Whenever I test a new smartwatch, I tend to put it on my free wrist, meaning I keep my regular smartwatch on and then put the test one on my left wrist. It’s a great way to understand the experience of the new wearable through a direct comparison to my current favourite.
What I did not plan on, though, was wearing the new Google Pixel Watch 2 ($349 / £349 / AU$549) and Apple Watch Series 9 45mm ($429 / £429 / AU$699 for two weeks. Yes, I got some looks and my family thought I was losing it. I, however, have gotten quite used to it. Now, though, it’s time to stop and take stock. Only one will live on my wrist for the long haul.
Let’s sleep on it
You’ll only sleep with a comfortable watch. If there is the slightest design variation – a bump that perhaps does not exist on one watch – then you’ll sleep with the other. Anything that makes you uncomfortable during sleep is essentially worthless as a sleep-tracking device. The Pixel Watch 2 is just as thick as its predecessor (12.3mm thick) and the back has too much of a bump for my tastes. When I slept, I could feel it and the discomfort often woke me up.
Eventually, I put my need for sleep over a long-term Pixel Watch 2 sleep test. After a few days of sleeping with both watches, I relegated the Pixel Watch 2 to the charger. I simply do not feel the Apple Watch Series 9, which is just 10.7mm thick, when I sleep.
Is there something about more and more sensors?
The Pixel Watch 2 knew every time I was walking fast for an extended period of time (between 10 and 12 minutes) but the Apple Watch Series 9 did not always know. I don’t know for certain but wonder if this has anything to do with the Pixel Watch 2’s heart rate sensors – it has four times as many.
Those sensors, by the way, did, at least initially, give me what I think maybe a more accurate measure of my heart rate during workouts. The Apple Watch Series 9 usually caught up after a few moments (though it sometimes measured a lower rate). By week two, however, the Apple Watch Series 9 and Google Pixel Watch 2 workout heart rate readings were virtually in synch. Perhaps, the Apple Watch learned something about my heart rate along the way.
There are only so many ways you can give an attaboy
Each watch is good at giving daily approbations, but the Apple Watch’s various badges and awards do it with more colour. Likewise, there are only so many ways to stop, start, and pause workouts and the two watches are quite similar. The only difference is when you tell the Apple Watch you’re done, it double-checks that you’re really done. I don’t know why it now does this in watchOS 10.
You’ll notice this
I’m going into tap overload. Both watches have access to most of my email, slack, and other social media accounts. So, yes, they tap my wrist simultaneously. There is virtually no difference here, but I live the with knowledge that two watches are one too many.
Screen size matters
The Pixel Watch screen is extremely clear and bright, but feels cramped compared to the Apple Watch Series 9’s big 45mm screen. There is only one Pixel Watch 2 size so it’s forced to compare to both Apple Watch sizes. For what it’s worth, the pixel density on the Apple Watch Series 9 is, at 326ppi, slightly higher than the Pixel Watch’s 320ppi. A fair comparison might be using the smaller 41mm Apple Watch, the same listed screen size as the Pixel, but we didn’t have a sample to hand.
Besides, at the core of the problem is not the Pixel Watch 2’s round face, but the size of the black bezel around it, which makes it seem even smaller. The Apple Watch Series 9’s rectangular face contends with a much thinner bezel.
At least both watch screens win in the glanceability department. They both feature always-on displays that are just bright enough to read the time and they come to bright life when I raise my wrist.