We’ve been expecting Google to release its own smartwatch for quite some time, but there was no sign of the long-rumored device at Google’s Pixel hardware event in New York. While the Pixel 4 and 4 XL were widely leaked, the lack of solid detail about a Pixel Watch was perhaps a sign that it’s not ready for prime time just yet.
Rumors of a Google smartwatch have been circulating for years now and it would make a lot of sense given Google’s hardware lineup, potentially encouraging more people to commit to Google’s ecosystem. A smartwatch that seamlessly integrates with the Pixel phones, the Pixelbook, and Google’s smart home devices would be desirable for many. Strong support for Google Pay and the next generation Google Assistant would make it a useful device to have on your wrist.
There’s potential to control your entire Google ecosystem with voice commands to a device that’s always with you — because you’re wearing it. The Pixel Watch could be a bridge to the hands-free future Google is pushing us toward, where most of our interactions are with Google Assistant and responses come from whatever device is closest.
“The technology just fades into the background when you don’t need it,” Rick Osterloh explained at the Made by Google event. “Ambient technology can make your life so much easier.”
He was focusing on smart home products, from the Chromecast to the new Nest Mini, but a Pixel Watch could fit in with this ambient computing idea.
We know that Google recently took steps to improve the quality of Wear OS apps and ensure they’re properly formatted for different shapes and sizes of smartwatches. We also know that Google has patents related to some kind of smartwatch, so it seems almost certain that the company has designs in development.
The Wear OS platform has been used by many smartwatch manufacturers, including Fossil, LG, Motorola, Huawei, Mobvoi, and others but Google has yet to release any hardware. Google’s Android phones have done a solid job of showing off Google’s capabilities on the software side, even if the hardware has often failed to impress. Perhaps the importance of style in the smartwatch market has been a stumbling block.
Why it remains a no-show is uncertain, but there’s plenty of room for a killer Wear OS smartwatch. A Pixel Watch, which may offer an extra level of integration and more features when paired with a Pixel phone, could be a smart play for Google driving up sales in both categories and matching Apple’s lineup.
If and when the Google Pixel Watch does arrive it has some seriously stiff competition. The best smartwatches currently available are the Apple Watch Series 5 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, neither of which run Wear OS, so Google definitely has something to prove in the smartwatch space.
The Pixel line set a new standard for Android phones with a stellar camera, and the slickest software experience available outside the iPhone, not to mention a commitment to swift and regular updates. If Google could do the same for Wear OS with a Pixel Watch, it would surely give the platform a boost.
On the other hand, a middle-of-the-road Pixel Watch would do nothing for Google’s fortunes. Fossil is already proving adept at turning out decent Wear OS smartwatches. Google must aim higher. If it wants to match or surpass the Apple Watch, it may need to significantly overhaul the platform, because we’ve yet to see a Wear OS watch that comes close.
Interestingly, Google bought some hybrid smartwatch tech from the Fossil Group for $40 million at the beginning of the year and it later transpired that the deal included the acquisition of some engineering talent. It’s possible Google was merely moving to shore up its Wear OS platform and maybe even help its manufacturing partners with reference designs, but it could also be part of a plan to develop a Pixel Watch.
The idea of a hybrid is interesting because battery life is still the main complaint for smartwatch owners. If Google could build a Pixel Watch that offers long battery life, perhaps going with a traditional watch face instead of a touchscreen, but still offering Google Assistant and Google Pay, it could chip off a chunk of the market.
For now, a smartwatch-sized hole persists in Google’s lineup, and there’s no telling if we’ll ever see the fabled Pixel Watch.
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