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Google Pixel Watch 2 review: A good fit but far from perfect

The Google Pixel Watch 2 has a charming design, speedy processor and good health tracking. But it still isn't a match for the likes of Apple and Samsung

The Google Pixel Watch 2 was launched alongside the Pixel 8 and the Pixel 8 Pro in India.(Fitbit)

By Sahil Bhalla

LAST PUBLISHED 20.02.2024  |  12:30 PM IST

It created almost no buzz. No fanfare. While the Pixel line of smartphones from Google has been popular in India, the Pixel line of smartwatches is the opposite. The first Pixel Watch, in 2022, didn’t even launch in India.

The Google Pixel Watch 2 was launched alongside the Pixel 8 and the Pixel 8 Pro in India, but it almost seems it didn’t. Even a cursory glance at X (formerly Twitter) reveals the lack of interest in this smartwatch.

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I have been wearing the smartwatch daily, for over a month, and I don’t get why this is the case. I didn’t get to try the first Pixel Watch (and thankfully so since it had thick bezels and poor battery life according to most reviewers), but having worn the second edition, I’m mighty impressed.

Yes, the Pixel Watch 2 isn’t perfect (the proprietary charger annoys me), but it is just what the doctor ordered. Google has a good foundation upon which it can build and, maybe two or three generations in the future, take over the likes of Apple and Samsung.

A refreshing design

The best thing about the Pixel Watch 2 is just how elegant it looks. Apple hasn’t done much to change the design of the Apple Watch in years. Samsung got rid of the rotating bezel and then brought it back. Fitbit? The less said the better. The pebble domed-glass design of the Pixel Watch 2 is a standout. There’s a crown and button on one side. The speaker resides on the other.

While every smartwatch manufacturer offers two sizes, Google is sticking to only one. The 41-mm case is nice and fits snuggly, but a bigger case, with a bigger battery, would have been preferred.

The Pixel Watch 2 has one big change in its design. The smartwatch has moved from a stainless steel case to a recycled aluminium case, which makes it 10 percent lighter. There are also plenty of strap options to pick from.

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The Pixel Watch 2 also gets an official IP68 water and dust resistance rating and 5 ATM rating. This means that the watch can survive depths of up to 50 meters.

Speedy smartwatch

For the Pixel Watch 2, Google has switched from a Samsung processor to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon W5 Gen 1 chipset. It’s snappy and fluid. I noticed close to no lag or stutter during my time testing the smartwatch. For a Wear OS smartwatch, that’s a rarity.

The Pixel Watch 2 ships with Wear 4, Google’s latest mobile operating system (OS) for wearables and there is support for at least three years. There are the new Gmail and Calendar apps (scaled-down versions of the phone apps). There are enhanced notifications and better and more reliable dictation.

Two key things I liked about Wear OS 4. First, the ability to switch smartphones without having to reset the watch. For reviewers like us, who change smartphones weekly, this is a huge relief. Second, is the safety check feature. This lets a contact know if and when you got home safely.

There’s also a full WhatsApp app (hallelujah). You can simply start or reply to conversations from your wrist. Something you can’t do on the Apple Watch.

The Pixel Watch 2 easily lasts till the morning after (even with the display set to always-on). I didn’t have to charge it before going to bed and could easily track my sleep without having to worry about the watch dying overnight. It’s, however, still far behind some of the competitors' battery life.

Fitbit for health tracking

Thanks to Google’s Fitbit acquisition, integrating Fitbit’s services and apps has been seamless. You can take care of your health and activity tracking with ease. There’s heart rate monitoring, ECGs, step count, sleep tracking and much more. In fact, the accuracy of the Pixel Watch 2 has been pretty high. Pair the Pixel Watch 2 with the Fitbit app (which finally got a redesign), and you get easy-to-digest data. For deeper insights, you do have to pay for Fitbit Premium, which also gets you a Daily Readiness - a feature that tells you how much exercise you can intake for the day.

The Pixel Watch 2 gets a skin sensor this time around. It’s used for tracking stress. Combined with lots of other data, the smartwatch can suggest breathing exercises for when you are stressed.

For the Pixel Watch 2, Google has switched from a Samsung processor to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon W5 Gen 1 chipset. (Fitbit)

All-in-all, the health metrics came pretty close to what I got from my Apple Watch Series 8 that I was wearing side-by-side. The Apple Watch is still the king, mind you, but the Pixel Watch 2 isn’t far behind.

Last but not least, I want to highlight how good the Pixel Watch 2 is with automatically detecting walks. It seems a tad better than the Apple Watch. I often forget to start logging my walk, and the Pixel Watch pops up around the 10-minute mark asking if I’d like to record my walk. It does so without fail. It’s a lovely feature.

One big grouse I have with the Pixel Watch 2

While the battery life is good (not great), and enough to last through sleep tracking, the charging is a pain.

The Pixel Watch 2 gets a brand-new proprietary charger (yes, different from that of the Pixel Watch). With this new charger, you can get about 80 percent charge in just 45 minutes. While that’s good, getting the thing to charge is a nuisance. To charge the Pixel Watch 2 you have to place the charge on the watch in a specific direction. Unlike with Apple or Samsung’s smartwatches, you’ve got to be pinpoint precise when setting the Pixel Watch 2 upon its charger.

There were many times when even a slight displacement, or a niggle of the table, and the charger would get disconnected

Verdict: Is the Pixel Watch 2 a worthy buy?

At 39,900 on Flipkart, the Pixel Watch 2 is priced similarly to Samsung’s Galaxy Watch6 Classic (and its rotating bezel). At such a steep price, the Pixel Watch 2 isn’t an outright recommendation.

Sure, it gets a lot right. There’s the charming design, speedy processor, and good health tracking. But that’s about it. That’s where the buck stops. There’s nothing exclusive for Pixel smartphone users, and there’s no need to stay tied into Google’s ecosystem, just yet.

If looks and health tracking are what you’re going for, then get the Pixel Watch 2. But if you want more ‘smarts’ then the Galaxy Watch6 Classic or the Apple Watch are far better buys.

Nonetheless, the Pixel Watch 2 is a good attempt by Google and something that can turn into a great attempt going forward.

Sahil Bhalla is a Delhi-based journalist. He posts @IMSahilBhalla

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