Review: Google Pixel Watch 2

Finally, an elegant smartwatch

Pixel Watch 2 was worth the wait. It does a lot of things right, though not all of them.

Published 2023-11-02 - 8:00 am
Google Pixel Watch 2
John Hvidlykke

When Google invited the tech press to the premiere of the year’s new hardware in October last year, we were a little disappointed. Perhaps unfairly so. The Google Pixel 7 Pro, which was launched at that time, was an excellent phone that ended up being voted the best of the year in its price range.

But the rumoured Pixel Watch, which we had heard whispers about, wasn’t launched in the Nordics. Not at the time. But its successor, the Pixel Watch 2, did this year. And we’ve now had the opportunity to test it.

And in many ways, it’s the smartwatch I’ve been looking for. Or at least a step in the right direction.

What’s so smart about that?

Smart watches aren’t so much about seeing what time it is. Even the cheapest Swatch can do that just fine. Or you can use your mobile phone, as anyone under 30 does.

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Smart watches are all about having all your information at (or on) hand, James Bond style. And if the watch is not capable of firing a laser beam that cuts through steel, at least you can read your emails on the postage stamp-sized screen.

They’re also about fitness and health. A good smartwatch can not only measure your heart rate, but analyse heart rate, sleep patterns, blood oxygen saturation and much more. The Pixel Watch 2 works with the Fitbit fitness app. We’ll come back to that later.

Collect them all!

For manufacturers, smart watches are also about “tie-in” – creating a connection between multiple products and getting consumers to buy an entire product family. Apple and Samsung are experts at this, and Google is following in their footsteps. The key is integration and collaboration. And if you have a Pixel phone, Google will do everything it can to get you to choose Pixel Buds Pro as your earbuds and Pixel Watch as your smartwatch.

Geek – but not a fitness geek

For myself, I clearly fall into the first group. Excessive physical activity is something I only do out of necessity. And I don’t get excited by being told that I have burned 2,113 calories today. On the other hand, I’m a geek through and through. And so I approached the task with the expectation of a 007 experience.

So what gadgets do you have for me, Q?

The Google Pixel Watch 2 is smaller than the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch. The watch is 41 mm in diameter and circular. The top is covered in black glass and the underside is metal. And with its softly rounded shape, the Pixel Watch 2 is the closest I’ve seen to an elegant smartwatch.

Matte Black w_ Obsidian Band Champagne Gold w_ Hazel Band Polished Silver w_ Bay Band Polished Silver w_ Porcelain Band
The watch comes with a silicone rubber strap, but you can buy straps in other colours and materials (Photo: Google)

The watch comes with a silicone strap, but you can buy straps in other colours and materials, and the strap can be clicked off at the touch of a button and changed in seconds. Once you’ve learnt the trick. Pixel Watch 2 uses the same type of watch straps as last year’s version, so there’s already an extensive selection available.

Ready in minutes

Setting up the Google Pixel Watch 2 is as easy as we’ve come to expect from Google. From switching on the watch to pairing it with your phone and signing it into your Google account takes less than 10 minutes. And you’re being held securely by the hand all the way. Gone are the days of having to enter network codes every time you set up new hardware. Your phone already knows the code – and it’s new best friends with your watch.

Of course, this assumes you already have a Google account. But since an Android phone is required to use the watch, we can take that part for granted. iPhone owners are not invited. Just like the Apple Watch doesn’t work with Android phones.

The latest technology

Google provides operating systems for more phones and watches than anyone else – for free. But their own hardware gets it before anyone else. That includes the Pixel Watch 2, which is the first smartwatch to ship with Google Wear OS 4.0 installed.

This means that virtually all existing watch apps will be compatible with the Pixel Watch 2. And Google has wisely chosen to use the same file format for watch faces as Samsung, so you have access to an infinite number of watch faces. Note, however, that the watch screen itself is only 32 mm in diameter, so some Samsung watch faces may be difficult to read.

Pixel Watch 2 is the first smartwatch to ship with Google Wear OS 4.0. (Photo: Google)

Inside the watch you find a Snapdragon Wear 5100 processor with Cortex M33 co-processor, 2 gigabytes of RAM and 32 gigabytes of storage. This means most apps run smoothly and without any hesitation, which is crucial for the illusion that you’re wearing a watch with extended features. And not a computer with a wrist band.

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However, major apps still take some time to load and launch. Google Maps took so long the first time that I thought the watch had crashed.

The Google Pixel Watch 2 is available in two versions: one with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. And one that also has a built-in 4G modem for eSIM. The price quoted is for the Wi-Fi version.

Eyes in the night

The Google Pixel Watch 2 has such an extensive arsenal of sensors that I don’t need to mention them all here (they are listed below the article), but I was excited about the new inbuilt thermometer, among other things.

Pixel Watch 2 contains an extensive arsenal of sensors (Photo: Google)

If, like me, you assumed that the watch could tell you your temperature, you’re wrong. The only thing the temperature sensor can do at the moment is to detect if the skin temperature varies overnight compared to previous days.

In fact, a large amount of the measurements in the Pixel Watch 2 take place during the night, where breathing rate, resting heart rate, blood oxygen saturation and variations in heart rate are also analysed. In the morning, the overnight results are accessed and the software paints an increasingly personalised picture as it learns about the range of variation.

Not a medical instrument

The measurements are used to paint a picture of the user’s health. A diagnosis, one might be tempted to say. Although Google and Fitbit emphasise that the measurements are in no way intended for medical purposes. And that you should talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your health.

Still, it was a reassuring experience to be told that my cardiovascular health is “Excellent” for a 59-year-old man. So expect to see many more tests from my hand in the years to come…

Fitbit included

As a buyer of the Pixel Watch 2, you are offered a six-month free trial subscription to Fitbit Premium. After that, the membership costs €8.99 per month. It’s not absolutely necessary to use the premium version, but in most cases you get access to more in-depth information. For example, free users only get to assess sleep quality with a single score between 0 and 100, while premium users get access to a graph of the distribution between deep sleep, REM sleep, light sleep and awake periods. It’s well understandable that Google, the owner of Fitbit, wants to make money, and the analyses seem thorough. However, if you choose the free version, you actually get less information than with other smartwatches.

It comes with a six-month trial of the Fitbit Premium fitness programme. (Photo: Google)

Fitbit Premium also includes personalised training guidance and advice. I received the “Boat shoe” medal as a reward for walking 5,000 steps on the first day. If this was supposed to make me want to exercise more, it didn’t work at all. In this respect, Fitbit is preaching to the choir of devotees who use the app and watch to enhance their already existing exercise programme.

Unpalatable diet plan

The Fitbit app also includes a calorie counter that calculates the number of calories burned in relation to activity. And it is also supposed to be able to be used to manage a diet by entering calorie and fluid intake. This is where Fitbit completely fails! It’s simply unfeasible to include information about meals.

For example, my breakfast today consisted of toast with butter, coffee and juice. None of these exist in the Fitbit app universe! With a little searching, you find “toast” and are presented with menu suggestions from a dozen American restaurant chains. And will my coffee be equivalent to the coffee at TGI Friday’s? And even though I managed to attempt to guess both coffee and a cup of juice (most of the options were in American ounces), my fluid intake remains at zero. All beverages that are not tap water must therefore be entered in two places.

The Fitbit diet plan needs an AI upgrade (Photo: Google)

In a world where every technology product is marketed with a rhetoric of almost god-like artificial intelligence, this is plain stupid! It should be possible to explain in normal language what you’ve consumed and then get an educated guess at the calorie content. And ideally, it should be possible to take a picture of the meal with the phone camera and let the AI do the rest. After all, there’s not exactly a shortage of food photos to train the AI on!

Range anxiety

For petrol car owners considering switching to an electric car, range anxiety is a common disorder. The fear of not being able to reach your destination on a single charge. The Google Pixel Watch 2 makes it to the finish line, but only that. The battery life is claimed to be “up to 24 hours,” which in practice turned out to be quite accurate. In comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 promises up to 40 hours of battery life, while the Apple Watch 9 manages around 36 hours.

The fact that most smartwatches, regardless of brand, have a usage time on a single charge of less than two days is simply not good enough. And only our urge to try out a new toy can make us accept the obvious absurdity of having a gadget that needs to be worn 24/7 to analyse our health, but at the same time needs to be charged for at least an hour a day with a proprietary charging cable that only fits that particular model and therefore needs to be brought along and placed at the top of the luggage on every trip – even if it’s just one overnight stay away from home.


Overall, the Google Pixel Watch 2 is a smartwatch that does many things easily and elegantly, while in other areas there is room for great improvement. The design makes all other smartwatches look clunky and the arsenal of sensors is so extensive that it’s hard to imagine another. The speed and screen quality are beyond reproach. And with Google Wear OS 4.0, you’ll be ahead of the game with the latest software.

The Fitbit app is designed for serious training, and it offers far more than you need if you just want to keep track of your health. But the calorie counting is in dire need of an AI update.

(Photo: Google)

But where most people are frustrated with their smartwatches – regardless of brand – is battery life. And here the Pixel Watch 2 is at best only on par with the competition. If Google really wants to compete with Apple and Samsung, it needs to add half or even full days to the battery life. Ideally we would like to see a larger “men’s version” like the Apple Watch Ultra – only nicer. Then you could fill the extra volume with battery – and at the same time make room for a larger screen.

Google Pixel Watch 2

We think

Highly elegant. They've actually managed to make a smartwatch that doesn't cry "geek!" Large arsenal of sensors. Battery life really should be longer. We would like a larger version with a bigger screen. The Fit-bit app is expensive and cumbersome.

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