It’s tough to match what an Apple Watch can do, but that requires an iPhone. If you’re Android, the Pixel Watch 2 provides a more basic smartwatch experience along with accurate Fitbit health tracking.
Google recently unveiled the device at an event in New York City and I’ve been testing out the $350 device. I was hopeful for last year’s model but came away feeling underwhelmed.
This year’s model looks identical, but there are major improvements to the battery and sensors. Google says the heart rate tracking is 40% more accurate this year and they’ve even added additional sensors on the back of the device for more readings.
New sensors measure skin temperature and body response so the watch can tell you when you’re stressed out, and offer suggestions on how to calm down.
“One of the interventions I’m really excited about is just to help relax… it’s a breath app you simply just tap on the watch, and it will give you this one-to-two-minute breathing exercise,” said Sandeep Waraich, a Pixel Watch product manager at Google.
Last year’s watch felt underpowered, and the battery life wasn’t that great – especially if you wanted the screen to always stay on.
This year, Google promises 24 hours of battery life and the display is always on by default.
In my testing, battery life still leaves a bit to be desired, but you will get through a full day. Of course, with such a slim device, you’ll want to wear this to bed to track your sleep. I experimented with various times to charge, both in the morning and in the afternoon. None of it was ideal.
Also, the watch still feels a bit slow compared to the zippiness of the Apple Watch. Perhaps a software update will help with that.
Last year’s bands still work and there are some new additions.
“One is the sports band which is a lot more breathable and comfortable and second if the metal slim, very jewelry like, very lifestyle expressive,” said Waraich.
They still take a bit to get on and off.
One change I don’t like: Google modified the charging adapter. It’s no longer wireless. Now it uses metal contact pins to charge, and you must align it in a way that’s just right.
In addition to fall detection and low and high heart rate notifications, Pixel Watch 2 gets a new Safety Check feature. You can set a timer like for when you go out on a run, and if you don’t respond after a certain time, it will alert emergency contacts.
“That proximity of a device on your wrist can really help you have that peace of mind,” said Waraich.
One nice thing I really like over the Apple Watch: Google Assistant. It’s even handier on your wrist. Plus, you can access Google Maps and download music to the watch.
In the future, Google promises you’ll be able to use AI to ask Fitbit for even deeper insights into your health data, which seems really cool.
Overall, the Pixel Watch 2 is an improvement over the first model, although the screen is small and the side button seems hidden. But, if you want a simple smartwatch that combines the power of google and highly accurate Fitbit tracking, it’s a good companion to an Android phone.