La Vita è Bear

Pixel Watch after one month

I have been wearing the new Google Pixel Watch for a month now, wore it to an international trip (Japan), so it’s probably a good time to write a mini “review” of it.

Battery life

Let’s address the elephant in the room first. This was also my biggest concern when pre-ordering.

I’m actually happy with the battery life on it.

My configuration is:

The reason I choose this configuration is that I have almost zero usage for the LTE use case (also I would expect the LTE version to have a worse battery life), and always-on display is important to me even though it certainly hurts battery life.

On a normal work-from-home day I have tons of notifications (mainly Slack); On a day I commute to the office I have tons of notifications plus ~50min of activity tracking for biking; On weekends I usually have ~30min of activity tracking for biking; While at Japan I walk around a lot (but not using activity tracking, just the background tracking for steps). All those are also with sleep tracking.

With all those scenarios, the watch’s battery can last for 24 hours with some to spare to allow me to only charge it once a day (I usually charge in the morning while taking showers).

With all the reviews downplay the battery life, I really expected that I would need to charge it twice a day with always-on-display on on at least the days I commute to the office, so this is a really nice surprise to turn out to be not true.

Note that this is not good as in Garmin/Withings that it can actually last multiple days (or weeks in Withings’ case). It’s just good as in WearOS standard that I don’t need to charge it more than once per day in most cases.

Sleep tracking

The surprisingly good battery life comes with a caveat: I only use its builtin sleep tracking. If I used Sleep as Android that will take significantly more battery for sleep tracking and the battery would be no longer able to last for 24 hours.

I have to say that for me personally, Fitbit’s sleep tracking is only OK, and the only reason I use it is for the battery. Even in the early days of wearables 10+ years ago, I would prefer Jawbone Up over Fitbit’s trackers any day for the reason of better sleep tracking and smart alarm.

Jawbone Up’s alarm is a window (for example, 30min) rather than a fixed time, and it picks a time in the window that you are in light sleep to wake you up, which makes the waking up a much more pleasant experience for me.

After its discontinuation and the rise of Android Wear (later renamed to WearOS), Sleep as Android is the replacement of it to me. Sleep as Android actually has the best wake up alarm over everything else in the world as far as I’m aware:

With Fitbit you get… none of those:

I really hope that Google/Fitbit can improve the alarm on the Pixel Watch. I do understand some of those features come with more battery consumption on the watch itself (for example, the window alarm certainly needs more computation on the watch to figure out what sleep stage you are on right now), but a good chunk of them likely don’t really hurt battery life.

GPS

The watch has built-in GPS (for both LTE and non-LTE variants), instead of “assisted-GPS” on Withings or some other WearOS watches (means just get GPS signal from the phone instead). This is good, but the thing I’m not happy about is that it actually refuses to use assisted-GPS in any way (or at least, I didn’t figure out any way for it to use assisted-GPS).

Whenever I use it to track my bike ride, it always takes ~30s to get a GPS fix, and then the track actually starts, which means I always lose my first ~30s of my bike rides. I also use a Wahoo bike computer to track my bike rides so this is not that big a deal for me (I mainly use the watch to track my heart rates during bike rides), but it’s still quite annoying. I hope a future update can enable assisted GPS so at the beginning of my rides it would just get the GPS from my phone instead.

Others

The main reason I prefer WearOS (over Garmin/Withings/etc.) are the notification feature. It’s reliable (looking at you Withings), and it follows the setting I set on the phone: if a notification is silent on the phone, it will also be silent on the watch (with Android 13 Withings actually starts to get slightly better here as I can make it stop receiving silent notifications, but still miles behind WearOS).

As for the straps, I have both the standard silicon one that comes with the watch, and the woven band. I have to say the silicon one actually feels much nicer than I had expected, but too bad you only have choices of boring colors with the watch and have to buy extra ones for non-boring colors. The woven band feels nice as well, but I do have concerns about the reliability of the clasp (it worked ok so far). I don’t really have an issue with the proprietary way of changing straps either, but yes that eliminates a lot of the choices of the cheaper alternatives. I’m also waiting for the metal ones to become available next year.

The charger also provides a reliable connection (looking at you Fossil). It also charges fast enough (~30min to full in my once-a-day charging), but you do need USB PD for the wall brick, as I have used a USB IQ one initially and that charges much slower. I also bought an extra one to put in my backpack for travels, as if I ever forget to bring the charger to a trip that will render the watch completely useless for the entire trip.

#English #gadget #wearos #pixel #watch