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This article was published on December 3, 2021

Hey Google, here’s a blueprint for a Pixel smartwatch to rival the Apple Watch

Can we get a good Wear OS smartwatch, finally?

Hey Google, here’s a blueprint for a Pixel smartwatch to rival the Apple Watch
Ivan Mehta
Story by

Ivan Mehta

Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."

The cat’s out of the bag, once more. After a few years of silence, we are again seeing reports about Google working on its own Pixel-branded smartwatch. We just know a few details about the rumored new device, and some folks are already declaring it an “Apple Watch” competitor.

I think it’s a bit far-fetched, given Wear OS’ and Google’s hardware history. Why do I think so? Let’s dive into some reasons.

What do we know?

Last night, Insider first reported about the watch, noting that the device’s internal codename will be ‘Rohan.’ Whose Indian parents pressurized the company to do this?

Apart from this silly name, we know that it’ll have a round dial. Plus, it’ll offer basic fitness tracking capabilities like heart rate monitoring, step count, and calorie count.

To be clear, this won’t be built on Fitbit’s platform (acquired by Google for $2.1 billion in 2019), but will have some integration to the fitness company’s features through a product called ‘Nightlight.’

Later, The Verge reported that this new watch might cost more than current FitBit models and will directly compete with the Apple Watch.

What will it need to do to lure consumers?

Industry figures suggest that Apple holds a giant lead over others in the global smartphone market. The company has beaten out the competition repeatedly over the last several years, with improving health and fitness features in its wearable.

Q1 2021 smartwatch tracker
Q1 2021 smartwatch tracker by Counterpoint

Google’s rumored watch with ‘basic fitness features’ doesn’t strike a lot of confidence when going up against Apple Watch. Heck, I’m using the $46 Mi Band 6, and even it has basic fitness features which are sufficient for many users.

Apple already offers more than 16 workout types, so Google’s new watch should better offer more with more accurate tracking and measures that could help me become healthier.

apple watch series 7
Apple Watch Series 7

In select countries, the iPhone maker is already offering a Fitness+ program that serves up guided workouts with Apple Watch integration. Google-owned Fitbit also has a premium plan with measures like stress level breakdown, sleep score breakdown, blood glucose trends, and wellness reports. But we don’t know if Google’s watch will offer this.

Apart from fitness, Apple also offers health measurements such as blood oxygen, ECG, menstruation cycle tracking, and noise level detection. There are also apps There are also apps to improve your breathing and handwashing habits, which some might find silly. If rumors are correct, the next-gen Apple Watch might come with a temperature sensor. That could be yet another thing Google might have to copy to compete.

As there have been seven iterations of the product, there’s a healthy ecosystem of apps and accessories available for WatchOS and the Apple Watch. That makes the latter an easier option for those who want to customize their wearable, and live with it for years.

Notably, Apple also offers music streaming straight from the watch and LTE models for folks who need to make calls on the go. Hopefully, Google also apes these features in its rumored offering.

Spotify offers downloads for offline listening on the Apple Watch
Spotify offers downloads for offline listening on the Apple Watch

Google’s watch is still in the rumor stage, and while its partnership with Samsung has given Wear OS a new lifeline, we haven’t seen how successful it is yet.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 with the new Wear OS.

Even if the watch’s good, will I be able to buy one?

I was really excited about the Pixel 6 this year, but Google stabbed a dagger in my heart when it announced where it’d be available at launch. Currently, the device is available only in the US, UK, Canada, Japan, Australia, Taiwan, Germany, France, and Ireland. It’s the second year in running when Google’s premium phone is not available in a massive gadget market like India — not to mention many others on that list.

Just like the Pixel 6, Google’s new Chromecast and many other products arent’ widely available. So if Google wants to emulate Apple’s success in smartwatches, it needs to make its devices available in more markets.

The competition and options

There are very few options for Android phone owners to get a good smartwatch. You can go to Garmin if you’re really fitness-oriented, but you might miss out on some smart features. If you opt for a watch running Wear OS, you might want to check out Fossil watches, but they also have limited functionality.

Your best bet is the Samsung Galaxy Watch, and perhaps offerings from Huawei if you’re in China and don’t have an issue with the company’s track record. Apart from Samsung’s watch, we can’t really classify any other device as an ‘Apple Watch competitor.’

Google stunned the world with Pixel’s camera capabilities a few years ago, and it has a real chance to replicate that magic with a truly great smartwatch. But it’ll need more than time to get it right.

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