch also has an emergency SOS feature that will reach out to 911 and also alert your trusted contacts. Fall detection is coming this winter as well, with both features similar to the Apple Watch.

Conclusion 

Overall, the Pixel Watch is a good start for Google’s first smartwatch, but we can see how much more it can be improved. Multiple watch faces and bands, plus four coloured stainless steel cases will allow customers to personalize their watch, which is great. But we wish more setup, updates and other features could be accessed in the Pixel Watch app and not just on the device. It’s much easier to perform next steps on a smartphone versus a small watch screen.

At an entry price of $449.99 CAD, the Pixel Watch undercuts an entry Apple Watch. But of course, you’ll need a Pixel smartphone or  Android phone to support Pixel Watch. The great thing about buying Google’s Pixel Watch is that you’ll be first to get Wear OS updates, with support for at least three years. Am I ready to ditch my iPhone and switch over to Google everything? It likely won’t happen, but if it ever does, we’d be jumping on phones and watches directly from Google to get security and feature software updates first.