The Google Pixel Watch 2 almost looks like a clone of its predecessor, but it turns out to be a better sequel. Many of the changes fall under the software side of things, where deeper integration with paired phones and extra health and fitness features make this watch more adaptable. That’s not to say nothing’s changed on the hardware side, considering new sensors on board. The watch is a more fully-loaded alternative to its predecessor, and easily one of the best smartwatch models you can strap on your wrist.

Design of the Pixel Watch 2

I really liked the previous Pixel Watch, so I took to the look and feel of the Watch 2 the same way. Putting it on felt a lot like putting on the original, and if not for the different colour strap, putting them next to each other might’ve confused me. That is until I noticed the nuanced contrasts between them. The Watch 2 has a digital crown with a gold accent, but also a totally different sensor and charging layout at the bottom, which is a dead giveaway between them.

Otherwise, the two are strikingly similar, with the same size, strap mechanism, button array, microphone, and speaker. Mind you, there are some changes to note. The cover screen is a little thinner, and the recycled aluminum body (compared to stainless steel) makes this watch lighter than before. In addition, the Watch 2 runs on a newer processor, comes with new skin temperature and electrodermal response (cEDA) sensors to measure temperature and stress.

It also retains its IP68 dustproof and water resistant rating, enabling it to work down to five feet of water for up to 30 minutes, plus a 5ATM rating for up to 50 metres of water pressure for 10 minutes. Gorilla Glass 5 protects the screen, so put together, the watch has more protection than it may seem at first glance. The Watch 2 still only comes in the same 41mm size, limiting you if you’re looking for a larger screen. Two straps—large and small—come in the box to cover most wrists without issue, and you can always buy other straps of varying materials to accessorize the device for any occasion.

Wear OS 4

I found the Pixel Watch 2 just as easy to set up as its predecessor. You turn it on, pair it with your Android phone and then run through the setup process. You can download the Pixel Watch app (it’s in the settings for Pixel phones) to go through the steps and then customize what you want the watch to do.

This is, for all intents and purposes, a speedier watch because of the Snapdragon W5 processor, but also because of improvements in Wear OS 4. For one, you get more apps, including Gmail and Calendar, as well as cool integrations like those with the camera, where the watch acts as a remote shutter. You’ll find plenty more in the Play Store on the watch itself, or on your phone when you go to the Watch apps section.

It’s also still easy to navigate the interface to find things. Swipe down to access the control panel, or up to see notifications. Swipe right or left to cycle through the tiles available as shortcuts to apps and functions, like exercises, heart rate, sleep, maps, weather, ECG, and calendar. Press the crown and you get a list of the installed apps on the watch. Press the back button from there and you see your most recently used apps. I just wish there was an easier way to add third-party apps as tiles.

It’s worth utilizing the Watch app on your phone as well because some customizations are easier to do there. You can always change the watch face on the Pixel Watch 2 itself or cycle through the options on the app. The same goes for installing apps or setting up the emergency features. Neat choices like Emergency Sharing and Safety Check can help loved ones know you’re safe or need help. Emergency SOS and Fall Detection call emergency response directly when triggered. Safety Signal lets you share your location in real time when you don’t have your phone, though it needs a Fitbit Premium subscription to work.

Google Assistant still works like a charm, and is convenient for responding to incoming messages. Google Pay does the same for payments when buying things. And if you misplace your phone, the watch can make it ring to track it down.

Exercise and health tracking

As before, the Pixel Watch 2 gives you over 40 exercises you can track, though a few will now start automatically. Go out for a walk or run and the watch will keep tabs without you having to do anything. For other exercises, though, you’ll need to start and stop them manually, which you can do in the watch by just selecting the exercise and going from there.

Built-in GPS ensures you can use this watch outside and not worry about tracking a route. It’s not on par with Garmin in that regard, especially since its watches may include barometric and other data, but Google holds up well here.

Meanwhile, the Fitbit integration continues to grow in both health and fitness tracking. You’ll see the Pixel Watch 2 in the Fitbit app, tracking all the same metrics a Fitbit device would. In this case, that not only includes your activity, but also things like heart rate, calorie burn, sleep, blood oxygen, skin temperature, and stress. The ECG (electrocardiogram) also returns as a cool feature that no longer requires sleuthing to find it. It’s a tile you can add straightaway and setup for use within minutes.

The new skin temperature sensor tracks fluctuations during sleep, which adds to the overall sleep tracking that piggybacks off Fitbit. If you’re familiar with Fitbit’s sleep tracking and coaching, then you’ll know how it works here. The cEDA sensor measures stress by electrical activity in your skin, then takes that data and aggregates it with activity, heart rate, sleep and more to give you a sense of how stressed you might be. While the Fitbit app explains what this process actually does, it doesn’t necessarily provide guidance on what to do if the score isn’t optimal.

Fitting into daily life

Much like I noticed with the original, the Pixel Watch 2 settles in nicely in daily life. It’s easy to talk to Google Assistant or take a phone call, though volume levels still aren’t as high as I would like. Notifications will roll through based on what you want to see, and in some cases, let you take action, either by responding or opening it up on the app on your watch or phone. I particularly liked the ability to store music and podcasts from Spotify to listen on headphones or earbuds without the phone. It was a great way to disconnect from everything while out on a bike ride or walk. I also loved being able to control the camera on my Pixel 8 Pro through the watch.

I’m not thrilled at the roadblocks Google puts up for adding third-party apps as tiles, but don’t have much to complain about with the interface otherwise. Customizing your watch face is as easy as holding down on the screen and then selecting any of the other options. This is great if you have preferences for different tasks, like exercising or spending a night out.

That goes for switching straps too. The mechanism isn’t bad, but don’t be surprised if it takes a few tries to slide one out or in. Thankfully, there are plenty of choices now, even more so because straps that fit the original Pixel Watch will perfectly fit the Pixel Watch 2. If you’re upgrading from one to the other, take your straps with you.

Pixel Watch 2 battery life

Here’s where things get tricky. The Pixel Watch 2 proves Google’s claim of all-day battery life is true, but you will be charging this thing at least once every 24-36 hours. That matters even more when the charger itself is proprietary. The original Pixel Watch had a wireless charger that was no different than laying it down on a Qi-enabled charging pad. Not so with the Pixel Watch 2, which uses a four-pronged base with magnets to latch onto the device. It resembles the original charger, but is very different, and means the Watch 2 can’t charge wirelessly.

That means you have to take the charger with you if you plan to travel with it, even if it’s a very short trip. The one saving grace is it charges up quickly, usually filling up completely in about 75 minutes. That’s a big improvement over the original, which took 120 minutes to do the same.

Final thoughts on the Pixel Watch 2

It may look the same, but the Pixel Watch 2 feels like a nice upgrade from the original because it refines across the board. It’s faster, lasts longer, feels lighter, integrates better, tracks more and benefits from broader app support. Google isn’t abandoning the first Pixel Watch, so that will still get software updates, but this sequel is definitely better than the first. That one stood out more for how it looked above everything, whereas this one has the functionality to go with it.

The Google Pixel Watch 2 is available now in various colours and straps.

Ted Kritsonis
Editor Cellular/Mobile Technology
I’m a fortunate man in being able to do the fun job of following and reporting on one of the most exciting industries in the world today. In my time covering consumer tech, I’ve written for a number of publications, including the Globe and Mail, Yahoo! Canada, CBC.ca, Canoe, Digital Trends, MobileSyrup, G4 Tech, PC World, Faze and AppStorm. I’ve also appeared on TV as a tech expert for Global, CTV and the Shopping Channel.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here