I’ve put off doing a “review” of the Pixel Watch for a very good reason. Well, it’s a good reason to me, at least. To put it bluntly, I don’t really know what I’m talking about with smartwatches: or just watches at all for that matter. I’m not a watch guy and my foray into smartwatches before the Pixel Watch began and ended with Fitbit Versas: all four models of them. So to say that I have hard opinions on how the Pixel Watch stands up to the Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Watch, other Wear OS watches, or anything other than a Fitbit at this point is laughable. But, a lot of you have asked for my thoughts, so I’m going to give them to you. Just not in a standard review form.
In some ways, my general igornance about this tech sector is refreshing. I tend to absorb a lot of information about a lot of things. And then I tend to form opinions and thoughts around those things. And that’s fine, especially for Chromebooks and Google hardware. It’s why we exist as a company here at Chrome Unboxed and why we continue to do what we do. But if I’m not careful, my over consumption of facts and stats for every type of hardware can get really exhausting. So, to compensate, I’ve learned to just be OK with being a little ignorant about certain consumer tech so I can retain my sanity.
Don’t get me wrong; I still have opinions on this watch and I’m going to share those. But in my inexperience with smartwatches, I’m not the guy that will be able to tell you how the Pixel Watch favorably – or unfavorably – compares with the Apple Watch. Or the Samsung Galaxy Watch. Or any watch, really. Even with my Fitbit Versas over the years, I didn’t lean on too many of the smartwatch features on a daily basis. When it comes to smartwatches, I’m kind of a clean slate. So if you hear all of that and think to yourself “I’d still like to hear what this guy thinks,” then let’s get into it.
One of the things that impresses me the most about the Pixel Watch is the build quality. From the rounded edges to the digital crown and the quick-switch bands, the Pixel Watch feels fantastic both in your hand and on your wrist. While light enough to be easily worn all day, there’s no denying the high quality feel of this watch when you pick it up or wear it.
The digital crown is perfectly functional with nice haptics you feel with every scroll and the other button above it is super clicky and responsive. Swapping out watch bands is a snap once you get the hang of Google’s proprietary system and once they are in place, they feel snug and secure. I’ve been rocking the stretch band for over a month now and I love it, but a switch to the included silicon band is only seconds away if I need it as well.
Aesthetics and Looks
But build quality isn’t everything. After all, as a watch, the thing needs to look good, too; and the Pixel Watch has no issue in this department. The high-quality build pays off all around as this is easily the best looking smartwatch I’ve ever seen up close. That’s subjective, sure, but you can’t deny the beauty of the Pixel Watch.
After wearing a Fitbit Versa for years, I did have to get used to a circular watch on my wrist. But that took me all of a couple days and just the other day I slapped on the Versa 3 just to see it on my wrist again, and I hated the way it looked. I’m fully on board the circular watch train at this point, and when I combine the build quality and good looks of the Pixel Watch with all the things it actually does for me on a daily basis, you start to quickly see why I’m so happy with Google’s first attempt, here.
Features I actually use
So, let’s talk about those things real quick. After all, a smartwatch is only as good as the functionality it can provide, right? If it looks great and can’t actually do anything, you’d be better suited with just a standard watch in most cases. Where my hands-on time with the latest Fitbit Versa 4 left me wanting far more functionality from that watch, the Pixel Watch is a complete 180 from that experience.
On a daily basis, this watch assists me in all sorts of tasks. Coming from a Fitbit, I obviously use it to keep up with basic fitness stuff like heart rate and steps. The Pixel Watch unsurprisingly does this all quite well, even if it is still missing a few tricks from the Fitbit Versa like auto-exercise recognition. Again, for me, this isn’t a big deal and the fitness metrics I do keep up with are all here on the Pixel Watch.
But it goes WAY beyond fitness with this thing, and that’s where the Pixel Watch has really won me over. Notifications and responding to messages on the watch is so much better than what I’ve had on the Versa series that I find myself triaging messages a lot on this watch. The voice-to-text replies are great, but I’m also shockingly good at using the tiny swipe keyboard as well, making WhatsApp, Discord, and Google Messages replies not just functionally possible on this watch, but also enjoyable, too.
Phone calls have also been a treat, allowing me to handle full-length calls with just my watch when needed without feeling like I’m unable to really get into the conversation. Callers on the other end have been consistently impressed that I’m talking on a watch and the speakers on board the Pixel Watch deliver plenty of volume to make it a pretty sweet overall experience.
I’ve also used my watch to pay for standard things like gas, food, and other necessities without needing to get out my phone or wallet. Adding the cards was simple through Google Wallet and using them requires just a quick double-press of the digital crown before placing the watch near an NFC reader. Addtionally, using Google Maps on my wrist when driving and quickly being able to query the Google Assitant without referencing my phone are both things I find myself doing more than I expected.
Finally, an addition I don’t use all the time that has come in clutch a few times is the ability to snap a photo from your Pixel phone right from the watch. As we get into more family gatherings this time of year, having this trick in your back pocket is really nice.
There’s more to love
Now, you’ll notice I didn’t reference the GPS for running, LTE connectivity for phone-free access, or storing music on the watch for listening when out and about with paired up earphones. And that’s because I simply don’t do those things from my watch and haven’t come across a situation where I feel the need to. For what its worth, Joe’s experience while running has been very positive with the GPS on the Pixel Watch, so hopefully that helps a bit. But for the things I simply never do, I can’t tell you how good this watch is at doing them.
And that’s why I didn’t want to call this a review. I don’t feel qualified to holistically talk about how good or bad the Pixel Watch is in reference to others that have come before. I simply have no frame of reference. I do, however, feel pretty comfortable telling you that this is without doubt the best smartwatch experience I’ve ever had and that, while I would go days here or there without my Fitbit on my wrist, I don’t EVER leave the house without my Pixel Watch.
It’s simply become too much a part of my daily routine that I feel a bit naked without it now. And that’s the experience I’ve been waiting for from a smart thing on my wrist: not an addition that I feel like I have to shoehorn into place, but one that organically finds itself in my natural workflow. The Pixel Watch has done just that, and after a couple months, I can easily say that if I were to lose or break it, I’d be figuring out a plan to get it replaced ASAP. That’s just not true of too many tech things for me, and that’s why I feel like this one is special. Perfect? Nah, but to my largely smartwatch-ignorant self, it sure feels pretty damn close.