It’s been a long time coming, but Google’s first Pixel-branded watch is finally just around the corner. The mythical watch was initially rumored to launch in 2018 and then again in 2019 when Google acquired the smartwatch intellectual property from Fossil. Presumably, Google couldn’t find the perfect market for its wearable device. A lot has changed since 2019, though. In 2021, Google completed its acquisition of fitness-tracking giant Fitbit, giving you the most important ingredient you need to make a killer product: amazing health tracking.
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When Google introduced the Pixel Watch at its annual I/O conference, the message was loud and clear: Fitbit algorithms will be at the heart of the Pixel Watch experience. But the more I think about it, algorithms alone won’t be enough to save the Pixel Watch. The Pixel Watch will have to improve Fitbit’s user experience from end to end to have any chance of success. This is why.
Would Fitbit integration sell you the Pixel Watch?
The Pixel Watch needs a reason to exist
Wear OS has been around for almost eight years, but I’d be hard-pressed to name a single watch that’s been a huge success. Just about every major smartphone vendor has tried to create a Wear OS watch that included the best sensors, heart rate monitors, and all the accessories that go along with health tracking, but none of those watches really took off.
Even the most successful Wear OS watches pale in comparison to the Apple Watch.
Samsung and Google had to collaborate deeply to create one of the few cool Wear OS watches. That said, even the Galaxy Watch is barely a blip against the gargantuan success of the Apple Watch, not to mention the tens of millions of Fitbits sold. Also, despite being a Wear OS 3.0 watch, the Galaxy Watch continues to drive Samsung’s ecosystem more than Google’s.
Fitbit is the key to the success of the Pixel Watch
C. Scott Brown / Android Authority
With Fitbit in its kit, Google has the most critical ingredient it needs to elevate the Pixel Watch from just another Wear OS smartwatch to a truly desirable product. Fitbit users, in general, tend to be very engaged with their fitness wearables. A 2019 survey estimated that Fitbit users had the highest levels of engagement with their wearable devices, across all platforms. 93% of users surveyed use their watch daily, ahead of 92% of Apple Watch users. Meanwhile, Wear OS users lagged far behind with just 75% of the user base surveyed.
Fitbit should be a first-class citizen woven into the fabric of health tracking on the Pixel Watch.
While the Fitbit Sense and Sense 2 try to replicate a smartwatch experience with limited support for Fitbit apps, the fitness trackers are too locked down and lack the power to deliver a stellar experience. Fitbit users have been clamoring for a high-end smartwatch, and a first-class Fitbit experience on the Pixel Watch is sure to give Google a ready and willing audience. But for that to happen, something has to give, and Fitbit has to be a first-class citizen on the Pixel Watch.
I would go so far as to say that Fitbit needs to be woven into the fabric of health tracking on the Pixel Watch. Daily step counts, fitness activities, and sleep data should go right into the Fitbit dashboard that enthusiasts have used for years. Leaderboards, activity charts, and challenges all need to have their own great watch faces.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority
Fitness training itself is very much a community activity, whether through running clubs or virtual leaderboards. I’ve used Fitbit products for years to encourage me to be more active, and seeing my friends take 20,000 steps a day was a key motivator for me to start running as an activity. Google needs to find a way to take advantage of the amazing Fitbit community and guided workouts in the Pixel Watch experience. Also, Google needs to have its own time of shareable and competitive activity rings like the Apple Watch.
Also read: I used my phone to lose 55 pounds and run a marathon. That is how.
It also means untangling the woefully inadequate Google Fit from the mix. The platform offers minimal stats, and what’s worse, it doesn’t have any community aspect. Both are important specifically for Fitbit users, but also for anyone with more than a passing interest in health tracking. Google’s current approach of making additional fitness apps their own siled thing on Wear OS just won’t work here.
The Pixel Watch needs to be a great Fitbit watch first to have any chance of standing out.
While Google has previously mentioned that users will be able to sync all of their crucial health metrics with a Fitbit account, the proof will be in the implementation and how seamless the process is. Being a good Wear OS watch is up for grabs, but the Pixel Watch has to be a great Fitbit watch first to have any chance of standing out.
Google must rise to the smartwatch challenge
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority
It goes without saying that the software will need suitable hardware to match. With Fitbit’s legacy behind it, Google should have no trouble finding the right mix of heart rate monitors, pedometers, and SpO2 sensors. But there is one aspect of the Pixel Watch that makes me wonder: battery life.
Even the best Wear OS watches barely manage a day and a half of battery life. Apple had to create a massive 49mm monster watch with the Apple Watch Ultra to give it even halfway decent longevity. Meanwhile, Fitbit users are used to weeks of battery life. The Pixel Watch, by all appearances, is a very compact wearable device. The watch will need to last at least a full day of general use, physical activities, and sleep tracking to make sense as a suitable option. Can Google pull off a miracle here? Perhaps the watch has a Fitbit low power mode for activity tracking. We’ll see.
Google has all the ingredients to cook up the perfect smartwatch, but implementation will be key.
With the Pixel series of smartphones reaching relative maturity and gaining ground among mainstream buyers, the stakes are high in the success of the Pixel Watch. The Pixel Watch has been in the rumor mill for nearly four years, and all eyes are on Google. With all the elements in place to create a stellar product, Google simply can’t afford to introduce another Wear OS watch.
Related: The best thing Google can do for the Pixel lineup is stay consistent
The headline feature is there, and I’m hoping Google’s first smartwatch will also be the first Wear OS watch to truly challenge the status quo.
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