The Google Pixel Watch 2 aims to refine, rather than reinvent, what made its predecessor great, while also addressing some of its issues. It largely accomplishes this, making it one of the better examples of an Android smartwatch. Still, some elements hold it back from being an absolute must-buy.
There’s a lot to love about the Pixel Watch 2, including its beautiful design and fantastic software experience on par with some of the picks from our list of the best smartwatches. Naturally, it pairs perfectly with the likes of the Pixel 8 and often feels like one of the best Android smartwatches around. However, some improvements simply aren’t enough to remedy headaches from the previous model, and a few changes feel like a generational downgrade.
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- Sleek and light design
- Great call quality
- Wear OS has wide app support
- Requires FitBit Premium to get the most value
- Proprietary charger with no wireless charging
- Managing battery life can be a hassle
Price and availability
The Pixel Watch 2 starts at $350 / £350 for the Wi-Fi model, with the LTE version costing an additional $50 / £50 (plus whatever the cost of your plan ends up being from your carrier). This pricing makes it slightly cheaper than the Apple Watch Series 9 but more expensive than alternative Android smartwatches like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 and Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro.
The value of the Pixel Watch 2 ultimately comes down to how much you gel with its aesthetics and your investment into the FitBit ecosystem. For all intents and purposes, this is the closest thing you can find to a FitBit that’s also a smartwatch. While there’s enough to offer most casual wearers all they need, exercise enthusiasts should prepare to invest more than the initial asking price for FitBit Premium.
|Display||1.2-inch AMOLED (384 x 384)|
|Chipset||Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 5100|
|Colors||Black / Gold / Silver|
The Pixel Watch 2 is almost identical to its predecessor when it comes to specifications, save for its chipset and sensors. Gone is the aged Exynos 9110, replaced by the much newer and more powerful Snapdragon Wear 5100. This technology is the latest and greatest Qualcomm has to offer the wearable space, and it keeps the smartwatch running smoothly.
You’ll find the Pixel Watch 2 in black, gold, and silver colorways. Much as the smartwatch lacks the same bolder options as Pixel smartphones, it makes up for it with its wide variety of straps, available in a myriad of colors, materials, and styles.
New to the Pixel Watch 2 is ‘Safety Check’, which will automatically share your location with emergency contacts if you fail to check in after a configurable period of time. You need to connect the Wi-Fi model to your smartphone via Bluetooth for this to work, but the LTE model can do this independently. This feature gives extra peace of mind when walking alone and should prove invaluable to parents wanting to create extra safeguards for their children. You can also use it to contact emergency services quickly, should you need to.
The Pixel Watch 2 features upgrades compared to its predecessor’s sensor array, which Google claims now provides “up to 40% more accurate heart rate tracking during vigorous activities.” In practice, this unlocks new features such as ‘Heart Zone Training’. This tool tracks the amount of time your heart spends at various bpm levels, separated into ‘Light’, ‘Moderate’, ‘Vigorous’, and ‘Peak’, all configured to reflect the particulars of your heart. The usefulness of this data varies from person to person, but it does, at the least, give an easy way to assess your cardiovascular fitness.
The remainder of the sensors aren’t immediately as useful, namely the skin temperature sensor and electrical sensor for EDA (electrodermal activity) detection. The former automatically enhances sleep tracking, and the latter is for stress management but requires greater manual input. Neither strike as a game-changing feature, instead feeling like nice to haves that can be easily forgotten or missed.
The FitBit app collates all the statistics that the sensors capture, allowing you to identify trends and room for improvement in your exercise and sleep routines in an easily digestible format. While most of this information, including insights from the app itself, is available without a FitBit Premium subscription, it’s hard not to shake the feeling that the Pixel Watch 2 is lesser without it. For example, Google locks things like ‘Wellness Reports’ plus finer details surrounding sleep and stress tracking behind this paywall. As such, you’re presented with a situation in which you’ll likely pay an additional $80 / £80 a year to make the most out of the $350 / £350 you’ve already spent, which is naturally tough to swallow.
When working out, the Pixel Watch 2 can automatically detect some exercises like walking or running. As soon as it clocks on that you’re engaging in one of these activities, it’ll prompt you to ask whether you want to record your steps, heart rate, etc. It can’t work the same magic for things like weightlifting, but it’s easy enough to start this manually.
The watch will do its best to recognize when you’re done exercising, but it often misses the mark, and you’re better off ending the tracking yourself. There’s good news for Swimmers, too, with the Pixel Watch 2 boasting IP68 water resistance, making it a possible poolside companion for those brave enough to test it.
Design and display
Putting the Pixel Watch 2 side-by-side with the original Pixel Watch, there’s little to separate the two. The design of both is largely the same, with each sporting a 1.2-inch AMOLED display surrounded by thick black bezels. Thankfully, these bezels rarely intrude, as much of the software masks them through the use of black backgrounds.
Sat on your wrist, the Pixel Watch 2 looks sleek and stylish. It’s on the dainty side, with a 41mm diameter, which undoubtedly leaves some wanting for a larger screen. However, it’s the switch from steel to aluminum that makes the most significant difference here, shaving 5g of weight. This change may not sound like much, but every gram counts with smartwatches and keeps Google’s offering competitive with the likes of the Apple Watch.
Those conscious about scratches and scuffs may want to pick up a case for the Pixel Watch 2, with its aluminum chassis naturally less resistant than the predecessor’s steel. In terms of display protection, Gorilla Glass 5 returns and provides adequate shielding. Just prepare to wipe the watch down often, as this material is seemingly prone to easily smudging.
The placement of the crown and single button are the same as the original Pixel Watch, too, for better or worse. Controlling the Pixel Watch 2 via its touchscreen or crown is intuitive and a generally pleasant experience. Still, its button can prove troublesome to reach given how little it protrudes from the chassis. Annoying as this can be, particularly if you’re hoping to summon the Google Assistant without your voice, it never amounts to more than a mild inconvenience at the worst of times. Even so, improvements here in a successor would be welcome.
Google has taken a small step towards improving the battery life on the Pixel Watch 2 versus its predecessor, but a giant leap backward when it comes to charging. In short, you’ll still be reaching for the charger more often than you’d like, and you’d better make sure you’ve got the new charging cable handy, or you might find yourself running flat right in the middle of your exercise regimen.
The Pixel Watch 2’s advertised ‘24-hour battery’ is largely accurate, even with the always-on display enabled and other background drains active, like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. However, given that part of its core appeal lies in sleep tracking, it requires a level of discipline to manage its charge properly. If you’re not careful, you could run into a situation where it’s not charged enough before you go to bed or for your morning run. So, routine charging is key.
Thankfully, even if you need to juice up the Pixel Watch 2 in a pinch, charging times are forgiving. Slapping the smartwatch on charge for 30 minutes will bring your battery up to 50%, hitting 100% in just over an hour.
Unfortunately, the only way to charge the device is via the new stand included in the box, as wireless charging support is outright gone on the Pixel Watch 2. Both Qi and USB Type-C charging would have gone a long way to making the watch’s battery more easily manageable, and their exclusion here feels like a mistake that Google could’ve avoided.
As an everyday smartwatch, the Pixel Watch 2 performs admirably. This stellar functionality is mainly due to Google’s deployment of Wear OS, which runs without a hitch and supports a wide variety of applications. In fact, there’s so much here that the majority (if not all) of the things you could want on your wrist are available to download.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 5100 doesn’t skip a beat, providing the Pixel Watch 2 with all the performance it needs to accomplish whatever you need. Everything from communicating with Google Assistant to taking a photograph with your phone via your watch is slick and hassle-free.
The call quality on the Pixel Watch 2 is surprisingly good. The speaker and microphone capture voices with a solid amount of clarity, to the point that it’s both easy and tempting to answer incoming calls on your watch rather than your phone. That is, of course, provided you’re in a suitable environment.
Should you buy the Google Pixel Watch 2?
- Yes: If you’re an exercise enthusiast.
- Yes: If you want a stylish smartwatch.
- Yes: If you own an Android smartphone.
- No: If durability is a high priority for you.
- No: If you want a variety of charging methods.
- No: If you’re an iPhone user.
The Pixel Watch 2 gets top marks for its style but falls short of equal greatness in other respects, such as battery life and out-of-the-box features. There’s little reason for existing Pixel Watch owners to upgrade, but equally enough here to warrant stretching your budget a little further to get the Pixel Watch 2 in place of the original model.
Google is still yet to make a truly great smartwatch that rivals the likes of the Apple Watch, but it’s certainly on the right path with the Pixel Watch 2. Moving forward, the company should seriously reassess the role of FitBit Premium with its future offerings, to provide a more complete package that doesn’t require an additional subscription.
Should the Google Pixel Watch 2 not feel like the perfect fit for your wrist, check out some of our alternative timepieces down below.
Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro
The Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro is a fantastic alternative for fitness fanatics, providing a similar experience to the Pixel Watch 2 without FitBit Premium. It’s also a lovely-looking wrist accessory and is cheaper to boot. Just bear in mind that its availability outside of Europe and Asia is very limited, and may require importing. For more on this device, check out our Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro review.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 6
If battery life and minimal charging hassle are high priorities for you, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 could prove to be a better buy than the Pixel Watch 2. In addition to lasting longer on average, it’s also available in a ‘Classic’ SKU, providing extra premium features if you don’t mind paying a little more.
The Pixel Watch 2 is a small but mighty smartwatch with style and features aplenty nestled inside it. Google’s decision to switch up the watch’s charging solution is a puzzling one, but it’s by no means a dealbreaker. However, its reliance on FitBit Premium to deliver all its fitness functions is frustrating.