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Does the Google Pixel Watch have blood oxygen tracking?

At its “Made by Google” event on October 6, Google revealed the latest Pixel collection, which includes the new Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro phones, a Pixel Tablet, and the company’s first smartwatch, the Pixel Watch. This Fitbit-infused wearable with Wear OS 3.5 has everything you’d expect from a smartwatch: health and fitness tracking, an always-on display, notifications, NFC, and more.

But on the health and fitness tracking front, these require various sensors to keep tabs on your active calories, steps, heart rate, flights climbed, body temperature, sleep, and more. A lot of wearables in recent years have also added blood oxygen (SpO2) tracking to their repertoire. Is the Google Pixel Watch a smartwatch that can help you keep track of your blood oxygen measurements?

A blood oxygen sensor is there, it’s just not activated

Google Pixel Watch with two different strap styles.
Andrew Martonik / Digital Trends

Technically speaking, the Google Pixel Watch has a blood oxygen sensor built-in. However, it hasn’t been activated at all at the time of publication. The Pixel Watch is capable of reading your SpO2 levels at some point in the future, but it’s really just a waiting game of when Google decides to unlock that feature for Pixel Watch users. As of right now, no one knows when that may be.

On the one hand, it’s great that support for blood oxygen tracking is there for future use. But on the other, that doesn’t make its absence today any less irritating.

The benefits of SpO2 tracking

Google Pixel Watch with grey strap.
Andrew Martonik / Digital Trends

There are many benefits to measuring blood oxygen levels on a smartwatch. Measuring your SpO2 levels is usually done with a pulse oximeter, which detects how much oxygen is being carried through your system by your blood cells. The oxygen saturation level is reported back as a percentage level, and for a normal, healthy person, it should be between 95% to 100%. If it’s lower than that, there could be something wrong — for example, a sign of possibly having COVID-19 is a low blood oxygen level.

Usually, manufacturers that have smartwatches and wearables capable of tracking SpO2 levels warn users that these measurements are just for keeping track of general fitness and wellness. They are not meant to be used for a medical diagnosis. Still, SpO2 measurements from such wearables can help point out any discrepancies that may need further attention from medical professionals.

Health features the Pixel Watch has at launch

Google Pixel Watch with a recycled loop strap.
Andrew Martonik / Digital Trends

The Google Pixel Watch is the culmination of Google acquiring Fitbit back in 2019. In fact, there were plenty of rumors of a Pixel Watch even before the pandemic started, and it has all finally come to fruition. All of the health and fitness tracking on the Pixel Watch is thanks to Fitbit. In fact, with your initial Pixel Watch purchase, you’ll get a six-month membership for Fitbit Premium. This subscription uses your health and fitness tracking to give you personalized insights on your overall health and well-being, coach you into improving your health goals, and more.

With Fitbit, the Pixel Watch tracks your continuous heart rate, steps, floors climbed, sleep stages, distance with GPS, and active exercise minutes, as well as having 40 different exercise modes. With so many workout options to pick from, there’s a high chance that your usual exercise routine can be tracked with Pixel Watch. You also get an ECG app, which can help detect signs of atrial fibrillation (A-fib).

Get these Pixel Watch alternatives if you need SpO2 tracking

Apple Watch Series 7 next to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

The Apple Watch Series 8 is the latest smartwatch from Apple, and it tracks calories and steps, exercise minutes, SpO2, ECG readings, and even fall detection. Those who want a rugged wearable for extreme sports and situations (that also has an incredible battery life) should consider the Apple Watch Ultra, though that $799 starting price may not be the most affordable for everyone, especially compared to the $399 starting price for the Series 8.

Of course, going with either of these Apple Watches will require you to be tied into the Apple ecosystem, which may or may not work for you. But if you do splurge for either of the Apple Watches, both come standard with blood oxygen tracking right out of the box.

There’s also the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, which is a great choice if you’re a Samsung user, as it needs to be paired with a Galaxy phone running at least Android 8.0. The Galaxy Watch 5 is also round like the Pixel Watch, though with less bezel, and it already has SpO2 tracking. It also touts 24/7 heart-rate monitoring, ECG, and more. The ticker? The Galaxy Watch 5 costs less than the Google Pixel Watch, coming in at $280 versus $350, respectively, so you get more value for your buck.

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