Google first Pixel Watch with Fitbit review: Too little, too late

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Google Pixel Watch.

Sofia Pitt

Three years after acquiring Fitbit, Alphabet is selling its first Google-branded watch with the fitness-tracking technology. It’s called Pixel Watch, and consumers can find it on store shelves starting Thursday.

I’ve been testing Google’s new Pixel products for the past several days. In addition to the Pixel Watch, there are the new phones, the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro, which go on sale at the same time.

Most of the Pixel 7 phone upgrades are minor when compared with the last generation Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. Last year’s phones were the first to debut Google’s self-made Tensor processor and a brand-new design. The $600 Pixel 7 and $900 Pixel 7 Pro run on Google’s new Tensor G2 chip and are the company’s latest effort to establish a foothold in the global smartphone market, which Apple and Samsung dominate.

The core of this review focuses on the Pixel Watch since it’s the first time we’re seeing how Google is incorporating Fitbit, which it bought in 2019 for about $2.1 billion.

The Pixel Watch starts at $350 for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and $400 for 4G LTE. For smartwatch users, there’s not much new here. Heartrate tracking, fitness tracking and sleep tracking have been available for years in products from Fitbit and other companies, notably Apple.

I was hoping Google’s first Fitbit tie-in would bring some more groundbreaking innovations to the wearable game, especially for the price. The new Apple Watch SE is just $250 and has the same main features as the Pixel Watch. The same is true for Samsung’s Galaxy Watch5, which costs $280.

Google’s Pixel Watch is the company’s premium watch, whereas the Apple Watch SE and Galaxy Watch 5 are base models. But the features each offer are pretty similar.

The main benefit I can see to the Pixel Watch is the beautiful, inconspicuous design. The round face and domed glass design make the Pixel Watch feel more luxurious. It’s also made out of stainless steel, which is more expensive than cheaper aluminum smartwatch base models.

Overall, it’s too little, too late for Google. There aren’t enough exciting features to justify the price, and all of the important stuff is available on other cheaper smartwatches.

Here’s what you need to know before buying the new Pixel Watch and what I noticed about the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro phones.

Pixel Watch: What’s good?

The Pixel Watch is lightweight with a lovely design. The watch face is just 41mm wide, and it emulates a water droplet, which makes it feel like a watch and not like a computer on your wrist.

I was worried that the smaller size would result in a less powerful battery. Google promises 24-hour battery life, and I was able to get a full 24-hours out of the Pixel Watch, though I didn’t use it to track my sleep.

During my first day testing the Pixel Watch, I did a workout, kept the display on full-power mode, checked email and controlled my Google Home from my wrist without needing to charge it until the next morning.

The seamless integrations with Google’s other products are another bonus. I was able to use my Pixel Watch to broadcast a message on my Google Home, announcing to my husband I was on my way home. I was also able to turn on and off lights and play music.

As a Google Calendar user, I also appreciated having these reminders on my watch.

Another benefit of the Pixel Watch is high-frequency heart rate monitoring. Most watches only measure heart rates frequently when you’re in the middle of a workout, so it doesn’t drain the battery. Google says the Pixel Watch continuously tracks your heart rate.

There’s also a cool camera feature. You can position your phone camera to take a picture, and control the camera app with your watch. You can even see what the camera is capturing.

Google Pixel Watch allows you to control your phone camera remotely.

Sofia Pitt

What’s bad?

None of its alluring features allows the Pixel Watch to stand out from smartwatches that have been on the market for a long time.

I was hoping that for Google’s first integration with Fitbit software, there would be some new technology or that the device would be more affordable.

Also, fall detection isn’t going to be immediately available on the Pixel Watch. Google says it’s coming this winter. That’s disappointing, given it’s already available on other smartwatches.

Pixel 7 & 7 Pro updates

Google’s Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro phones.

Sofia Pitt

The Pixel 7 and 7 Pro have a few nice updates, especially to the camera. The coolest feature is photo unblur, which, thanks to Google’s new Tensor 2 chip, allows you to take any blurry photo and clear it up. Even better, you can unblur any photo, not just those you’ve taken on the Pixel phone. I tried it on a blurry photo of my husband and me. Here are the results:

Here’s a photo of Sofia Pitt and her husband before using Pixel 7’s new photo “Unblur” technology.

Sofia Pitt

Here’s a photo of Sofia Pitt and her husband after using Pixel 7’s new photo “Unblur” technology.

Sofia Pitt

Like unblur, most of the updates to the new Pixel phones are software related. When it comes to the camera, Google updated night sight, which means nighttime pictures are even clearer. Again, you have the new Tensor chip to thank for that. There’s also cinematic blur on videos, which makes the subject clear and background blurry to give videos a professional quality. There are improvements to real-tone so that photos of people of different races better represent their skin color.

Google is also making our lives easier when we need to call an 800 number. When dialing 1-800 on the Pixel 7, you no longer need to wait to “Press 1 for help” or “Press 2 for reservations.” The options just show up on your screen, saving you time so you can automatically connect to the relevant department instead of speaking to a robot.

The phone also transcribes audio messages, but only if they’re sent from another Android device.

Overall, the camera is great on the new Pixel, but the updates aren’t enough to get me to switch from iOS to Android.

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