The Pixel phones mark Google's attempt to set a standard for Android phones – and last year's Pixel 2 XL largely lived up to that lofty goal. Now, can Google do the same for Wear OS smartwatches?
That's reportedly the plan, as rumours and reports are circling around a so-called Google Pixel Watch. Google has helped push some Wear OS (ex-Android Wear) watches over the last few years, but none were actually made in-house. The Pixel Watch could change that.
Will it be the kick in the pants needed to jumpstart the stagnant Android watch market? Here's hoping! Read on for a look at everything we've heard about it so far.
When will the Google Pixel Watch be out?
We expect to see the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL this autumn – and we thought that the Pixel Watch would launch right alongside them.
That was according to noted leaker Even Blass, who said that a source told him "with high confidence" that a Pixel Watch would show up at Google's big hardware event later this year. We had heard rumblings of a Google watch in the past, and it sounded like that source wass solidly convinced that it's really happening this time around.
But that's apparently not the case after all. In late August, Google's Miles Barr, director of engineering on Wear OS, surprisingly confirmed to Tom's Guide that they won't be releasing a smartwatch this year. And Google PR confirmed the information afterwards, for good measure.
"To think of a one-size-fits-all watch, I don’t think we’re there yet,” says Barr. “Our focus is on our partners for now."
(LG Watch Style shown)
Well, there's always 2019 then...
How much will the Google Pixel Watch cost?
We haven't heard any solid rumours about the Pixel Watch's price just yet, but we can look to the past – and the competition – for some decent hints on what to expect.
The last Google-pushed "flagship" Wear watches were the LG Watch Style and LG Watch Sport from last year. The so-so Style sold for £229, while the better-but-different Sport stayed in the US, where it sold for US$349 (about £257 today).
Meanwhile, the Apple Watch Series 3 starts at £329 and bumps up to £399 with a cellular connection. If we had to guess, we suspect the Pixel Watch will be somewhere around £300: pricey enough to be considered flagship, but perhaps a notch below the top competition. Coming in cheaper than the Apple Watch could also make it more appealing to iPhone users.
That said, a report from WinFuture claims that there may be three variants of the Pixel Watch, so we'll have to see if there's actually a range of prices.
Until we see and hear more, it's just a guess – but we don't really expect Google to make a compromised budget smartwatch for its first big offering.
What will the Google Pixel Watch look like?
Unfortunately, we don't have any info on the Pixel Watch's design just yet. If we had to take an educated guess, we'd say it'll probably have a circular face. That's a start.
Beyond that, the details could vary widely. As the WinFuture report claims, there may be three different versions codenamed "Ling," "Triton," and "Sardine."
Fashion plays a big role in wearable devices' success, and while we'd expect them to be very similar in function and ability, they could sport some different looks. We'd hope for some nice materials in the mix, though, if Google wants it to feel like a high-end device. The LG Watch Style didn't do a particularly great job of that.
(LG Watch Sport shown)
It's all fiction for now because we don't know anything for sure. That said, the Pixel phones have thus far been a bit uninspiring in looks, so hopefully Google packs in a bit more panache for our wrists.
What about the Google Pixel Watch's screen?
In the world of circular smartwatches, 360x360 pixels has been the sweet spot of late. Both the LG Watch Style (1.2in) and Samsung Gear S3 (1.3in) boast that resolution.
We haven't heard any strong rumours in this regard yet, but here's hoping for a bold and crisp OLED display. At that size, though, the resolution sounds spot on. We'd rather have the battery life instead of trying to pack in more pixels into a roughly 1in display.
It's just speculation at this point, but we're not expecting Google to reinvent the wheel when it comes to smartwatch displays.
How much power will the Google Pixel Watch pack?
Now here's where we have some solid info to work with. Qualcomm's Snapdragon 2100 chip has been used across the board for Wear OS watches over the last couple years – but they're finally working on a new chip, as confirmed to Wareable.
WinFuture suggests it'll be called the Snapdragon 3100, but whatever the final name, it's destined to be a more energy-efficient chip that should maximise battery life while also enabling easier Google Assistant usage.
Qualcomm's wearables head, Pankaj Kedia, told Wearable that the new chip will launch with what the site calls a "lead smartwatch" this autumn, with other Wear OS watches expected to use it by year's end. And they've worked with Google to ensure that it's a great fit for Android-powered smartwatches.
That sounded like a perfect match for the Pixel Watch, but Google says it's not coming this year. Still, that might be the chip of choice in 2019. Meanwhile, WinFuture's report suggests at least 1GB RAM for the watches to keep things running smoothly.
(Huawei Watch 2 shown)
Wear OS watches haven't evolved much the last couple years, but it sounds like change is coming – and the Pixel Watch should lead the charge with the new Snapdragon chip.
Is there anything else I should know about the Google Pixel Watch?
WinFuture's report suggests GPS, LTE, and VoLTE support on the Pixel Watches, although we wonder if Google will pull an Apple-like move with separate, pricier LTE versions as an option to the cheaper non-LTE edition.
Also, it seems likely that the Pixel Watch will launch with an upgraded version of Wear OS, the rebranded Android Wear. There's been little movement there over the last couple of years, but there would be no better coming-out party for a majorly upgraded Wear OS version than the release of a Pixel Watch. And since Android 9 Pie just released, it can bring along any advances from that major version.
Lastly, the Wear OS name shift seems driven by increased use by iPhone users, so we have to wonder how much of a play Google will make for Apple phone-owners with the release of the Pixel Watch.
Third-party smartwatches don't work quite as elegantly with the iPhone as the Apple Watch does, and truly, that may never change because of Apple's hold on its own ecosystem. Still, we have to think that Google is working hard to figure out how to make the best iPhone-compatible experience it can for the Pixel Watch.
In any case, it sounds like Google is making moves to ensure higher-quality Wear experiences. The new Google Fit revamp suggests a smarter, more casual-friendly approach to tracking, which could be great on your wrist. Also, Google has just kicked off a mandatory review process for Wear apps, ensuring that there's less random garbage on the Play Store. Nice.
Obviously, there's still a lot left to learn about the Pixel Watch... and since Google just nixed a 2018 launch, it may be a while before we know anything for sure.