Google’s first generation Pixel Watch just got a massive upgrade

Google Pixel Watch
(Image credit: Future)

Good news for original Pixel Watch owners disappointed Google released a second-generation wearable just 12 months after its release. The company has announced that Wear OS 4 is rolling out to the first-gen smartwatch, and it’s bringing a bunch of the features previously exclusive to the Pixel Watch 2 with it.

“All supported Pixel Watch devices running Wear OS 3.5 will receive the October 2023 software with the Wear OS 4 upgrade starting today,” wrote Stefanie Frederick, Social and Community Manager for Devices and Services at Google. “The rollout will continue over the coming weeks in phases depending on carrier and device.”

When your update is ready, you’ll get a notification on your watch, giving you access to the new features that Pixel Watch 2 users are already enjoying.

What’s coming to Pixel Watch with Wear OS 4?

Google Pixel Watch 2 safety check

(Image credit: Future)

The most useful of these are the Google Calendar apps, and the introduction of Safety Check, which is a thoughtful and well-implemented feature that could literally be a life-saver. If you’re engaging in something risky — walking home alone after a night out, say — the watch can automatically send your GPS coordinates and a message to your emergency contacts if you don’t confirm you’re safe when a timer of your choice expires.

Wear OS 4 also comes with the ability to transfer your Pixel Watch data to a new phone without a factory reset, and lets you backup wearable data and settings when you’re ready to upgrade to a newer model.

Accessibility has been improved with “a new text-to-speech engine supporting a faster, a more reliable TalkBack experience on your watch, bold text, new and improved magnification, and audio balance to adjust intensity of sound between right and left audio channels”.

Finally, Pixel Watch 1 owners will get improved notifications with “smart link recognition of phone numbers and addresses”. This means you can tap them to call, message or get directions. Images and GIFs will now also appear as media previews within the notification panel. 

Close, but not a Pixel Watch 2

Google Pixel Watch 2

(Image credit: Google)

This is a very welcome upgrade for Pixel Watch owners, but it doesn’t bring total parity with the Pixel Watch 2. 

For one thing, there’s one safety feature that hasn’t been brought across to the original wearable: Safety Signal. Available on the Pixel Watch 2 with a Fitbit Premium sub, it lets wearers connect to LTE networks in emergencies, even without a carrier plan. This appears to be intentional, as the original Pixel Watch isn’t listed on the feature’s support page

More fundamentally, though the two wearables look similar, the Pixel Watch 2 has a big internal upgrade over the original model. 

The first-generation Pixel Watch used the Exynos 9110 — a chipset that was four years old on release day and isn’t looking any more sprightly today. The Pixel Watch 2, meanwhile, uses last year’s Qualcomm SW5100, which is just a year old and offers nippier performance and better efficiency to ensure the watch lives up to its all-day battery life promise.

In her four star Pixel Watch 2 review, wearable expert Kate Kozuch called it “a big improvement for wellness tracking,” commenting that it “feels more like a Fitbit in a lot of ways.” But she found the lack of sizing options and the persistence of thick bezels an annoyance that kept it from a full-throated endorsement.

“If I had to guess, I think next year will be a big year for Google's smartwatch, with the types of upgrades that directly challenge the Galaxy Watch, maybe even the Apple Watch,” she concluded.

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Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.