Google Pixel Watch 2

The perfect smartwatch is a good dream to work towards and the Google Pixel Watch 2 is probably a step towards that Nirvana, it’s certainly a leap forward in terms of some of the functionality we’ve experienced in this product space before – so let’s take a usability tour with some technical and personal thoughts combined.

Imagine carrying around a second smartphone for five years, just so your previous smartwatch could tell the time, log in for the weather and (if it felt like it) occasionally provide you with a message alert. If that sounds like a joke, it’s not… this is how (mentioning no brand names) this particular user had been using a smartwatch until recently.

Clearly, it was a welcome move to move up to a Google Pixel Watch 2. Okay it’s not as big as it could be and some more ‘screen real estate’ would be good (other models are forthcoming), but the set-up of this device out of the box was easy with no instruction manual needed i.e. turn it on a create a connection to an Android phone, download the Google Pixel “WATCH” app and the rest is self-guided falling off a log.

Health monitoring

This edition of the Google watch series makes much of its updated health monitoring functions and it’s not long into usage that you find yourself driven to downloading an updated version of the Fitbit app. Google completed its acquisition of Fitbit in 2021 and while many of us have long consigned our basic wristbands to a drawer and forgotten our passwords, this device is a good excuse to download the app again, reset your login and start counting your steps.

To work in line with the Fitbit app, the device has an upgraded multi-path heart rate sensor, an EDA sensor and a temperature sensor. An Electrodermal Activity (EDA) Sensor is capable of measuring the electrical properties of the skin as it changes.

The Google Pixel Watch 2 runs the Google Wear OS 4 operating system. The LTE version does not require users to have a new number, but you need to set up a separate line. 

The battery life is around a day (when always on), but the screen turns on with a positive twist of the wrist towards your face (thanks to the device’s gyroscope), so why bother leaving it on all the time and draining the battery? The very proprietary device-specific charger magnetically snaps onto the back of the watch… and we do all need to start getting ourselves some USB-C adapters and chargers for this kind of cable, unless you plan on just plugging it into your laptop.

Core usability: email & chat

All of that said and done so far, let’s look at core usability.

Included but perhaps less intuitive is a Wear OS 4 take on GoogleMaps, although it’s hard to imagine navigating far on a screen this size with scaled-down functions, it’s cute to have it there for sure. The Google Calendar app also features, but you’re really only going to remind yourself when the odd meeting is as an extension from your smartphone and desktop here, it would be tough to think about planning and strategising a set of meetings on the device itself.

… and then, wonderfully, we come to Gmail and indeed WhatsApp.

Yes, the screen could be bigger, but who cares, for email and messaging, this device works at the highest level. Road tested for a week at Mobile World Congress this year, I found I could get every single email alert on my wrist, delete the headless chicken spam & waste of time messages, clear alerts to make room for new ones and, crucially, reply right from the device with a mini mini-keyboard on screen or (rather more sensibly) by voice-to-text recognition, which worked perfectly and flawlessly. What else would or could I ask for? Video eventually presumably, but this is real step forward and a very welcome one in terms of productivity and usability.

The device has a pleasingly rounded crown face (which is supposed to help make finger swipes easier, which it kind of does) and a 41mm display. There’s an unusual watch strap system that neatly ‘tucks under itself’… and at first looks like it’s not secure enough, but it very much is and the clasp never unlocks on its own.

Function buttons

The core ‘winding button’ on the side of the device (please don’t try and wind your smartwatch) throws up the watch face (which you can customise at length from inside the Fitbit app) and/or shows the list of all apps depending whether it’s your first or second press. An additional sunken button on the right-hand side of the device shows recently used apps.

There’s also a Google Assistant option so that users can look up personal stats (step count or sleep duration) and this may be expanded in functionality in future as Google does do back-end feature rollouts.

Looking back at (my) old watch, there’s not much to miss.

Yes, it delivered a week or 10-day charge in one go, but all it really did was tell the time and so that’s not a very smart smartwatch. Sensors on this device also include an accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light sensor, a barometer and a magnetometer, a passive instrument that measures changes in the Earth’s magnetic field.

The Google Pixel Watch 2 features Bluetooth 5.0, NFC and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz as standard.


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