Following literal years of leaks and rumors, the Google Pixel Watch looks to be a real product launching later this year. As interested as I am to see what Google’s first Pixel-branded smartwatch looks like, I’m also terribly worried it won’t be the Wear OS savior so many people hope it’ll be. That’s not an exaggeration when I say that the Pixel Watch has been rumored for years. People have been interested in a Pixel smartwatch since the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones debuted in 2016. Speculation started bubbling, anticipation was building, and one of the internet’s most accurate tech leakers suggested the Pixel Watch would come out in Fall 2018. But that never happened. And nothing has happened since then. Year after year, event after event, Google still hasn’t released a Pixel Watch.
Then something changed. In April 2021, leaker Jon Prosser claimed to have seen the Pixel Watch and confirmed it was an actual product being developed at Google. That was quickly followed by additional spec and feature reports, possible color options, rumored release dates, and — most recently — an actual leaked render of the Pixel Watch’s design. Combined with a quiet Google Store update that introduced a new ‘Watches’ page, it’s all but confirmed that some kind of Google smartwatch is almost here.
Related: Latest Pixel Watch Render Highlights Its Integration With Fitbit
As a longtime Pixel fan (and Nexus fan before that), the prospect of the Google Pixel Watch should have me bouncing off the walls. Ever since the Apple Watch came out, it’s been impossible not to daydream about what a similar wearable from Google might be like. A smartwatch with software and hardware designed by Google, all integrated to work perfectly with each other? Sign me up! But the more and more I think about the Pixel Watch — and its position in the wearable market in 2022 — the less convinced I become that it’s going to be the Wear OS smartwatch we’ve been waiting for.
The Pixel Watch May Be Too Little Too Late
My biggest worry about the Pixel Watch is how it’ll stand out or bring anything new to the table. In the years without a Pixel Watch, there have been countless Wear OS watches from LG, Motorola, Fossil, Skagen, TicWatch, and even Samsung with the recent Galaxy Watch 4 series. Despite some subtle variations with built-in apps and watch faces, Wear OS on one smartwatch is identical to Wear OS on another watch. Rumors suggest that the Pixel Watch may have a revamped Google Assistant and Fitbit integration for fitness tracking, but is that enough to help the Pixel Watch succeed where other watches have failed? Google’s in the best position out of any company to make Wear OS feel fresh and unique. However, it’s difficult to imagine the experience being that much improved compared to the other Wear OS watches that have tried doing this for years. Wear OS is still Wear OS, and for better or worse, that’s what Google’s sticking with for the Pixel Watch.
I’m also worried about the Pixel Watch’s hardware. One of the biggest downfalls of past Wear OS watches has been the processor. Qualcomm‘s Snapdragon Wear chips are often slow, buggy, and only have enough battery efficiency for a full day of use. Google’s reportedly sidestepping those problems with a Samsung-designed chip, likely with Tensor branding like we saw for the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. But that shift could come with its own problems. Tensor on the Pixel 6 has been… problematic. As fast and responsive as Tensor is, it’s also introduced an onslaught of bugs and glitches that have taken Google months to patch. Launching a first-generation wearable with a first-generation chip has all the makings for an even buggier product, and that’s the last thing Google needs.
But let’s say that the Pixel Watch doesn’t have any of these problems. Let’s say that it has fun and inventive changes for Wear OS, fast performance, and no troublesome software bugs. Great! But then who’s the target demographic for the Pixel Watch? iPhone users will keep using the Apple Watch, and Samsung fans will stick with the Galaxy Watch. That right there is already over 40 percent of the entire smartwatch market — with the rest of it eaten up by Garmin, Fitbit, Amazfit, and other brands. Google trying to join the smartwatch world in 2018 or 2019 would have been difficult enough. To try and carve out a space for itself in 2022 seems impossible.
That’s not to say I’m not interested in the Pixel Watch. I’m actually really looking forward to what Google does with it. But I think we should all go into the Pixel Watch with reasonable expectations. At the end of the day, what we’re getting is a Wear OS smartwatch. If you like Wear OS for all of its strengths and quirks, then the Pixel Watch should be pretty exciting. But if you’ve tried Wear OS before and don’t like how it operates, it’s hard to imagine the Google Pixel Watch doing anything to dramatically change the landscape — even if it’s one of the better Wear OS watches that we’ve seen. I sure hope Google proves me wrong, but until then, I’m keeping my expectations in check. And you probably should too.