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Google Pixel Watch review: Google’s first smartwatch is a mixed bag

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £339
(or £379 with 4G) inc VAT

The Google Pixel watch prioritises striking looks over stamina


  • Sleek design
  • Mostly solid HR and GPS tracking
  • High-quality haptics


  • Under 24-hour battery life in always-on mode
  • Slightly too expensive
  • Ruggedness traded for style

Get Google's debut smartwatch for less

Google’s first smartwatch is a bit of a mixed bag. It looks lovely and HR tracking is decent, but the battery life isn’t great and it’s expensive. That said, you can currently get it for a little bit less on Amazon – down from an average price of £282 to £249.

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The Pixel Watch is the first fully Google-made Wear OS smartwatch, and it’s definitely been a long time coming. However, if you’ve used an Android watch before you may be surprised by how “Fitbit” like it is.

Google acquired Fitbit in early 2021, and the Pixel Watch shows how these companies have merged. Google Fit is done and dusted, with Fitbit now being the workout platform of choice. And that, folks, is the deal here: this is a Wear OS watch with some Fitbit elements smashed together for good measure.

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Google Pixel Watch review: What you need to know

The Pixel Watch is petite and comfortable, has annoyingly short battery life and lands about a year late. In the time it has taken Google to make a watch from this new era of Wear OS, Samsung has released two generations of smartwatch.

What promised to be a Wear OS renaissance has run low on momentum, but the Pixel Watch remains a pretty, if slightly pricey, alternative to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5.

That watch comes in two sizes, unlike the Pixel Watch, which is around 41mm across. The larger Galaxy Watch 5 is rated for almost double the battery life of the Pixel, too, and also has a body composition feature. This estimates your body fat percentage. However, the watches are otherwise fairly similar.

They have GPS, an optical heart rate monitor capable of blood oxygen readings, ECG heart health hardware and an OLED screen, leaving design as the key separator.

The Google Pixel has a stainless steel body, not an aluminium one, although most of what you actually see here is Gorilla Glass. It looks sleek and advanced, but not too geeky, a sound strategy if Google wants to net a few would-be Apple Watch buyers or first-time smartwatch folks.

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Google Pixel Watch review: Price and Competition

The Google Pixel Watch costs £339, or £379 if you want 4G. This more connected version is supported by EE and Vodafone in the UK. Just bear in mind that a data plan isn’t included. These prices put the Pixel Watch in direct competition with a lot of the big smartwatch names.

For less money you could pick up an Apple Watch SE, which starts at £259 for the Wi-Fi only version. The Apple Watch Series 8 is a little steeper, starting at £419.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch series provides the closest alternatives, though, as these watches run the same core software. For £269 you can pick up the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, while the 4G version costs a bit more at £319. Google’s Pixel Watch may look smarter, but the Samsung watches cost significantly less. It’s not off to a good start.

From Garmin, the £399 Venu 2 Plus is the clearest rival. It’s less smart but better for fitness-based tasks, and the battery lasts a lot longer.

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Google Pixel Watch review: Design and key features

Google wants the Pixel Watch to stand out, and its method is a kind of expensive-looking minimalism. The face of the Pixel Watch is covered by a dome of glass with a borderless curve that bends around by 90-degrees to reach roughly half-way through the watch’s depth.

Look at the Pixel Watch front-on and pretty much all you can see is the glass top and the chunky rotating dial on the side.

It’s certainly a looker, and not too heavy at 64g including the strap. While I was initially surprised to find the Pixel Watch is more than 1.5x the weight of the Fitbit Versa 4, the Pixel Watch does have a lovely habit of disappearing on your wrist. The rear design likely helps with this: it’s another smooth dome of glass, with no perceptible contours between the metallic sections surrounding the heart rate sensor and the rest of the watch.

This means even if you fasten the Pixel Watch strap tight for better heart rate readings, your wrist is never going to be left with an intricate imprint of the watch’s backside.

The Pixel Watch is as smooth and sleek as smartwatches get, but this style isn’t rugged. It leaves the display glass vulnerable and i’ve already managed to put a series of light scratches on its surface, with no memory of any particular incident that might have caused them.

Google says the Pixel Watch uses “Custom 3D Gorilla Glass 5”. It should in theory be more scratch resistant than the Gorilla Glass 3 used in the Garmin Venu 2, but the design puts the glass in harm’s way 24/7 here. However, the water resistance rating is good at 5ATM/50M.

A 1.2in OLED display sits under that (now scratched) glass. It’s a 450 x 450 resolution panel, with pixel density similar to that of an Apple Watch. The lit pixels blend nicely with the surrounding black border, too – unless the watch is in direct sunlight.

It needs to do this, because there’s a whole lot of border compared to the Apple Watch Series 8. The screen ends a little way before the display starts to curve at the edges and it makes the tech seem a few years behind Apple’s smartwatch offerings.

Most of the time, a small screen won’t matter that much. I don’t think fitness tracking seems cramped, and the watch faces style out the limited screen size. But some apps like Google Maps and Citymapper do show it up, and make you question whether the Pixel Watch is really as advanced as that curved glass design initially makes it seem.

Other parts do seem high-end, though. The Pixel Watch has lovely haptics, with the effects generated by the vibration motor inside. They are perhaps a little less strong than its Apple Watch equivalents, but have refinement well beyond the basic buzz you get in most Garmin watches.

This comes to the fore when you twist the button/control on the side. It doubles as a rotary dial/crown, and while it’s a free-spinning mechanism, the haptic engine gives it a notched feel. Lovely stuff indeed.

The Google Pixel Watch’s one other control is a subtle button that sits above the crown. Pressing the crown takes you to the app menu, or back to the watch face, whereas this secondary button brings up recently-used apps, or wakes up Google Assistant with a long press.

Assistant feels fast and responsive on the Pixel Watch, and there’s an on-board speaker to read out any responses it provides. The speaker is a bit weedy-sounding, though, and at times the watch complains it’s not connected to the internet when untethered from your phone, even when in range of a Wi-Fi network.

Still, it’s among the very best wrist-bound ways to connect to Google Assistant, just as you’d hope.

The Google Pixel Watch also has access to the Play Store, and its a good – if not remotely Apple-level – selection of apps. My hope was that the new era of Wear OS watches, which started with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, would bring about a reinvigoration of the platform’s app scene. This does not appear to have happened. Yet.

However, Wear OS is a full smartwatch platform that offers advanced features like an ability to reply to messages using a virtual keyboard or just your voice. You can get turn-by-turn navigation and see maps on your wrist, when connected to a phone. Or install apps for Spotify, Google Music (preinstalled) or SoundCloud.

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Google Pixel Watch review: Battery life

Battery life is the cost of the Pixel Watch’s smart features. I noted down its charge level over a stack of days, during which the watch was in a few different ways, to see how long you can expect it to last.

Starting with a full charge, the Pixel Watch lost 8% battery after an hour of GPS tracked running. That’s not too bad at all, and is consistent with Google’s 12-hour claim. Exactly 24 hours after a full charge, the watch was left with 21% battery.

However, this was when doing little more than passive fitness tracking, plus that hour of GPS use.

The best way to use the Pixel Watch is with its always-on display mode engaged. This means you can see the time without having to flick around your wrist to wake the screen. After a starting on a full charge at 11:11am one morning with this mode switched on, the battery died at 9:30am the next day.

Again, this was without any other taxing bits of use involved. You have to choose between sleep tracking and the always-on display unless you are going to plan your charging cycle carefully. Battery life is potentially even more annoying here than in an Apple Watch.

Charging speed is not particularly impressive either, rated at 80 minutes for a full charge. It uses a neat little magnetic wireless charging pad, similar to that of an Apple Watch.

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Google Pixel Watch review: Heart rate and GPS accuracy

The Pixel Watch has a decent spread of health and fitness sensors. Beyond the essentials of GPS and an optical heart rate sensor array, we get SpO2 (not enabled at launch), an altimeter for counting the stairs you climb, a compass and what Google calls a “Multipurpose electrical sensor”.

ECG readings are the primary use for this sensor. You place one finger on the crown, and this completes an electrical circuit that runs through your body and to the other electrode on the watch’s underside. Fire up the ECG mini app and the Pixel Watch will check your heart rhythm for abnormalities, in around 30 seconds or so.

You need to be logged into Fitbit to run an ECG, however, and this tells you a lot about how the Pixel Watch’s fitness side of things operates. This watch does not come with Google Fit preinstalled, the fitness platform used by earlier Wear OS watches and instead uses Fitbit Exercise. Try to install and run Google Fit from the Play Store and you’ll see a “Fit is not currently supported on this device” error message. RIP.

This mostly means that your exercise data ends up in Fitbit rather than Google Fit on your phone, particularly as the workout screens are slightly different to say, a Fitbit Versa 4 for example. When going for a run, the Pixel Watch fits the time, run duration, distance, heart rate and your pace on-screen – it’s exactly what I want to see.

I took the Pixel Watch out with the Apple Watch Series 8, Garmin Fenix 7 and Garmin Venu Sq 2 Music during different workouts to see how the GPS and heart rate results stack up. The Pixel Watch does an excellent job, after the first few minutes of each workout.

I find the Pixel tends to take noticeably longer to get a location signal than Garmin’s latest Multi-GPS capable watches. And on each and every tracked workout the Pixel Watch has slightly overestimated my heart rate for the first handful of minutes before settling down to readings typically within a couple of bpm of the best from Apple and Garmin.

In the last couple of years, the idea you have to give wearables’ heart rate sensors a couple of minutes to settle down has largely gone away – in the best models anyway. It’s still here in the Pixel Watch and the results are great barring those slightly awkward first moments. It hasn’t significantly affected the maximum heart rate in any of my test sessions.

The Pixel Watch has 41 exercise modes, just like the Versa 4, and there’s nothing too interesting going on here. There’s no rep counter in the weightlifting mode, for instance, and while the Golf mode records your location, it doesn’t offer course maps and info like Garmin’s watches. Specialist and trendy pursuits like paddle boarding are here, but functionally they aren’t all that different to a handful of other modes.

A reliance on Fitbit also ties the Pixel Watch to Fitbit Premium, a subscription service that costs £9.99 a month. You get six months included with the watch, and it’s a little different to the style of Apple Fitness Plus. While there are guided workouts and mindfulness/meditation sessions included, some important stats are behind this paywall, too. This includes sleep insights, and other long-term health trends.

This is arguably less of an issue here than in, say, a Fitbit Sense 2, but largely because the Pixel Watch doesn’t record temperature or overnight SpO2. There’s actually less to track long-term, but some may not like the sense that core features are paywalled after paying this much for a watch.

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Google Pixel Watch review: Verdict

The Google Pixel Watch is a small and good-looking smartwatch that shows off the latest version of Google’s Wear OS software, and offers a new direction for the company’s wearables. Fitbit has truly been brought into the Google family, taking over from the Fit platform and for the most part this integration has paid off.

As with other Wear OS watches, battery life is a key drawback, however. The Pixel Watch lasts less than 24 hours in its best display mode, limiting its appeal as something to wear 24/7. Apple Watches have a better app library and Garmin alternatives provide deeper fitness tracking, too.

There are tasty improvements to the Wear OS interface here, and the Pixel Watch has surprisingly good heart rate accuracy most of the time. But you had better come with some love for the design, as at this point the software doesn’t offer anything all that revolutionary.

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