Google (finally) announces the Pixel Watch
Google’s Pixel Watch has been in the works for years, and Google’s been quite happy to drop hints about what it’s been cooking up. (Admittedly, having an employee leave a prototype in a restaurant will also help knock some of the wind out of any surprise you may have planned.) Today, however, is the first time that Google has really lifted the lid on its new flagship wearable, and the first time we can see if it can make up for so many false starts in the watch race.
The Pixel Watch comes in a single size, with a 41mm case with a domed, scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 5 crystal. At first blush, the watch looks comically overinflated, but the benefit is to hide the bezel when you’re looking at it from your wrist. Beneath which, users will be staring into a 320ppi, always-on AMOLED display with a max brightness of 1,000 nits. It’s powered by a 294mAh battery that Google says will last 24 hours on a charge, but can re-juice up to 50 percent after 30 minutes on its magnetic charging plate.
There are two versions: WiFi/Bluetooth, or one with its own LTE modem, which costs just $50 more. Both are rocking an Exynos 9110 SoC, originally released in 2018 and found in Samsung’s Galaxy Watch through to the Watch 3, paired with a Cortex M33 co-processor, 32GB storage and 2GB RAM. It speaks volumes that Google opted not to use Qualcomm’s own wearable SoC, found in pretty much every other non-Samsung Wear OS watch these days, and one that’s several years old at this point. Both versions run Wear OS 3.5.
Rather than describing this as a Google watch, it has name-checked Fitbit several times, and many of its features are Fitbit-branded. That includes activity, heart-rate and sleep tracking, although Google has said its own machine-learning know-how has improved accuracy here. One of the more notable features is life heart rate, which will measure your vital signs by the second. There’s also a built-in ECG, and integrations with Fitbit Premium both for additional insights and guided workouts.
Would-be Pixel Watch buyers can also count on getting the usual six-month free trial of Fitbit Premium, as well as three months of YouTube Music Premium thrown in. That will let you store plenty of tunes on your wrist to go alongside the app integrations, including Adidas Running, MyFitnessPal and Strava, as well as Spotify and Calm.
Aside from the Gorilla Glass crystal, the only other durability promise is that it’ll be water-resistant up (or down) to depths of 5ATM. Oh, and that Google says that by 2023, the Watch will be able to detect falls and, should you have the LTE version and prove unresponsive, will call the emergency services on your behalf.
It’s worth remembering that Google beat Apple to the wearables space by a full year, in partnership with Motorola, Samsung, ASUS and LG. But the balkanized strategy employed, and the general lack of luster on those initial Android Wear versions handed much of the momentum to Apple. Since then, the Apple Watch has single-handedly outsold every other major wearables player in pretty much every quarter since. It’s only when Samsung teamed back up with Google to rework Wear OS has Google’s platform once again hit double-digit sales percentages.
And, much like Pixel phones, it’s likely that Google will be happy to sell a limited quantity of devices to a small section of the market. Especially since it has to protect the sales of both Samsung, its partner, and Fitbit, its new wholly-owned subsidiary. Although given that Samsung and Fitbit already cater for pretty much every part of the wearables market between them, it’s not clear what specific group Google might be targeting here.
Analyst Ben Wood, at CCS Insight, agrees, saying “the Pixel Watch poses zero threat to the Apple Watch,” and that its existence is more to “raise awareness of smartwatches for Android smartphone owners and encourage more of these people to consider buying a wearable.” For that to work, however, Pixel Watch needs to become instantly desirable, especially given Google’s short patience when it comes to products that don’t instantly click with the public.
The Google Pixel Watch is available in “Matte Black,” “Polished Silver” or “Champagne Gold” stainless steel colors. They are complemented by a variety of watch bands, which attach not with lugs, but with a camera lens-esque internal locking system that should make switching faster. The watches will ship with an “Active” fluoroelastomer band, but Google says that there will be 20 available choices coming in future. These include modern, woven and leather-styles, with metal bands due to land in Spring 2023.
It is available to pre-order right now, with the WiFi/Bluetooth model is priced at $349.99, while the LTE model will set you back $399.99, with both expected to begin shipping on October 13th.
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