Alright, Google finally did it! They released a watch for their pixel line. Some of us have been waiting years for this. I have been waiting years for this even before I started to use an Android phone as a secondary phone. Apple did not have competition in the smartwatch game besides Samsung and I am someone who is a big believer in competition is good. The minute I saw that Google announced this, I was ready to purchase it to experience what this would be like in my everyday life and what their take would be.
So I ended up purchasing the Matte Black Pixel Watch, the non-LTE version. I don't usually buy the cellular version of watches because I always have my cellphone on me so I can't see myself personally using the cellular functionality. This device comes in at $350 while the cellular one is $400.
For the Pixel Watch design, Google went with a more traditional circle design and I have mixed feelings about it. For a traditional watch, I will admit that I know that the norm is to have a circle-styled watch. Me, however, I'm not a traditional watch wearer. When I first got my first smartwatch, the Pebble (RIP), I was only to check it out for a short amount of time. I never wore watches before that. I think from all the time wearing the Pebble and the Apple Watch, I just have become accustomed to and enjoy more a square design.
I do think however though that the Pixel Watch design does look good. It is built with good quality and is a functional watch. The bezels are pretty big, but if you are using a black watch face (which I am), you don't notice the bezels at all. Most of their watch faces (besides the photo one, but I don't even know what you would do about that) work well with the bezels and make them very unnoticeable so they did a very good job with that.
The bands also have this interesting mechanism of swapping the bands out. I've done it a few times and I got to the point where I don't have a problem at all. If this is the mechanism that they are going to keep and use, then I am a fan of it because it works well. I'm not someone who changes their bands much. I usually stay with the same black sport band and use that forever so this isn't the biggest deal in my use case, but I know a lot of people do change their watch band a lot so this is good to have this kind of solution.
One of the big arguments for getting a smartwatch is for fitness tracking and this one is no different. Google acquired Fitbit and completed the acquisition in 2021 and built a lot of the Fitbit integration into the Pixel Watch. They even built it so much in mind that it connects with the Fitbit application and requires you to use it for a lot of the tracking features. From the fitness standpoint, it feels like a Fitbit watch that was Googlefied. I've used Fitbits in the past and it worked just as well as that for a lot of the basic tracking. To get some of the more in-depth features like workouts and deep diving into your data, you will need to subscribe to Fitbit premium. To me, this is a miss because a lot of the stuff that they have put behind a paywall is not behind a paywall on their competitors.
Another feature that they have on this device is the ability to use third-party watch faces. This is something I wish that Apple would implement because it allows for a lot of customization on the watch. It can make you watch your watch. The most you can do and still have all the functionality of the watch on Apple's version is to set your photo. I ended up just using one of the Stock options because I liked it, but the fact that I can do so if I need to is welcomed.
Past this, the usability of the watch and navigation was easy and understandable. After the initial fumbling around for the first day or so, I was able to navigate through the watch like a pro. For some reason, I never got to the point when I used the Galaxy Watch 4. Now, that could very well just be my thing, but I felt myself get used to the Pixel watch very easily and quickly. The experience just worked for me and I appreciated that.
Where they can Improve
Now even though they did a great job with this device, there is always room for improvement. This is their first crack at making a device like this so they get some leeway, but that doesn't change the fact that some things do need to improve. One of the things that I think needs to change is just some things that you would expect to work hand in hand together with two Pixel devices. The one thing that happens to me a lot is that I'll go a good bit of the day, sometimes almost a full day, and I'll forget to unlock my watch. I'll be using my Pixel and be confused why my watch isn't vibrating for notifications, but it is because it is still locked. On Apple's version, when the watch is on your wrist and you unlock your phone for the first time, it will unlock the watch so I'm rarely unlocking my Apple Watch. This isn't a deal breaker and a big deal, but it is software situations like this that I hope they improve on with the next couple of iterations.
The battery life is also something that needs to be improved drastically. I do not use the Pixel Watch to do sleep tracking so it doesn't become a big deal for me at night. I can always make it to the end of the day and be fine to put it on the charger, but it usually is pretty dead by the time this part of the day comes. One of the things that they say is a feature is sleep detection and if you are purchasing it to use it for sleep detection, this is something that you have to think about. Hopefully, this can improve because this will be a very welcomed upgrade.
As a whole, this is a great device to be used as a smartwatch. They did a very good job on the first attempt at this device and I believe someone just jumping into their first smartwatch will like this and it will work for them. If you are coming from another smartwatch however like an Apple Watch, I can see how some of the flaws start to show. They aren't dealbreaker flaws in my opinion, but everyone is different.
Keep up the good work Google. Looking forward to this Pixel ecosystem to keep growing.