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Google Pixel Watch 2 hands-on: The biggest changes are hidden in plain sight


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Matthew Miller/ZDNET

The just-released Google Pixel Watch 2 joins the new Pixel 8 lineup with improved sensors and a slew of Fitbit-integrated features, making it secretly the best watch available for both Fitbit and Google Pixel fans.

(Don’t worry, the Fitbit Charge 6 is carrying the torch for the company as its top-of-the-line fitness tracker while the Pixel Watch 2 gets the smartwatch spotlight.

Also: Every product unveiled at the Made by Google event

I spent an intimate afternoon today with the Google Pixel Watch 2 and was left quite impressed by how much the company has upgraded it without making the changes seem apparent at first glance.

Google Pixel Watch 2 watch face

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Google Pixel Watch 2

The newest Pixel wearable features improved health and fitness sensors and longer battery life.

For example, the Pixel Watch 2 bears the same elegant, round form factor of the original while directly addressing one of its main concerns: battery life. Google advertises a 24-hour battery life with the always-on display enabled. That’s quite a claim, and one that I hope to validate as always-on displays tend to have a significant impact on a smartwatch’s battery life.

Also: Google Pixel Watch vs Apple Watch Ultra: Which should you buy?

The Pixel Watch 2 also features a new multi-path heart rate sensor which, along with Google AI, will provide the basis for the most advanced heart rate tracking available in a device with Fitbit support. Reliable heart rate tracking is essential for accurate health and wellness tracking, so a focus on this function is important for Google. 

The new sensors are especially important because while the curved form factor makes the watch feel smooth on the wrist, it can also make heart rate tracking difficult as there’s less contact made with the skin. Adding more sensors solves this issue.

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Matthew Miller/ZDNET

The Pixel Watch 2 is constructed of 100% recycled aluminum while the original Pixel Watch was constructed of stainless steel, making the newer model five grams lighter. My real concern with the design choices lies with the custom 3D Corning Gorilla Glass 5, which didn’t do the most effective job of protecting the curved glass from bumps and scratches last year.

Also: Google Pixel Watch 2 vs. Pixel Watch: Is it time to upgrade? 

If you hold the two Pixel Watches next to each other, you cannot visibly tell the difference with the same overall dimensions. It is really what is inside that differentiates the two. For example, the Pixel Watch 2 sports a Qualcomm SW5100 processor while the first Pixel Watch was powered by a Samsung Exynos 9110 SoC.

Wear OS 4.0 is also present on the Pixel Watch 2, with Google Assistant, Gmail, Calendar, Wallet, Maps, Home, Photos, YouTube Music Premium (one month free included), and all of the third-party apps supported. Fitbit enhances the experience by providing Daily Readiness Score, Active Zone Minutes, ECG, Stress monitoring, Sleep Score, and Fitbit Premium (six months free included). 

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Matthew Miller/ZDNET

During my follow-up demos of the Pixel Watch 2 after the main keynote on Wednesday, I was generally impressed with the new design and features of the wearable, from the comfort of the domed glass front to the metal back form factor.

The new Porcelain and Bay band colors look lovely, too, and match well with the new Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. It’s great to see Google continue with the same band design so that all of the bands you purchased over the past year for your Pixel Watch will still work with the Pixel Watch 2.

Also: Google just released the most ‘for parents’ smartphone ever, and I’m here for it

As I start testing the watch daily, keep an eye out for my experiences with the new Safety Check feature, Fitbit integration, enhanced Gmail and Calendar apps, and more. The most significant feature that I’ll be tracking will be battery life, just to see exactly how much better Google has made it this time around. Stay tuned.





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