By | December 19, 2023
Google Pixel Watch 2 vs.  Apple Watch Series 9: a new king?  |  Digital trends

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 portable 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 fair. As a result, the Series 9’s lack of changes belies an admission by Apple that “what ain’t broke ain’t fixed,” and while it 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 major redesign.

Due to the Apple Watch’s dominance, other smartwatches may find it difficult to make an impact on the scene. Google tried to enter the smartwatch market with the Pixel Watch, but it’s only with this year’s Google Pixel Watch 2 that it really hits. While the first Pixel Watch was a disappointment, the Pixel Watch 2 is actually a great wearable and definitely a product you should consider buying.

Palette dial 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 one to buy. Except that doesn’t really apply here. Pixel Watch can only be paired with Android phones. Apple Watch can only be paired with iPhones.

Instead, think of this as a geekier version of putting toys together. It’s a playground argument in the vein of The Undertaker vs. Sting: it’ll 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: specifications

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

Stainless steel with sapphire crystal on the front

Weights and Measures 41 x 41 x 12.3 mm, 31 grams 41mm: 41 x 35 x 10.7mm, 31.9-42.3 grams

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

Colors Polished silver, matte black, champagne gold Aluminium: Midnight, Starlight, Silver, Pink, (Product) Red

Stainless steel: gold, silver, graphite

Show 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

Electric heart sensor

body temperature sensor,

Compass

Always on altimeter

Sensor for ambient light

Skin conductance

Blood oxygen sensor

Electric heart sensor

body temperature sensor,

Compass

Always on altimeter

Sensor for ambient light

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

45 mm: Li-Ion 308 mAh

Fast charging Yes Yes
software Wear OS 4 watchOS 10
Duration
50m/5ATM waterproof

Certified IP68 dust and water resistance

50 meters water resistance (ISO standard 22810:2010

Certified IP6X dust resistance

Award From $349 From $399

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

Google Pixel Watch 2
Apple Watch Series 9

Neither of these smartwatches makes significant changes from their 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 construction 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 use. Unfortunately, it’s not a particularly high-quality build, and there’s no option for a tougher stainless steel build with sapphire crystal, unlike the Apple Watch. It’s a design that’s… good. 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’ll 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 crystal. It is extremely comfortable, probably one of the most wearable clothes you can find.

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

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

This is no contest: 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

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Performance isn’t as big a measure on smartwatches as it is on smartphones because you’re unlikely to be gaming Resident Evil Village in teeny-weeny vision on your watch. But a strong processor still makes a difference, because it’s the difference between your device feeling snappy and snappy and sluggish 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 probably the more powerful of the two chips here, but that won’t be apparent in your day-to-day use.

It’s a similar story when it comes to battery life. 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 about an hour, making them roughly even again. The Apple Watch’s charging puck is of a 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

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

This is where the two devices diverge again, as you get different operating systems on both, and one is clearly better than the other. Wear OS 4 on the Pixel Watch works well — except when it doesn’t. Notifications regularly stopped working, and it even randomly restarted itself a few times during our review time. As improved as Wear OS is (and it’s improved a lot), it still doesn’t compare to the excellent watchOS 10. The Apple Watch’s operating system is fast and fluid, and everything is well-placed and sized to interact with it on your wrist as easily as the can be.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

In terms of features, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the voice assistants. Siri has gone through a few tweaks since its early days and works very well on the Apple Watch. The Google Assistant on the Pixel Watch 2 isn’t much 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 – although the jury is still out on whether or not this lives up to the hype.

But the Apple Watch doesn’t need to 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

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

We’ve reached the point in wearable technology where tracking now comes in two different types: Fitness and health tracking. These devices have gone into both types of tracking hard, and you won’t be let down by either.

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

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Both also have sleep and stress tracking, 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, including fall detection that notices if you’ve received a severe shock and an emergency broadcast if you’re in trouble. But only the Apple Watch has car accident detection, which is a big plus.

Both these devices are quite similar here. And really, that’s how it should be. But there’s a 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 have a subscription fee to access the full analytics. This is the information that Apple (and most other manufacturers) give you for free, and it’s a pretty obvious problem when you compare the tracking capabilities of these two devices. Unfortunately for The Pixel Watch 2, that’s enough for us to tip this over in the Apple Watch’s favor.

Winner: Apple Watch Series 9

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

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 comes in polished silver, matte black and champagne gold. Prices start from $349 and are available in Wi-Fi and LTE versions.

The Apple Watch Series 9 is also available now and isn’t as straightforward an offering. You can choose between 41mm and 45mm case sizes but also have to choose whether you get the (much more expensive) stainless steel and sapphire variants, which also have their own color schemes. The prices for these can be very high, and like the Pixel Watch above, you also get to choose 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

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

We’d be lying if we didn’t say the Google Pixel Watch 2 isn’t a huge 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 not. When it comes to smartwatch supremacy, the Apple Watch continues to rule. In terms of design, software, exercise and health tracking, and even 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 like it took a while for the Pixel smartphone line really come on, you’d be a fool to dismiss the Pixel Watch as an emerging force in the smartwatch space. And that’s a good thing because nothing ensures that the best will be better than a sprightly young upstart approaching it from behind.

The Apple Watch Series 9 wins here, but how long will Apple continue to reign supreme? The answer will come with time.

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