The Google Pixel Watch 2 has a new heart rate sensor, stress-detection, safety features, more workout tools, a more efficient processor, and an improved battery life — sounds like the makeup of one of the best Android smartwatches, right?
I thought the Google Pixel Watch had a lot to offer as a first-generation device, and now the Pixel Watch 2 builds on its success. It once again leverages Fitbit health-tracking, even borrowing the Fitbit Sense 2's standout cEDA sensor. What's more, the new chipset promises zippier Wear OS performance and a battery life that can actually last 24 hours with the always-on display mode enabled.
That said, the watch oddly switches to non-wireless charging. They display bezels are still pretty chunky, and I really wish the Pixel Watch 2 came in a second size option, too. But even if Google didn't deliver everything on my wishlist, I think it'll appeal to the holdouts. I explain why in my full Google Pixel Watch 2 review below.
Google Pixel Watch 2 price and availability
The Pixel Watch 2 costs $349 for the Wi-Fi model and $399 for the LTE-compatible version. The LTE model lets you stay connected when you're out and about without your phone, though you'll need to set up a plan with your mobile carrier for an additional fee.
Google Pixel Watch 2 specs
|Price||$349 (Wi-Fi), $399 (LTE)|
|Display||320 ppi AMOLED, 1,000 nits|
|Colors||Matte Black, Polished Silver, Champagne Gold|
|Connectivity||4G LTE (optional), Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 802.11n, NFC|
|Compatibility||Android 9 or newer|
|Battery life||24 hours with always-on display|
Google Pixel Watch 2 review: Design
When I first got a glimpse at the Pixel Watch 2, I was a bit disappointed. There were two key looks-based elements I saw as hurdles to Pixel Watch adoption, and both of them seemed like achievable changes.
First, the bezel on the Pixel Watch 2 display is still rather pronounced, leaving some of the 1,000-nit AMOLED touchscreen unusable. Second, Google is also still only offering one, 41mm size of the Pixel Watch. I think this gives a choice disadvantage compared to the Apple Watch Series 9, Galaxy Watch 6 and Garmin Venu 3, which all come in two sizes. Whether it's for preference or for comfort, multiple sizes presents options that customers like to have.
Luckily, there is another kind of choice available in terms of appearance. The watch comes in three color options — Matte Black, Polished Silver, Champagne Gold — and is compatible with an array of bands. Google released some fresh styles alongside the Pixel Watch 2, of which I like the breathable Active Sport straps.
The circular watch chassis is made of 100% recycled aluminum now as well. This makes the watch more comfortable and more lightweight, dropping the weight from 36 grams (1.27 ounces) on the original to 31 grams (1.1 ounces). The Pixel Watch maintains one side button and digital crown, though the digital crown is slightly adapted to move more smoothly now.
Google Pixel Watch 2 review: Health and fitness-tracking features
Overall wellbeing is a greater focus on the Pixel Watch 2, with the watch adopting a skin temperature sensor and borrowing the continuous electrodermal activity (cEDA) reader from the Fitbit Sense 2 were carried over to this watch. While testing the watch, it detected when I felt stressed or experienced a shift in my mood approximately once per day, prompting me to log how I’m feeling. Depending on my answer, the watch gave advice on how to manage it, such as suggesting a breathing exercise.
In addition to a skin temperature sensor and cEDA reader, the Pixel Watch 2 has an improved multi-path heart rate sensor. It promises a 40% accuracy improvement compared to the original Pixel Watch thanks to added LEDs and photodiodes. Now, I actually thought the heart rate sensor on the first Pixel Watch was fantastic, performing up to par with my Apple Watch. That's to say I'm not sure it needed to be a prioritized upgrade, when again, Google already kind of had it right.
What it maybe didn’t have right, but is now available on the Pixel Watch 2, is the ability to automatically detect, pause and stop certain activities. The watch now shows you your heart rate zones during workouts, too. Finally, there’s now Pace Training for running, pitching the Pixel Watch 2 as a real running watch. That said, something like the Garmin Venu 3 or Garmin Forerunner 265 are better choices in a similar price range if you're serious about training.
I was able to view all my health data and weekly summary reports, including sleep-tracking, in the Fitbit app on my smartphone. You do still need a Fitbit Premium membership ($80/year) to make the most of your Pixel Watch 2, and you'll get 6 months free when you register your new device. Next year, with a new generative AI feature, you’ll even be able to get deeper insights into how your different points of health data impact how you’re feeling and moving. This new tool sounds ambitious, and I'm eager to try it out when it becomes available.
Google Pixel Watch 2 review: Safety features
In addition to the emergency SOS and fall detection features on the original Pixel Watch, the Pixel Watch 2 adds a welcome Safety Check feature to the mix. This is a feature you won't find on many of the best smartwatches. Apple recently released a version called Check In, but it's only accessible via an iPhone running iOS 17.
With Safety Check, I can set an activity and timer estimating when I expect to arrive at my location or complete the activity. I opted to send an alert to my emergency contact about my plans, too. It’s getting darker earlier, so for commuting home from the office, I used a Safety Check. If for some reason I didn't confirm I’ve arrived home safely, my emergency contact will get a text sharing my location on Google Maps through Emergency Sharing.
And if there’s a situation where I’m unexpectedly and urgently concerned for my wellbeing, I can just hit emergency sharing in the moment. This feature offers me some piece of mind, and reminds me why I value wearing a smartwatch. It's a similar reassurance I get from the Siren on the Apple Watch Ultra.
Google Pixel Watch 2 review: Wear OS software
Google hasn't made huge improvements with its Wear OS 4.0 software, but there's some notable upgrades. There's now dedicated Gmail and Calendar apps for staying on top of your inbox and schedule directly on your wrist. They join the exisiting collection of Google apps, including Google Maps, YouTube Music, Google Home and Google Pay. In terms of Android smartwatches, there are none that are as comprehensively integrated with the Google ecosystem as the Pixel Watch 2.
Now, you can also access fitness information using Google Assistant, or simply use the assistant for queries and sending messages. There's also a new 'At a Glance' watch face complication that can curate helpful information based on what you might want to see at a certain time of day. Otherwise, there's a collection of customizable watch faces that let me personalize my watch's interface.
Google Pixel Watch 2 review: Battery life
I could only get the original Pixel Watch to last 24 hours with the always-on display turned off. Now, Google says you can leave the always on display enabled and still get a day's worth of juice. This is likely because of the switch to the Qualcomm Snapdragon W5 processor, which not only makes for a more responsive user experience, but is more power efficient than what the Pixel Watch had before.
At first, I didn't think this sounded like a true upgrade. But after using the Pixel Watch 2 for continuous location-tracking on 6-hour walk, I was pleasantly surprised that the watch lasted the entire time. It only drained about 10% per hour, whereas the first Pixel Watch drained closer to 20% per hour.
I do find it weird that the Pixel Watch 2 ditched wireless charging, though. This means that the watch needs to be attached to the charging pins in a specific way, or it won't charge. The first-generation watch charger is incompatible with the new version, too.
Google Pixel Watch 2 review: Verdict
The Google Pixel Watch 2 isn’t exactly the smartwatch I was expecting to see. I really had to weigh the pros and cons, and since Google did have this year to learn from initial feedback and make changes, I felt inclined to be a bit tougher on this version 2.0.
On one hand, the watch is a big improvement for wellness tracking. It actually feels more like a Fitbit in a lot of ways, and that convergence is probably for the best. The safety features are a big plus as well, and it’s important to know that it’ll have Wear OS 4 exclusivity for a while, getting the newly optimised Google Calendar and Gmail apps.
Then on the other hand, a lot of people including me have complained about limitations of the size and the bezels, and it’s kind of weird to say but it feels like those concerns weren’t heard; however, thinking in terms of the future, it’s become pretty clear to me that this is a half-stepping stone to grab the attention of first-gen holdouts. 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.