The news that Google’s Pixel Watch is selling more than Samsung smartwatches, according to data from industry analysts Canalys, surprised me a little. It’s a very first-generation smartwatch, in that it has a lovely design and a lot of promise but isn't quite there yet to really chase down the Apple Watch Series 8.
Having claimed 8% of the smartwatch market share compared to Samsung’s 5.9%, the Pixel Watch is doing rather well. I’d hazard a guess that various Pixel Watch deals and a competitive price compared to the likes of the Galaxy Watch 5 broaden its appeal. But as I saw this news, I realized that I’m part of this Pixel Watch love-in.
Despite being a tech journalist for nearly a decade, I only really got into smartwatches in late 2020, when I snagged a Fossil Carlyle HR in a sale (I also had a gift card that dictated my choice of watch). Then around a year ago, I took possession of an Apple Watch SE that was hanging around in a Tom’s Guide locker.
Wear OS to watchOS and back again
Moving from a dated Google Watch OS wearable to Apple’s watchOS experience was like stepping out of a dark cave into beaming sunlight. While far from the best Apple Watch, the SE was nicer to use, had a better display, and offered far more functionality than the Fossil smartwatch, which could be remarkably glitchy.
As a result, the Apple Watch SE became a regular fixture for my wrist.
Even when the Pixel Watch arrived, I remained skeptical of it in the face of the superior Apple Watch; it didn't seem to have any outstanding features and looked to be more of a Fitbit-centric device than a perfect partner for a Pixel phone.
So why have I ditched Cupertino’s wearable for the Pixel Watch? Fashion darling, fashion.
Rah rah fashion baby
Unlike a lot of U.K. tech journalists, I eschew the standard check (I think that’s plaid in American) shirt and hooded top combo for neater polo tops, some form of blazer for the likes of Reiss or Paul Smith and tailored jeans from Ted Baker (I’m really good at finding costly brands on sale). While I may physically be an overweight unshaven mess, my sartorial choices are pretty solid. But the Apple Watch SE never really fit my fit.
Granted, tech YouTuber extraordinaire MKBHD may have worn an Apple Watch to last year’s Met Gala. But he rocked a matte black model — and is undoubtedly cooler than this bumbling Brit— whereas my SE has a clunky blue rubber strap and a silver body. And I found it felt more like I was wearing a mini computer on my wrist than a watch with some extra brains.
Sure, the functionality of watchOS and the Apple Watches remain unbeatable and still feel futuristic. But I’m not on The Expanse’s Rocinante, I’m in London, one of the world’s fashion capitals.
Equally, I’m still a tech journalist and I need a device to ping me notifications for various meetings or Slack alerts. Enter the Pixel Watch.
I think it looks great. The dark rounded face may hide big bezels, but on the wrist, you won’t notice them. The dark face contrasts nicely against the gold-ish colored crown and body, while the light gray rubber strap is clean and neat, giving off a minimalist Scandinavian design vibe.
As such, the Pixel Watch simply works neatly riding under the sleeve of a blazer, as much as it does on a rugged denim shirt or mac coat. And with one watch face that looks a bit like that of a traditional watch from a modernist independent brand, it scratches that itch I think people in their 30s get towards wanting a nice watch... or several.
Of course, I fully accept that I’m getting an inferior smartwatch experience when compared to an Apple Watch. But I don’t really care.
Unlike my more active colleagues, I’m ambivalent about all the health-centric features of watchOS. All I really need is notifications, calendar access, a reliable step counter and control over Spotify. The Pixel Watch ticks these boxes and does so in style.
There are caveats. As an iPhone 13 Pro user, which the Pixel Watch doesn't work with, I do need to carry around my Pixel 7 Pro or do without many of the smart features. This isn’t ideal and I wish Google would open the Pixel Watch app to iOS. And battery life for the Pixel Watch isn't exactly impressive.
But for what I need from a smartwatch, the Pixel Watch has grown on me a lot and now finds its place on my wrist almost every day; didn't think I’d be saying that. Hopefully, 2023 will have more tech surprises... looking at you iPhone 15 Pro Max.