By | November 24, 2023
This is the first Android Smartwatch I'm willing to sleep with

As Aaliyah sang in her 2000 hit, “Try again,” “If at first you don’t succeed, Ohdust yourself off and try again.” Google did. It went back to the drawing board, scrapping everything but the appearance of Pixel Watchand made one better Pixel Watch 2. This year’s model has a better battery, improved heart rate tracking, and additional features that can help you reach your fitness goals—as long as you pay for a Fitbit Premium account.

I have been wearing Pixel Watch 2 regularly in the last month. It’s the first time I’ve willingly slept with a watch in years, and as a result, it’s almost convinced me to give up on the Samsung Health ecosystem I’ve been using Galaxy Watch 6. That’s what made me hesitant to switch to Fitbit in the first place. But I finally gave it a shot, and it’s been a definite improvement over Fitbit as a health app. However, Fitbit needs to catch up on data sharing with other fitness platforms. And it could still do some work with the app to appease its Android users.

Pixel Watch 2 design and features

A repeat of the Pixel Watch

There isn’t much new to note about the Pixel Watch 2 in terms of design. It looks so much like the first-gen Pixel Watch, from the bezels around the screen to the digital crown, that I have to be careful not to mix them up when handling them in my lab. Watch 2 is ten percent lighter than before because it uses recycled aluminum instead of stainless steel.

The Pixel Watch’s 41mm size is perfect and is the same size as the Apple Watch Series 9. Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 6 is smaller and slightly lighter at 28.7 grams and offers a variety of sizes and styles. People love Galaxy Watch Classicand you can’t get that aesthetic and functionality with the Pixel Watch 2 by just swapping out the bands.

The Powerpuff Girls on the Pixel Watch 2, along with the Active Band in lemongrass.
Photo: Florence Ion/Gizmodo

I complained about the proprietary nature of the Pixel Watch’s watchband connection mechanism last year. I’ve softened it this time. Google sent me a couple more watch bands to try, including Active sports bandand i had one Active band leftovers from the first Pixel Watch. I also used Google Store credit to get this two-tone leather blue one. I have been changing watchbands daily. Google’s clamping mechanism is so much easier to casually switch things up. Conversely, it feels like production when I try the same thing on the Galaxy Watch 6, with its standard hardware.

The downside to this ease is that there isn’t much variety for Pixel watch bands, even in the depths of Amazon and AliExpress. I bought a third party Pixel Watch Adapter to convert the collection of watch bands I have accumulated. It’s not the same as buying an accessory made for the garment you’re wearing. But it’s been comfortable enough that I can now wear matching watch bands between the Pixel Watch 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 when testing them simultaneously.

A photo of the Pixel Watch 2

Blossom, commander and leader of the Powerpuff Girls, with the Active Sports Band in Coral.
Photo: Florence Ion/Gizmodo

Pixel Watch 2 battery

Better battery than last time

As I mentioned before, I have slept with this watch. I have slept with All the smartwatches for some long-term sleep testing. So far, the Pixel Watch 2 is more comfortable than the Galaxy Watch 6. I plan to follow up on this point of comparison after reviewing Fitbit Charge 6, which I imagine will be the most comfortable due to its smaller size. (I’m testing the Apple Watch Series 9 and Galaxy Watch 6 at the same time, but admittedly I still haven’t gotten to sleep with the last one.)

I’ve slept enough with the Pixel Watch 2 to understand its battery capacity. They’re on par with my experience with the Galaxy Watch 6. While the first Pixel Watch struggled to get through a full day of normal use, the Pixel Watch 2 made it through a day and a half, including sleep tracking and heart rate monitoring during a workout, before need charging.

I woke up most mornings with the Pixel Watch 2 hovering around 40% battery, enough to see me through the day until lunchtime. I kept this schedule for about a week and a half, and that’s when I decided to adopt a new charging cadence. Instead of charging the Pixel Watch 2 every night, I now charge daily at my desk after lunch. That’s when I’m most sleepy; that way I get the necessary stress tracking during the morning’s work hours.

Speaking of stress tracking, I wish Fitbit, Samsung, and Apple could do more for my stress than offer quiet meditations with a premium subscription. My mindfulness practice usually doesn’t include smartphones because it feels counterproductive to bring the most distracting screen into an environment of attempted calm. However, the Pixel Watch 2 is good at gently buzzing when I’m “excited”, which helped diffuse some intense life situations. I appreciate the visual data offered about how your heart is doing in stressful situations and the slow breathing exercises. But I need something other than a stress score to prove I’m stressed.

Pixel Watch 2 health monitoring

Fitbit misery

A photo of the Pixel Watch 2

Fitbit features in the Wear OS app drawer on the Pixel Watch 2. The band is the Bay two-tone leather band.
Photo: Florence Ion/Gizmodo

The most important thing to know about this year’s Pixel Watch 2 release is that it has improved heart rate monitoring through a multi-way sensor. This improves the Pixel Watch’s ability to capture heart rate information no matter how you move. You can use the Pixel Watch 2 as a heart rate monitor for supported exercise machines. I tried it with mine Peloton Bike+. The connection is seamless once the devices are paired, and both the Peloton app and Fitbit take advantage of that heart rate data as you exercise.

While I had no problem using the Pixel Watch 2 on the Peloton as a heart rate monitor, I did have trouble syncing a Peloton workout to the Fitbit and having it count against one of my weekly numbers. After some searching on the internet, I contacted Fitbit and Peloton to determine why my data was not syncing, and we are working on a solution. I’ll follow up when it’s resolved, but it was a stark reminder of the annoying data fragmentation within the Android fitness ecosystem. This is what drives people to the Apple Watch!

Fitbit could be more third-party friendly or at least simpler in how and where it syncs data. One of the reasons I stick with Samsung Health is because of an app called Health sink. It continues Samsung health, StriveGoogle Fit and Health Connect synced with all my weekly move data.

Pixel Watch 2 Premium Features

Fitbit Premium is the way to go

My biggest gripe with the Fitbit app on Android is that it’s a fitness app without one dark mode. I even tried enabling developer settings on mine Pixel 8 to force it, but only the navigation bar at the bottom flipped over to dark colors. The lights stayed on for the rest of the app, triggering people with chronic headaches.

Even if you buy the Pixel Watch 2, an Android smartwatch running Wear OS, you’ll need to consider Fitbit Premium for some of the extra fitness and personal safety features enabled by a subscription. For $10/month or $80/year, people who want to get in shape can use Fitbit Premium to unlock personalized sleep profiles and the daily readiness score. I can’t speak to their effectiveness yet as I’m still testing, but from what I’ve read in other articles covering this device, the consensus is that these are good features. I hope to follow up.

There are also non-fitness features to take advantage of with one Fitbit Premium account. Most importantly, there is Security signal. It lets you use Safety Check, which works like the iPhone’s feature of the same name, and Emergency Location Sharing. These capabilities are only for the Pixel Watch 2 with LTE, which is $50 more, but they enable features similar to what carriers offer. I’m paying Verizon for the Galaxy Watch 6 because I want emergency services without my phone. That’s about the same price for the Pixel Watch 2 and monthly services that I pay my carrier after the activation fee.

A photo of the Pixel Watch 2

Google Pixel Watch 2.
Photo: Florence Ion/Gizmodo

Should you buy a Pixel Watch 2?

This Android watch is worth it

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 that I bought a few months ago will continue to collect dust on my lab shelf. I will wear Pixel Watch 2. The design of it has finally grown on me. It took a year, I guess, or maybe it’s because Samsung didn’t upgrade the side bezels from the previous two models. I recently realized that I am rethinking the aesthetic of my life.

But look at me! I’m talking about choices in the Android wearable ecosystem! What a treat. Isn’t this what we’ve wanted for a long time? Sure, it feels like one Sophie’s choice– Not only do I choose which style to wear on my wrist, but I also decide whether I want Fitbit as my health data broker or Samsung Health. And I’m still not sure. Fitbit has tons of grow up to do, so I tread carefully in its waters while making sure I have the same data backed up in Samsung Health. I’ll let you know how it goes.

#Android #Smartwatch #sleep

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