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Google Pixel Watch 2 review: A Wear OS evolution or Fitbit Sense 2 in disguise?

By Zachary Chan - 28 Feb 2024
Launch SRP: S$525

Pixel Watch 2

Finally, you can now own a watch made by Google

HardwareZone never did review the first Pixel Watch; it wasn’t released in Singapore. So, by all accounts, the Pixel Watch 2 is my very first Pixel Watch experience. And that means this review will read different than others. I have no preconceived bias for or against its predecessor. Instead, I’ll be comparing my experience against the Samsung Galaxy Watch6 series – the current torch bearer for modern Wear OS smartwatches – and the Fitbit Sense series, which I feel is where the Pixel Watch evolved from.

The Pixel Watch 2 comes in just one size, a 41mm round watch face. You would think that this makes it ever so slightly larger than the small 40mm Galaxy Watch6. However, the Pixel Watch 2 has a huge black bezel reminiscent of Fitbit’s watch design, putting the usable display size at just 1.2-inches. Even the 40mm Galaxy Watch6 has a larger 1.3-inch display, while the 44mm version has a 1.5-inch display.

When I first got the Pixel Watch 2, I was immediately missing the screen real estate of the Galaxy Watch6. However, over the last few weeks of testing, it grew on me. I still hated the bezels, but the display was bright (1000 nits), sharp (450 x 450 pixels), and ultra clean with Wear OS 4 and Google’s Material You UI interface. I grew to appreciate its curves, the way the glass meets the case, and how the bands merge into the frame. Everything flowed seamlessly together making the Pixel Watch 2 look both sporty and classy at the same time.

Don't let the the 3D glass fool you, the blue steps ring is basically where the display actually ends. Beyond that is just a big black bezel.

New multi-path heart rate sensor is sensitive and accurate, but the rest of the sensing technologies like ECG, cEDA all come from the Fitbit Sense 2.

With sustainability being a key focus with all brands these days, it’s no surprise that the Pixel Watch 2 shouts about its 100% recycled aluminium case, which according to Google, is 10% lighter than the original Pixel Watch. Before I go into functionality, the good news is that the bands for the Pixel Watch and Pixel Watch 2 are interchangeable; they share the exact same design. The bad news is that the Pixel Watch 2 has a proprietary charging cable, which I find mildly frustrating. It connects magnetically via 4 symmetrical pogo pins, but in only one direction. A universal wireless puck like the one on the Galaxy Watch is so much more convenient.

Case in point: The Fitbit Sense charging cable actually works on the Pixel Watch 2.

Getting down to features and usability

Now, I mentioned that the Pixel Watch 2 comes with Wear OS 4 and Material You, so let’s tackle that separately.

In terms of Wear OS 4, it isn’t the first smartwatch to debut the latest Wear OS. The Samsung Galaxy Watch6 has it too, and by the time you read this, all the previous Watch4 and Watch5 would have had this update as well. So, in terms of a Google smartwatch experience, there’s nothing really unique about the Pixel Watch 2 I haven’t seen before.

  • Google Pay? Check.
  • Google Maps? Check.
  • Calendar and Gmail notifications? Check.
  • All the other apps that are supported on the Play Store for wearables? Check.

What you do get are some added safety features configurable in the Pixel Watch app, such as Emergency Sharing, which broadcasts your location and Safety Check, which is a countdown timer that requires you to “check in”, to confirm your safety. However, in Singapore, only the Bluetooth version of the Pixel Watch 2 is sold.

Some new software safety features that can be setup in the Pixel Watch app.

As for Material You, the design is clean and legible. I can tell the similarities from menus, notifications and files between the Galaxy Watch6 and Pixel Watch 2. The integrated Fitbit app on the other hand is excellent. It offers up a wealth of stats and tracking info at a glance, with the ability to drill down further. You can also check and log your Body Responses on the watch if that’s a routine you feel like getting into. This was the part of using the Pixel Watch 2 that I loved the most. Because of this, the only reason I fired up the app on my phone was to check historical data and make sure that my daily routines were synced regularly.

The cEDA sensor continuously detects minute electrical changes on your skin and prompts you when there is a variance or potential stress event. You can then choose to log your feeling at the time.

The Fitbit app on the watch itself provides a host of features and stats you can drill into without taking out your phone.

However, I must say that the list-style menus on the Pixel Watch 2 is dated; you’ll have to rotate the crown to scroll through everything. There’s no option in the menu to select a grid-style menu either and I suspect this option is locked because of the small display on the Pixel Watch 2.

The real difference then lies in their respective health tracking ecosystems, mainly Samsung Health for the Galaxy Watch6 and Fitbit for the Pixel Watch 2. Yes, Fitbit, not Google Fit. A few more points to note. Both the Galaxy Watch6 and Pixel Watch2 are essentially Android-only devices. They require a separate device management app (Galaxy Wearable and Pixel Watch) to connect and configure the watches. These apps are not available on iOS. For the Pixel Watch 2, you then need to link your Google account with your Fitbit account. In an ideal world, everything will sync up and you’d rarely touch the Watch app anymore after the initial setup. Your day-to-day usage flows into the Fitbit app.

New multi-path HR sensor is both consistent and responsive during workouts.

And here's why I feel the Pixel Watch 2 is essentially a spiritual successor to the Fitbit Sense 2. It takes all the unique features from the Sense 2 – continuous stress testing (cEDA sensor), Body Response notifications and logging, skin temperature sensor, sleep profiles, ECG sensor, irregular heart rhythm alerts, Daily Readiness Score, automatic workout tracking – throws in a newer 4nm quad-core Qualcomm W5 Gen 1 processor, latest multi-path optical heart rate sensor, and calls it a day. The only reason this isn’t called the Sense 3, is that it’s running Wear OS rather than the pared down Fitbit OS.

Fitbit app has been updated to more closely resemble Google's design language.

Apparently I'm a Giraffe on Fitbit. I was a Penguin on Samsung Health (check out my Galaxy Watch6 review).

What do I think about it?

As a smartwatch, the Pixel Watch 2 has better connectivity options and app ecosystem, but a shorter battery life to the tune of about one full day. I can get it to last the second day as well, but it definitely needs charging before the second night. With a 306mAh battery, this is the same kind of battery performance on the smaller 40mm Galaxy Watch6 (300mAh) too, which is why it’s a shame Google doesn’t offer a larger model like its competitors.

The Sense 2 on the other hand is more of an advanced activity tracker with limited apps, but it has all the fancy sensors just the same, and a battery that can last almost a week. Plus, it works on both Android and iOS with just the Fitbit app. And because Google now owns Fitbit, the Sense 2 also supports Google Wallet and Google Maps.

There are rumours that we might still see an actual Fitbit Sense 3 being released later in 2024. If that turns out to be true, then Google will really need to make the Pixel Watch lineup more compelling.

As much as I like the Pixel Watch 2’s design, I don’t see it dethroning Samsung’s Galaxy Watch6 for the best Android smartwatch today. Yes, it is just as capable in terms of hardware and tracking, but it doesn’t do anything more to set it apart. It is also the most expensive of the three watches mentioned in this review at S$525 on the Singapore Google Store.

Comparatively, the Fitbit Sense 2 is almost S$100 cheaper at S$428, but don’t forget the cost of ownership increases over time factoring the Fitbit Premium subscription should you decide to continue past the 6-month freebie. The 40mm Samsung Galaxy Watch6 has a recommended price of S$452, but is currently discounted to S$402. Even the larger 44mm version of the Galaxy Watch6 is cheaper than the Pixel Watch 2 at time of writing. Lastly, unlike Fitbit, Samsung does offer extensive fitness coaching options without an added subscription.

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7.5
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • User-Friendliness 8
  • Performance 7.5
  • Value 7
The Good
Wear OS 4
Sleek design
Advanced sensors
The Bad
Battery life
Huge bezels
Pricey
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