Finally Better than Apple Watch? (Pixel Watch 2 Review)

Google are practically giving away the Pixel Watch 2, which begs the question: is the Pixel Watch 2 BETTER than the Pixel Watch 1? Have Google fixed the battery issues on the Pixel Watch 2? Is the Pixel Watch 2 better than an Apple Watch?
Image courtesy of author

I’ve been waiting for an Android Watch that is as capable as the Apple Watch. 

So today we’re looking at the Pixel Watch 2, Google's Second Generation, and second chance at fixing the issues with their first generation watch. 

To make this a fair comparison, I wanted to define what really makes a good smart watch.

And it really comes down to 4 categories, Battery life, Design, Performance and Fitness.

Let's get started with Battery Life & also charging.

BATTERY LIFE AND CHARGING

This was something that plagued the first-generation pixel watch where I wasn’t able to get a full 24 hours out of a single charge. I tried multiple times, but it would always die overnight whilst sleeping.

Which then put me in a predicament far too often where I have to remember then to charge my watch, whilst getting ready in the morning, and then remember to put it back on again before going to the gym and using it for a workout. And that’s if I even had enough time to charge it in the first place! 

The good news is that they’ve solved that problem this time around, with the watch now getting OVER 24 hours of battery life in a single charge, and that’s WITH the always-on display on, AND still with their heart rate sensor running every second. 

I’m actually getting more like 36 hours of battery life with this watch which is great because it means I have some flexibility on when I charge, if I forget to charge first thing in the morning. 

And that great battery performance also extends to when on cellular. I seem to be losing around 8-9% every 1 hour of being on cellular, so at most I’m able to get anywhere between 10-12 hours of pure cellular use from the watch. 

Which is actually, REALLY good. It’s enough to leave for work in the morning, forget your phone, do a full day at work then come home and pick up your phone again. Something that was only really possible if you used a Garmin with their insane 20+ day battery life, or the Apple Watch Ultra that I managed a full 24 hours. 

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And the charging is also pretty rapid too, you get 12 hours of charge in just 30 minutes of charging. And that’s using their new charging puck. 

Which in itself, is quite a frustrating charger because it’s not just those 4 pins that you have to line up. You also have to line them up in the correct position. So when I charge the watch, it usually involves a few seconds of faffing around before it will charge. 

Also, I don’t quite understand why, between Apple, Samsung, Google and Garmin - every watch seems to have its own specific charger. 

I kind of wish everyone could just adopt one charging standard and stick with it… like we’ve FINALLY done with USB-C across all phones. 

But it’s not all about the battery life; that’s only part of the puzzle. What about the way it’s Built, it’s design, looks & comfort?

So, battery performance on the Pixel Watch 2?1 Through 10. Every 1 is 12 hours. So the Pixel scores 3/10. 

Design, Looks & Comfort?

Well in terms of the design, I actually prefer the smaller form factor. Speaking as someone who has worn an Apple Watch Ultra for the last year, having a watch with a smaller form factor is a really pleasant experience. 

It’s small, light, it’s not as bulky, it’s nicer to sleep with. And actually they’ve really improved the haptic feedback when turning the digital crown too. I really like where Pixel are going with their haptics lately. They’re really good. 

In terms of the screen itself, it’s really clear to read - although I do remember last year everyone was talking about the huge bezels around the outside. I haven’t seen anyone mention them this year, but it’s still a shame the screen doesn’t go all the way to the edges.

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There’s also a pretty wide selection now of stock watch faces. You can also download one of many from the play store, and you can fit a good amount of information onto the screen if you wanted to. 

Another plus for the watch this year is the ever-growing selection of bands. I’ve just ordered a stretch band as I’m not a huge fan of these watch bands that tuck in and under. But I like the way Google is going with having a wide selection of bands. And also the fact that the Pixel Watch 2 is backwards compatible with last years generation 1 bands.

Now, the one negative thing that I THOUGHT would be a concern of mine was the build quality of the Pixel Watch 2. 

If you bought a Pixel 8 Pro at launch you were basically given one of these watches for free. And Google seem to be very quick at giving these out to people. So even though the watch starts at £350 here in the UK, or £399 for the LTE version which I have, it feels like it probably isn’t worth that much if they’re giving them away. 

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But - I’m impressed. I’m actually really impressed. 

I recently put the Pixel Watch 2 through a series of pretty challenging durability tests.

And the pixel watch survived until the very end, and lasted as well as the Apple Watch Ultra, which is incredible. 

The thing that impressed me the most on the Pixel Watch in particular though was that on all the other watches I tested, the back of the watches shattered. Whereas the Pixel Watch 2 didn’t, due to the material it’s made from. It simply bent and still got trashed, but it didn’t shatter like any of the others. Although when it came down to it, the screen DID shatter, where the other smart watches I tested didn’t.

But, overall - Pixel Watch 2 Build, Design & Comfort? I’ll score a 7/10. Small, Comfortable. I like it! 

But the big one that counts for a LOT of what makes a Smartwatch a really GOOD smart watch - Performance. 

PERFORMANCE

Performance is something that a lot of Android watches I’ve come across are shockingly poor at. 

In terms of performance, we’re talking about the general speed of use, how quick it is to navigate around and use. 

Because the typical use case for any watch is that you don’t use it 80-90% of the time, and when you do interact with it, it’s usually only for a few seconds at a time.

Checking the time, starting a timer or workout, using the voice assistant, whatever it might be. 

And the Pixel Watch is actually - Not that bad.

In fact, I don’t really have anything bad to say about the Pixel Watch, which surprised even myself! 

Not once have I had the interface lag, or slow down, or take too long to do something. Swipe gestures, also work well. It’s not the fastest thing ever. It could be a little more responsive - but I wouldn’t call it slow. 

They also seem to have nailed small things in the UI that make an Apple Watch so easy to use, which is something that Samsung have failed a few times where you have to swipe exactly horizontally for it to work. So swiping left or right at just the slightest angle won’t do anything. 

But they’ve got that down on the Pixel Watch. 

Notifications come through quickly, and they’re easy to interact with and respond to. 

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There’s also the new Safety Check-ins and Medical ID features which are really nice additions to see. 

The Safety Check-in feature in particular for those of you walking home alone late at night. You can basically set a timer for how long until you need to check in, and if you don’t then it will share your location, contact your emergency contacts and dial the emergency services. So it’s great to see Google taking steps towards looking after us. 

You also get the Google Assistant on the watch, which brings the best voice assistant within easy reach. 

It’s better than Siri by a long shot, and contextually aware so you don’t need to repeat yourself so many times. 

A couple of minor annoyances. 

  1. If I sit here and say, hey Google, turn off the boys room lights. [lights switch off but Google Hub says Boys room TV isn’t available]
  2. I have a Google Workspace account for Work and a personal google account. But I can’t get that Workspace account to really work that well. It’s always really limited in terms of what it can do. So when I ask Google what’s on my calendar today, it can only read it from my main calendar.

I’ve also heard lots of stories of Google reigning back Google Assistant and removing features that it’s had for years.

James Kimbley who runs Kimbley IT basically calls it the worst thing Google has ever released! Haha. And he’s hoping that Google will at some point replace it with Bard, their new AI system. 

But, given the kind of awful launch of the Humane AI Pin I’m really not sure I want AI involved in voice assistant stuff just yet… 

But with that aside, Google Assistant is good - and just the Pixel Watch overall is just so much more refined this year. I’m glad to see that they’ve taken user feedback on board to improve things for the better. 

7/10 for the Performance. 

But let’s not get too carried away with ourselves… 

Let’s talk Fitness now. 

FITNESS

So with the Pixel Watch, Google has totally moved away from Google Fit, to Fitbit. And essentially, you have 2 Apps to manage your watch. The Watch App to actually manage and configure your watch. And the Fitbit app. 

Kind of like Apple has their Watch App and their Health and Fitness Apps. 

And the Fitbit app itself isn’t too bad. 

It gives you all of the information that’s important to you. You can tell it what you want to see when you load up the app, depending on what’s most important to you. 

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There IS also a premium Fitbit subscription that it will prompt you to sign up for, and this works in a similar way to a lot of other third-party fitness trackers. Oura, Whoop and so forth - where it will give you a Daily score for your readiness or stress as well as trending sleep data and a library of guided workouts. 

Which, for most people - you don’t need, and so you don’t HAVE to sign up to Fitbit premium. It doesn’t lock away anything that is vitally important. 

This year the Pixel Watch has a Heart Rate, Skin Temperature and Stress monitor - and for the most part, these work pretty well. I actually like how the heart rate monitor tracks every second - something which last year came at the cost of significantly less battery life, so it’s good to see them fixing that this year. What this means is that if you’re doing a HIIT workout or perhaps want to track really closely to a certain heart Zone when training, you’ll be able to do this more accurately than most other smartwatches, which don’t take readings as often as the Pixel Watch. 

I also found the Pixel Watch auto-detecting workouts to be pretty good. Go on a walk or a run, and it will pick up AND start the workout from near enough when you actually started your workout. This works well for me since my health insurance gives me free drinks and discounts when I do certain workouts each week. So, I’ve been able to collect more points when wearing this watch. 

But, the only thing that I still get frustrated with on the Pixel watch, actually it’s two things. 

Firstly, the swim workout does nothing except track the time. 

Even though it has a setting to set the length of the pool, so you’d think it would be able to track the number of lengths I’ve swum.

But outside of this, the available metrics you can show during a workout are really quite limited in comparison to really any other smartwatch or fitness tracker. Considering the partnership with Fitbit here, it’s kind of disappointing. 

It will do the job for most people, and quite accurately at that, but if you want a smartwatch that’s also a good fitness watch - depending on the type of activities you’re doing, you might want to trial one out first before committing to buying one. 

So I’m going to score 5/10 for Fitness overall, but as to whether it’s a Good watch for fitness, I’d argue that for most people who are interested in a SMART watch - not a fitness watch, then this actually checks all of the boxes. Unless you’re a swimmer. 

But that aside, the Pixel Watch, this year, is most definitely my most favourite Android smart watch of the year. Better than the Galaxy Watch 6, in my opinion. 

But do you disagree? Let me know why down in the comments below - just be nice about it. 

And I’ll see you in the next one. 

Pete Matheson

Tech Reviewer. Dad. Husband & Chocolate-lover. Sign up for giveaways and behind-the-scenes on running a creative business

Pete Matheson

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