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I was completely wrong about the Google Pixel Watch 2

A top view of someone wearing the Google Pixel Watch 2.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

As a tech reviewer, part of my job is to review/test every new gadget with as much of a fair, unbiased perspective as I can. But I have a confession to make: I really didn’t want to use the Google Pixel Watch 2 when I received my review unit.

Why? I didn’t like the first Pixel Watch at all. I hated the large bezels, the performance was bad, the battery didn’t last long enough, and it was missing critical health/fitness features. When Google announced the Pixel Watch 2, I went into the watch assuming I’d hate it just as much as the first one.

What actually happened was the polar opposite. I’ve been wearing the Pixel Watch 2 for over a month and have had a lovely time with it. It’s not at all what I expected it to be, and I’m so, so happy I was wrong about it.

The Pixel Watch design is growing on me

The Google Pixel Watch 2 resting on a stone fireplace.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

So many things about the Pixel Watch 2 have been surprising — one of the biggest being its design. The Pixel Watch 2 looks virtually identical to its predecessor, featuring the same small case size and large display bezels. But for whatever reason, I like it a lot more this year.

Although I’d still love for Google to offer more case sizes with the Pixel Watch 3, the current 41mm body is growing on me. Going to it from the Apple Watch Ultra 2 was a shock at first, but I’ve come around to quite liking how the Pixel Watch 2 looks on my wrist. It’s sleek and subtle, and the domed glass around the screen really is gorgeous. The bezels are still annoying, yes, but they also haven’t been a deal-breaker over the past month.

A close-up view of someone wearing the Google Pixel Watch 2, showing the rotating crown.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

And while the overall design isn’t all that different, Google did make some small (but important) hardware upgrades this year. The rotating crown, which felt cheap and stiff on the first Pixel Watch, feels much better on the Pixel Watch 2. It rotates smoothly, the haptic feedback is great, and the way menus/lists scroll when you use the crown is more natural, too. It’s still no Apple Watch Digital Crown, but it’s a massive year-over-year improvement.

There’s another change I quite like, though it’s one you can’t see. Instead of using stainless steel like it did last year, the body of the Pixel Watch 2 is made out of 100% recycled aluminum. It still has a shiny finish and looks like stainless steel at first glance, but it’s lighter than before and has been (in my opinion) slightly more comfortable to wear.

Bad battery life? What bad battery life?

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

The first Pixel Watch garnered pretty split opinions regarding its design, but there’s one thing everyone could agree on: it didn’t have particularly good battery life. Google used a processor from 2018 in last year’s Pixel Watch, and it showed. The Pixel Watch could get through a full day of use, but just barely. And if you wanted to wear it to track your sleep, you were often forced to charge it before bed. It wasn’t a good experience.

During my testing, the Google Pixel Watch 2 has been significantly better. When using the Pixel Watch 2 to track workouts and receive dozens of notifications throughout the day, I often don’t have to charge the watch until the late morning or early afternoon of my second day wearing it. And that includes having the always-on display enabled and using it for sleep tracking. It’s really quite impressive.

Someone wearing the Google Pixel Watch 2 with a yellow/green fabric band.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

I’ve also been pleasantly happy with the new charger. Instead of a wireless charging puck like its predecessor used, the Pixel Watch 2 opts for a magnetic four-pin charging cradle. The charger itself feels a bit cheap, but it latches on to the Pixel Watch 2 securely, doesn’t make the watch too warm, and fills up the battery quickly.

Battery life was one of the main things that kept me away from the original Pixel Watch, but amazingly, Google completely resolved those complaints with the Pixel Watch 2. Bravo, Google. Bravo.

The Fitbit experience is getting there

The back of the Google Pixel Watch 2.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

I also need to give props to how much Google has improved the Fitbit side of the Pixel Watch 2. The first Pixel Watch was fine for basic health/fitness tracking, but it also lacked a lot of really key features, with automatic workout detection being one of them.

Once again, Google addressed my complaints head-on with the Pixel Watch 2. The Pixel Watchdoes support automatic workout tracking, and it works really well — sometimes even better than my Apple Watch. The skin temperature sensor has also been a welcome addition, as has the cEDA sensor. If I’m feeling stressed, excited, or nervous about something, the Pixel Watch 2 does a good job of detecting those changes in my body and alerting me to them. It’s not always the most helpful thing, but it’s a nice addition that I’ll miss when using other wearables.

The home page of the Fitbit app on an Android phone.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Similarly, I’m a big fan of the redesigned Fitbit app. It has an interface that now feels right at home with other Google apps, and while the layout/information is largely the same, it feels more organized and less daunting than it used to.

I’m still not a huge fan of how many features are locked behind Fitbit Premium, but the overall fitness package is a notable upgrade compared to last year. Google’s on the right track here, and I’m excited to see how it keeps growing in the months/years ahead.

I can’t believe how good the Pixel Watch 2 is

A person sitting down and wearing the Google Pixel Watch 2.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

When I wore the original Google Pixel Watch, I quickly found myself counting down the days until I’d be able to take it off. I tried my best to like it and give it the benefit of the doubt, but it’s not a smartwatch I ever truly enjoyed. Meanwhile, the Pixel Watch 2 has been extremely easygoing.

I use the Pixel Watch 2 to track my sleep and workouts, keep tabs on my notifications, set timers, etc. I’m doing all of this without thinking about how bad the crown is, how terrible the battery life is, or how I’m missing fitness features that I’d really like to have. It’s a shockingly great user experience, and it’s really caught me off guard in terms of how much I’ve liked living with the smartwatch.

The Pixel Watch 2 completely changed my opinion of the Pixel Watch as a whole.

I think that’s what’s stuck out to me most about the Pixel Watch 2. I’m going through each day with it on my wrist with nary a complaint. That never happened with the Pixel Watch 1, but that’s been a recurring experience with its successor. The Google Pixel Watch 2 isn’t a game-changer in the smartwatch landscape, but it is a surprisingly excellent device.

The Pixel Watch 2 managed to completely change my opinion of the Pixel Watch as a whole, and as we head into 2024, I genuinely can’t wait to see what Google does with the next generation. I don’t often like being proven wrong, but in this case, I’m thrilled that I was.

Editors' Recommendations

Joe Maring
Section Editor, Mobile
Joe Maring is the Section Editor for Digital Trends' Mobile team, leading the site's coverage for all things smartphones…
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