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Google Pixel Watch 2 vs. Apple Watch Series 9: a new king?

Renders of the Google Pixel Watch 2 and Apple Watch Series 9 next to each other.
Google Pixel Watch 2 (left) and Apple Watch Series 9 Digital Trends

It’s simple: Say “smartwatch,” and most people will think of an Apple Watch. As a result, Apple’s wearable has become the standard by which all other smartwatches and fitness trackers are judged, and it’s easy to see why. The latest addition to the line, the Apple Watch Series 9, is a masterclass of form and function — as it has been for a long time, to be entirely fair. As a result, the Series 9’s lack of changes belies an admission from Apple that “what ain’t broke shouldn’t be fixed,” and while that gives you little reason to upgrade from an older Apple Watch, it’s also a testament to Apple’s reluctance to upset the apple cart with a big redesign.

Because of the Apple Watch’s dominance, other smartwatches can have a tough time making an impact on the scene. Google attempted to make headway into the smartwatch market with the Pixel Watch, but it’s only with this year’s Google Pixel Watch 2 that it’s really making a strong go of it. While the first Pixel Watch was a disappointment, the Pixel Watch 2 is actually a good wearable device and genuinely a product you should consider buying.

The Palette watch face on the Apple Watch Series 9.
Palette watch face Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Normally, at this point, we’d explain that we’re putting these two head-to-head so you can decide which you should buy. Except that doesn’t really apply here. The Pixel Watch only pairs with Android phones. The Apple Watch only pairs with iPhones.

Instead, think of this as a geekier version of bashing toys together. It’s a playground argument in the same vein as The Undertaker vs. Sting: it will never happen, but we’ll argue about it until the cows come home.

Here’s how the Google Pixel Watch 2 measures up against the Apple Watch Series 9, just for fun.

Google Pixel Watch 2 vs. Apple Watch Series 9: specs

Google Pixel Watch 2 Apple Watch Series 9
Materials Aluminum with Gorilla Glass 5 front glass Aluminum with Ion-X front glass

Stainless Steel with Sapphire front crystal

Dimensions and weight 41 x 41 x 12.3 mm, 31 grams 41mm: 41 x 35 x 10.7 mm, 31.9–42.3 grams

45mm: 45 x 38 x 10.7 mm, 38.7–51.5 grams

Colors Polished Silver, Matte Black, Champagne Gold Aluminum: Midnight, Starlight, Silver, Pink, (Product)Red

Stainless Steel: Gold, Silver, Graphite

Display Always-on AMOLED

1,000 nits peak brightness

Always-on Retina LTPO OLED

2,000 nits peak brightness, 1 nit lowlight

Processor Snapdragon Qualcomm 5100 S8 SiP with 64-bit dual-core processor with 4-core Neural Engine
Sensors Blood oxygen sensor

Electrical heart sensor

Body temperature sensor,

Compass

Always-on altimeter

Ambient light sensor

Skin conductance

Blood oxygen sensor

Electrical heart sensor

Body temperature sensor,

Compass

Always-on altimeter

Ambient light sensor

GPS GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, BDS, QZSS L1 GPS, GNSS, Galileo, and BeiDou
Connectivity LTE (some models), Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n), Bluetooth 5.3 LTE (some models), Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n), Bluetooth 5.3
Ultra Wideband Yes Second-generation Ultra Wideband chip with Precision Finding for iPhone 15
Battery life Li-Ion 306 mAh 41mm: Li-Ion 282 mAh

45mm: Li-Ion 308 mAh

Fast charging Yes Yes
Software Wear OS 4 watchOS 10
Durability
50m/5ATM water resistant

Certified IP68 dust and water resistance

50-meter water resistance (ISO standard 22810:2010

Certified IP6X dust resistance

Price Starting from $349 Starting at $399

Google Pixel Watch 2 vs. Apple Watch Series 9: design and display

Neither of these smartwatches makes significant changes from its previous version, so both may look a little familiar. The Pixel Watch 2 comes in a single 41mm size, which is disappointing if you have larger wrists. The aluminum build means it’s lightweight, and the gently curved dome screen and back plate mean it’s a comfortable smartwatch that’s perfect for 24/7 wear. Unfortunately, it’s not a particularly high-quality build, and there’s no option for a tougher stainless steel build with sapphire glass, unlike the Apple Watch. It’s a design that’s … fine. There’s not much to dislike about the Pixel Watch 2, but that also means there’s not much to love either.

That’s not something you can say about the Apple Watch. While there will obviously be people who don’t like the design, if you do, you’re going to find something you love. It comes in two case sizes and also has the option to upgrade the body to a stainless steel frame and sapphire glass. It’s extremely comfortable, probably being one of the most wearable wearables you can find.

A big advantage the Apple Watch has over the Pixel Watch is the much, much smaller bezel around the display. The Pixel Watch has a thick black border around its screen, and that’s simply not the case with the Apple Watch.

The Pixel Watch’s AMOLED display is quite small for the watch’s size, at 1.2 inches, though it does have a strong 320 pixel-per-inch (ppi) pixel density and a maximum brightness of 1,000 nits. It’s put to shame by the Apple Watch’s OLED display, though. The ppi is similar at 326, but the similarly sized 41mm frame has a much larger 1.69-inch display, while the 45mm variant has a much larger 1.9-inch display. It also has a maximum brightness of 2,000 nits, making it much brighter than Google’s watch, giving it a serious advantage under strong lights.

This is a no-contest: the Apple Watch Series 9 wins here.

Winner: Apple Watch Series 9

Google Pixel Watch 2 vs. Apple Watch Series 9: performance, battery life, and charging

The Google Pixel Watch 2's charging puck.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Performance isn’t as big a metric on smartwatches as it is on smartphones because, well, you’re unlikely to be playing Resident Evil Village in teeny-weeny-vision on your watch. But a strong processor still makes a difference, as it’s the difference between your device feeling swift and snappy and laggy and unresponsive. Both of these watches are winners in this regard.

Whether it’s the Apple Watch’s S9 dual-core System-in-Package (SiP) or the Pixel Watch’s Qualcomm Snapdragon W5 processor, performance is smooth and fast. The Apple Watch is likely the more powerful of the two chips here, but that won’t be obvious in your day-to-day use.

It’s a similar story where the battery life is concerned. Both watches last around a day and a half, while the Apple Watch can stretch to the end of the second day, but only with very minimal use and no sleep tracking. Both will also recharge in around an hour, putting them on roughly even footing once again. The Apple Watch’s charging puck is higher quality than the Pixel Watch’s, but that’s the only real advantage it has here.

It’s a bit of a surprise, to be sure, but this is a tie.

Winner: Tie

Google Pixel Watch 2 vs. Apple Watch Series 9: software and features

The Apple Watch Series 9 showing apps on the screen.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Here’s where the two devices diverge again, as you get different operating systems on both, and one is distinctly better than the other. Wear OS 4 on the Pixel Watch works well — except, that is, for when it doesn’t. Notifications would regularly stop working, and it even randomly restarted itself a few times during our review period. As improved as Wear OS is (and it has improved a lot), it’s still not comparable to the excellent watchOS 10. The Apple Watch’s operating system is fast and fluid, and everything is well-placed and sized to make interacting with it on your wrist as easy as it can be.

Notifications shown on the Google Pixel Watch 2's screen.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

In terms of features, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the voice assistants. Siri has been through some tweaks since its early days and works very well on the Apple Watch. The Google Assistant on the Pixel Watch 2 isn’t particularly improved over previous implementations, but it’s still as good as Google’s voice assistant always is. The Apple Watch also has the Double Tap feature, which lets you control your watch with hand gestures — though the jury’s still out on whether this meets the hype or not.

But the Apple Watch doesn’t need Double-tap to win here. When it comes to smartwatch software, Apple is king. The Apple Watch takes this.

Winner: Apple Watch Series 9

Google Pixel Watch 2 vs. Apple Watch Series 9: fitness and health tracking

The main workout screen on the Google Pixel Watch 2.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

We’ve reached the point in wearable tech where tracking now comes in two distinct types: Fitness and health tracking. These devices have gone in hard on both types of tracking, and you’re not going to be let down by either one.

Smartwatches of this price basically have all the same fitness tracking options now, including all the usual walking, running, swimming, cycling, and other sports options included. Both also have automatic fitness tracking for a number of workouts, so it’ll pick up if you’re running and start tracking even if you forget. Handy!

Exercise data showing on the Apple Watch Series 9.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Both also have tracking for sleep and stress, 24/7 heart monitoring (including alerts for irregular heart rhythms and high and low rates), and blood oxygen. Both also have some impressive safety features too, including fall detection that notices if you’ve taken a heavy shock and an emergency broadcast if you’re in trouble. But only the Apple Watch has car crash detection, which is a big plus.

Both of these devices are pretty similar here. And really, that’s how it should be. But there’s one big fly in the Pixel Watch’s ointment. The Pixel Watch uses Fitbit for its fitness and health tracking, and while that means you get some powerful tracking tools, it also means you’re saddled with a subscription fee if you want to access all of the analysis. This is the data that Apple (and most other manufacturers) gives you for free, and it’s a pretty glaring issue when you’re comparing the tracking abilities of these two devices. Unfortunately for The Pixel Watch 2, that’s enough for us to tip this over into the Apple Watch’s favor.

Winner: Apple Watch Series 9

Google Pixel Watch 2 vs. Apple Watch Series 9: price and availability

The Nike Globe watch face on the Apple Watch Series 9.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Google Pixel Watch 2 is currently available from Google and a number of retailers and phone carriers. It’s only available in one case size but does come in Polished Silver, Matte Black, and Champagne Gold. Prices start from $349 and come in Wi-Fi and LTE versions.

The Apple Watch Series 9 is also available now and isn’t as straightforward an offering. You get to choose between 41mm and 45mm case sizes but also have to choose whether you get the (much pricier) stainless steel and sapphire variants, which also have their own color schemes. Prices for these can get very high, and like the Pixel Watch above, you also get to pick between Wi-Fi and LTE-enabled versions. You can buy the Apple Watch Series 9 from Apple and a number of retailers and carriers. Prices start from $399.

Google Pixel Watch 2 vs. Apple Watch Series 9: verdict

The curved screen on the Apple Watch Series 9.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

We’d be lying if we didn’t say the Google Pixel Watch 2 isn’t an enormous improvement over the first Pixel Watch. It’s simply better in every way, but does that make it good enough to compete with the Apple Watch Series 9? Unfortunately, no. When it comes to smartwatch supremacy, the Apple Watch continues to rule. Across the design, software, fitness and health tracking, and even just how good it feels, the Apple Watch Series 9 wins this comparison hands-down.

But Google’s star is very clearly on the rise. Just as it took the Pixel smartphone line a little while to really get going, you’d be a fool to dismiss the Pixel Watch as an emerging force within the smartwatch zone. And that’s good because nothing makes sure the best keeps getting better than a snappy young upstart closing in on it from behind.

The Apple Watch Series 9 wins here, but for how long will Apple continue to rule? Only time will tell.

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Mark Jansen
Mark Jansen is an avid follower of everything that beeps, bloops, or makes pretty lights. He has a degree in Ancient &…
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