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Google Pixel Watch
Google had to resort to the almost unheard of tactic in the smartwatch world. They confirmed the rumours.
Recently, a now-sacked Google employee left a beta Pixel Watch in a coffee shop. The Pixel Watch seems to have been quickly acquired by someone who was watch-savvy and a steady stream of images and insights has flowed onto the web over the last few weeks. I have to say I find this all rather disappointing and, to confound matters further, Google has just gone ahead and confirmed what’s going to happen later in the year.
Bang goes 3 or 4 posts speculating on what colours of strap they were going to include. Oh well, I guess it’s saved a few days of my life from such trivialities.
Scroll down if you want to know what everyone else now knows for sure.
Q: What is the Pixel sub-brand?
Pixel is the high-end Google branding that we most commonly encounter on smartphones. The Pixel Watch will partner with the Pixel Buds to make a handsome, smart trio of tech.
Q: Will Pixel Watch only work on Pixel Phones?
A: No. Pixel Watch will run a flavour of Wear OS 3.0 and thus it should work with most, recent Android smartphones. Now, the interesting twist is that in the past Wear OS has been made to work on Apple iPhones, however, that was restricted in 2021 when the Samsung Galaxy Watch4 became the first company to use Watch OS 3 in anger. Maybe the question should instead ask if the Pixel Watch will work on iOS?
Q: What smart features will be on Google Pixel Watch?
A: The usual list but it’s an impressive list so you’ll get these Google Assistant (which is actually useful unlike Apple Siri), Google Maps (which are actually useful unlike Apple Maps), Contactless Payments with a re-re-branded Google Wallet (Apple will almost certainly remain king of this particular smart realm). There will also be a 4G LTE version which connects to the internet without a phone – whether or not this will support truly streaming music over the air with Spotify or YouTube Music remains to be seen.
Q: What are the unknowns?
A: Quite a lot is obviously unknown. Pixel will 100% have to have an always-on display and probably a battery life of 2-days to beat Apple, The latter may not be do-able if Qualcomm chips are used.
Q: So the Fitbit brand is dead then?
A: Er. No
It’s the last point that is the interesting one. I assumed that Google would adopt the Fitbit branding for the entirety of its smartwatches. Not so. Or at least it seems not. The Fitbit brand will still continue, although we may see subtle modifications to it like Fitbit by Google.
Fitbit’s current watch range comprises the Sense and Versa 2/3 models. I imagine that the Versa 2 will soon fade away and then the Sense and Versa 3 updated later this year – they were released in 2020 so October 2022 timing makes sense. There have also been some good rumours to that effect.
Thus your Christmas 2022 tech choices from Fitbit-Google will be
- Google Pixel Watch – c£340, maybe more, undercutting Apple Watch which starts at £369.
- Fitbit Sense 2 – c£240
- Fitbit Versa 4 – C£180
And those price points make good sense to me. However, the spanner in the works is the Fitbit subscription service aka Fitbit Premium Membership coming in at £70/$80 a year.
The Premium membership seems to cover quite a lot to me. OK if you get a low-end, Versa 4 then maybe you don’t go for the Premium option but if you’re getting all sensored up and stretching out all your indoor lycra kit then the Premium almost seems like a must-buy add-on for your Sense 2 or Pixel Watch.
No doubt you’ll get a free month or a free 3-months of Premium membership with a new watch but these subscription costs add up to ‘quite a lot’, quite soon. Just check your credit card bill for Amazon Prime, Spotify and all the various other services that you don’t really use.
I can see this rapidly being an underwhelming release.
I sense a product that won’t be as good as Apple Watch. I sense the need for a Fitbit Premium Membership. I sense utter confusion between Google Pixel owners needing to buy a Fitbit service when they don’t have a Fitbit. I can see Fitbit owners wondering now if their watches will be upgraded to Wear OS or if Wear OS will ever be an option for them on future Fitbits. I sense a large chunk of Fitbit upgraders being reluctant about committing to a new Fitbit unless iOS is supported and I can see other Wear OS watch companies like Suunto, Samsung, Fossil et al wondering what the heck is going on. Why should they invest in Wear OS if Google has not jumped fully on board?
There was silly old me thinking that everything-Google would move to some flavour of Wear OS and every Google Watch would be called Fitbit. Silly old me, I forgot I don’t work in marketing.
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