The Made by Google 2023 event may be remembered as a Pixel 8 launch party. But Google also took some time to reveal the Pixel Watch 2, an upgraded version of the smartwatch it debuted last year. Pixel Watch 2 adds a handful of new and notable features, including an improved heart rate sensor, Fitbit stress tracking technology, and a safety-oriented location sharing system.
Realistically, the biggest improvement offered by the Pixel Watch 2 is a new multi-path heart rate sensor. Instead of measuring your pulse at a single location, the multi-path sensor uses an array of LEDs and photodiodes to observe your pulse at different angles. All Pixel Watch metrics that tap into your heart rate, including sleep and active zone minutes, should benefit from the multi-path sensor. To preserve battery health, the Pixel Watch will intelligently switch between single-path and multi-path heart rate functionality.
The Pixel Watch 2 also gains Fitbit’s body-response and skin temperature sensors. These sensors are mainly intended for stress tracking. When the Pixel Watch 2 detects that you’re stressed, it will prompt you to log your mood, and it may provide suggestions for improvement. The ultimate goal is to make you more aware of stressors, such as certain physical activities or alcohol consumption, which can be corrected through behavioral changes.
And, in addition to Google’s well-established Fall Detection and Emergency SOS features, the Pixel Watch 2 adds Safety Check functionality. This one’s pretty neat—if you’re in a potentially dangerous situation (hiking, walking alone at night, etc) you can schedule a location-sharing timer. Every time the timer runs out, you can choose to send your location to friends or family (or contact emergency services). If you fail to select a Safety Check option, your location data will be shared with emergency contacts automatically. Medical information may also be shared with EMS if they are summoned.
The Safety Check feature has some limitations, though. If you buy the Wi-Fi model of Pixel Watch 2, your phone must be near your phone when Safety Check is enabled. And those with an LTE Pixel Watch 2 need to enable cellular service. (There’s one exception—if you have Fitbit Premium and an LTE Pixel Watch 2, you can use Safety Check without an LTE plan or a nearby smartphone.)
Google will also sell a medical ID accessory for the Pixel Watch 2. It’s a small red object that wraps around your Pixel Watch 2’s wristband. When someone presses a button on the medical ID accessory, your medical information will appear on the Pixel Watch’s screen. It’s a nice idea for anyone who has drug allergies, heart problems, or other conditions that may be relevant during a medical emergency. That said, first responders may be more accustomed to an old-fashioned medical ID bracelet or necklace.
Aside from these features, the Pixel Watch 2 is extremely similar to its predecessor. It uses the same 320 ppi AMOLED display, though its battery now lasts for 24 hours with the Always-On Display mode enabled (anecdotally, some users got this battery life with AOD enabled on the previous model). It can also receive a full charge in 75 minutes if you buy a 30-watt USB adapter—it doesn’t come with an adapter. Not to mention, Google actually managed to get an IP68 dust and water resistance rating this time around, and it claims that the Pixel Watch 2 has a more durable display. However, the Pixel Watch and Pixel Watch 2 both use Gorilla Glass 5, so we’re not sure how these durability improvements were made. All we know is that Google refuses to repair Pixel Watch screens.
One notable difference, though, is the chipset. The original Pixel Watch used a Samsung-made Exynos 9110 SoC. But Google is switching to a Qualcomm Snapdragon W5 chipset in the Pixel Watch 2 — an odd change of pace, as Google seemed hellbent on avoiding Qualcomm SoCs just a few years ago. The Pixel Watch 2 also runs Google’s new Wear OS 4 platform, which previously debuted on Samsung smartwatches.
Pre-orders for the Pixel Watch 2 open today with orders arriving next week. The Pixel Watch 2 starts at $350, just like last year’s model. Customers who want LTE functionality must pony up $400. Note that the Pixel Watch 2 is extremely similar to its predecessor — if you already own the original Pixel Watch, upgrading may be a waste of money. And, if you weren’t a fan of the first-gen model, the Pixel Watch 2 is probably a skip. We hope to review the Pixel Watch 2 in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, feel free to check out our original Pixel Watch review.
You can pre-order the Pixel Watch from the Google Store now.