Thursday, May 30, 2024
Smart Phones

Google Pixel Watch 2 hands-on preview: that’s more like it

Google Pixel Watch 2 Intro

The Google Pixel Watch 2 is now official, and I had the chance to see it in person at the Made by Google event where the Pixel 8 series was also unveiled. Google’s latest smartwatch is here to fix the shortcomings of Google’s first-gen wearable – it promises better battery life and performance improvements. It should also be a better fitness and health tracker thanks to its new and improved sensors. Starting at $349 for the non-LTE model, the Pixel Watch 2 is not exactly cheap, but with its broad range of features, it could be an option worth considering this upcoming holiday season. 

What’s new about the Google Pixel Watch 2

  • All-new, quad-core CPU
  • Aluminum case instead of stainless steel
  • Skin temperature sensor
  • Continuous electrodermal activity (cEDA) sensor
  • All-new heart rate sensor
  • Improved battery life and charging speed

Google Pixel Watch 2 Specs

The performance gains mentioned above come thanks to the Snapdragon W5, which is a chip Qualcomm announced in 2022. It is made specifically for wearables, meaning that in addition to smooth performance, we expect to see low power consumption as well. 

Google Pixel Watch 2 Design & Sizes

Same on the outside, but with a lighter aluminum case
On the surface, the Google Pixel Watch 2 looks exactly like its predecessor. That, however, is not a bad thing since the Pixel Watch was (and still is) a good-looking watch with minimalist and elegant design. Just make sure you take care of it. Unlike other watches, the Pixel Watch does not have a raised bezel around the screen to protect it. 
Speaking of the screen, specs suggest that it’s the same as on the first-gen Pixel Watch. It is a 1.2-inch OLED screen with a prominent border around it and 1000 nits of peak brightness. As mentioned above, the Corning Gorilla Glass 5 is its only layer of protection against scratches and cracks, but having used the Pixel Watch for many months, I can say it’s surprisingly durable. 

While the 1st-gen Pixel Watch was made of stainless steel, the Watch 2 has an aluminum case. Aluminum isn’t as strong, but it is lighter, and on a watch, even a few grams make a difference. The Pixel Watch 2 is 10% lighter than last year’s model. 

Unfortunately, the Pixel Watch 2 still comes in one, 41mm size only. If you wanted a bigger variant, you might have to wait until next year. You do get a small and a large band in the set, however. 

Water resistance is rated at 5ATM – a typical rating for premium smartwatches. In plain words, the Google Pixel Watch 2 can be used safely in a pool.

Google Pixel Watch 2 Bands

More bands to choose from than last year

Unsurprisingly, the Pixel Watch 2 sticks to the same proprietary band attachment mechanism. Some people seem to be frustrated with Google’s solution, but I think once you get the hang of it, you’ll find taking the bands off and putting them on again rather easy. 

Inside the Google Pixel Watch 2 box you’ll find a small and a large wrist band made of fluoroelastomer synthetic rubber. There’s a bunch of colors to pick from, including colors matching those of the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, which is neat. Google’s extensive band collection also includes models made of leather, metal, and fabric. The bright, coral-colored one pictured here is the Active Sports band.

Google Pixel Watch 2 Software & Features

The Pixel Watch 2 is one of the very few smartwatches running the latest WearOS 4 by Google. The new OS brings along improved, more functional notifications and six new watch faces to pick from. 

But you might be a bit more excited about the Watch 2’s new health and fitness tracking features. For example, the watch has Fitbit’s Body Response feature which leverages a new continuous electrodermal activity (cEDA) sensor to detect stress, be it positive or negative. When stress is detected, the Watch 2 will invite you to reflect on your experiences and take a moment to unwind with a guided breathing or a mindfulness session. 

Thanks to a new skin temperature sensor, the Pixel Watch 2 can detect potential changes in your health and warn you if you might be getting ill. Temperature readings are taken at night, however, so keep that in mind if you’re used to charging your gadgets overnight.

The new Heart Rate Zone Coaching and Pace Training features are designed to help you maintain depending the right pace, depending on the type of exercise and fitness goals set. It can alert you if you’re out of the optimal heart rate zone, thus letting you know if you should speed up or slow down. 

Google Pixel Watch 2 Battery and Charging

A much-needed battery life boost

Google says that the Pixel Watch 2 lasts longer between charges. With its newer processor and slightly larger, 306mAh battery, it should be able to last 24 hours per charge with always-on display enabled. That’s still not an excellent endurance rating, but it’s comparable to how long an Apple Watch lasts. Charging is now faster: expect getting to 50% charge in 30 minutes and 80% in 45 minutes. A full charge takes 80 minutes, according to Google.

Another welcome change is the new magnetic charging puck, which now holds the Pixel Watch 2 firmly. Last year’s Pixel Watch had weaker magnets in the puck, and it was common for it to come off by accident. On the downside, I noticed that the new puck will only stick to the Watch 2 if it’s rotated with the cable below the crown. 

Google Pixel Watch 2 Models and Prices

There are two models to pick from: a base Pixel Watch 2 with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi ($349) and an LTE-capable model with eSIM ($399). While the cheaper variant lets you make calls and send texts when paired to your smartphone (the watch has built-in microphone and speaker), the LTE-enabled Watch 2 can do that on its own – for example, when you leave your bulky phone at home during a morning run. 

Google Pixel Watch 2 Expectations

We’ll be using and testing the Google Pixel Watch 2 over the coming week to give it our final verdict. For now, however, we can say that it’s looking like a solid offering for Android users and an overall improvement compared to the first-gen Pixel Watch, especially if it’s able to deliver on the promised battery life and performance gains.  

With a price of $349 to $399, the Pixel Watch 2 is not the most affordable smartwatch – for example, the Galaxy Watch 6 can be had for $299 and offers similar functionality. On the other hand, if you have your mind set on the brand new Pixel 8 Pro, Google will give you a Wi-Fi Watch 2 for free if you order by October 16. 


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