Any modern smartwatch worth its salt comes with swappable straps. So it’s no surprise that Google is reportedly working on several strap options for its forthcoming Pixel Watch.
The company is making at least seven straps for the fall smartwatch launch, including the one showcased during the I/O keynote.
Google’s working on a Milanese-style mesh band, two sorts of leather bands, a fabric band, a link bracelet, and a silicone band. It’s also purportedly operating on a stretchable alternative reminiscent of Apple’s Solo Loop. If it sounds like Google’s handling several pages out of Apple’s playbook, it is. We still don’t know most of the Pixel Watch’s specifications, but from what we understand, it’s clear that Google’s trying to accept the Apple Watch head-on. Offering matching strap options play into that strategy.
Whether analog or smart, Watches are an articulation of personal style. Unless Google gives folks a wide variety to select from, the Pixel Watch won’t reach a broader audience. The safest thing would’ve been for Google to operate a standard 20-22mm strap. That would’ve at least lessened Google’s burden and delivered customers dozens of stylish choices that can be used with mechanical or analog watches as well.
It’s not accomplishing that, though. Instead, as we saw in the sizzle reel at Google I/O, it’s opting for its proprietary straps. So either Google is quite confident in its designs, or we’re about to witness some ugly or uninspired smartwatch bands from the folks who obtained you the Pixel 6 cases.
Smartwatch makers — Apple contained — have generally whiffed it regarding straps. As much as I love these gadgets, few of them are as attractive as their “dumber” counterparts. Fitbit’s Horween leather straps? I hesitate to call those leather. The ’70s contacted, and they’d like Apple’s leather link band back. I don’t even want to speak about the horrors of perforated smartwatch bands. Silicone belts are functional for workouts but a Lil chintzy for formal events.
Discerning Pixel Watch, owners could turn to third-party accessory makers, but running with a proprietary strap means that’s not guaranteed. Moreover, if you search Amazon, third-party accessories for Google products aren’t overflowing with modern options, probably because not many people are purchasing enough Pixel devices (yet) to warrant the investment.
If you run an Amazon search for Pixel phone cases, you’ll have approximately 7,000 results. You are searching for an iPhone case that yields over 100,000 results, while a Samsung Galaxy phone case brings you over 80,000. It’s more alarming for devices like the Pixel Buds — 190 results to over 10,000 for AirPods. The more options you have, the more likely customers will find something that suits them. When there are slim pickings, you end up with eyesores like these.
Ultimately, performance and Wear OS 3 will be the most influential factors in determining whether the Pixel Watch is “good.” That said, enough people have to think, “Yeah, I’ll pay premium prices to put that on my wrist!” for that to matter. So it’s presumably wise for Google to make sure the straps it puts out at least match those of its rivals. But, on the other hand, it’s just confirming that, at least visually, the Pixel Watch won’t dazzle us, either.
The Google Pixel Watch will be a smartwatch first and foremost, and to compete with the likes of the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, it’ll need to offer something utterly unique on the planet of wearables. Google’s Rick Osterloh noted at I/O 2022 that the Pixel Watch would use the best of “Google’s ecosystem,” hinting that popular properties like Maps, Google Wallet, and Assistant will deliver all features in some capacity.
The company has a wealth of information about its users at its fingertips. It could revolutionize how data is portrayed on its wearable. Imagine a smartwatch that uses such contextual details to streamline your life. For instance, the Pixel Watch could automatically modify a Nest thermostat‘s temperature based on skin temperature readings or, more accurately, change travel times based on current walking speed and body exertion metrics. That would be a unique feature set in the smartwatch arena.
The Pixel Watch is a smartwatch at its core, but even smartwatches pack diverse health and fitness-tracking hardware. Google has announced that the Pixel Watch will feature “deep” integration with Fitbit, but it failed to demonstrate how.
Considering Google now owns Fitbit, it wouldn’t be a stretch to guess it is adopting the company’s hardware. Images of the Pixel Watch’s rear have demonstrated a sensor array akin to the Fitbit Charge 5. It would effectively give it a skin temperature monitor, an EDA sensor to monitor stress, and an ECG to survey heart health. With this trio, alongside the commonplace heart rate sensor and SpO2 monitor, you have a watch with a reliable fitness tracking base—this cocktail’s key in keeping the Pixel Watch relevant alongside Garmin and Samsung’s competition.
We’d like to see Google utilize Fitbit’s app for core fitness tracking. Better yet, the premium Pixel Watch should come with Fitbit Premium. The Inspire 2 already comes with a year-long trial of the product; we’d expect the same from what would be the costliest Fitbit product.
Google has left Wear OS frail and underdeveloped in the past. Unfortunately, just because the company now holds a flagship for the OS doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t repeat its mistakes.
Several smartwatches from Fossil and Mobvoi are set to gain Wear OS 3 in an update later this year, but Google has yet to select a definite date for its release. If anything, we’ve had to rely on Samsung to announce its update program for its Wear OS 3 watch. If its treatment of Wear OS 2 is any indication, the Pixel Watch could be in for an uncertain support period with updates sprinkled here and there.
In keeping with its commitments to other properties and devices, Google needs to outline a concrete software support strategy for the Pixel Watch. Considering that Pixel title, we’d also expect the watch to act as the staging ground for Wear OS innovation, much like Pixel smartphones are for Android.
A smartwatch can pack the industry’s best hardware, materials, style, and software, but this is of no use if its battery only lasts a few hours.
We’re worried about rumors of all-day battery life. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough in 2022. For the device to handle the rigors of Assistant queries, fitness tracking, Maps usage, on-device calling, and sleep tracking in the evening, it’ll need to last more than 24 hours per charge. It is much easier said than done, though. Wear OS devices traditionally have terrible endurance. The Galaxy Watch 4 doesn’t inspire much confidence for Wear OS 3 products.
Per rumors, Google may integrate a more efficient core to offload some of the menial tasks from the hungrier CPU, but it’s unclear how this may translate into real-world benefits.
Google could also offset lackluster battery life with rapid charging. Still, users without charger anxiety are more likely to use all the features of the Pixel Watch instead of switching off elements to eke out a work day.
We know the Pixel Watch will be a premium product, but what does that ultimately mean for its pricing? Well, rumors hint at a price no more than $400, and arguably, that seems fair compared to its likely competition. But considering the Pixel Watch is unproven, Google might want to consider the considerable Wear OS elephant in the room.