After years of rumors and false starts, it looks like we’re close to finally, ultimately seeing a Pixel Watch running Wear OS.
We’ve been hearing rumors about the Pixel Watch for a few months, but what got me thinking about it all was a recent leak from Evan Blass. Earlier today, Blass posted a screenshot tweeted an interactive tutorial teasing a “Pixel Rohan” running Wear OS 3.1. Blass also captioned the tweet, saying “Won’t be long now” – a nod to the very likely possibility that Google will tease the Pixel Watch at next month’s Google I/O.
Nothing about it is incredibly surprising if you paid attention. It was always likely that the Pixel Watch would run Wear OS, although for a while there was speculation that Google might opt for a digital-analog hybrid. However, this relatively inconsequential leak confirms that 2022 will be a pivotal year for Google’s wearables ambitions.
Essentially, it’s the culmination of at least three years of Google laying the groundwork for a true Apple Watch competitor. In early 2019, Google paid $40 million to buy Fossil’s smartwatch technology and part of the company’s research and development team. Fossil has long been one of Google’s most important wearables partners, and at the time Google said the move was indicative of the company’s commitment to wearables. Later that year, Google highlighted renewed interest in “ambient computing” at its Made by Google event before closing 2019 by dropping $2.1 billion for Fitbit.
Not much has happened on the Google wearables front in 2020. Fitbit has continued to launch products under the Fitbit brand – although its smartwatches did get Google Assistant. Likewise, Wear OS continued to see incremental updates. However, Google threw the door wide open in 2021 at I/O, announcing that it was teaming up with Samsung to create a new, unified version of its long-stagnant Wear OS platform. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 line then debuted with Wear OS 3 in late 2021.
That brings us to 2022 – the first year the new Wear OS platform will be available on more than just Samsung smartwatches. Google has said over the past year that existing Wear OS watches from Fossil and Mobvoi will be eligible for the upgrade in the second half of this year. Google has also been hinting at future Fitbit integrations for a while now, and Fitbit CEO James Park has also repeatedly said that a Fitbit Wear OS watch is coming. (Although it’s hard to say when.) Google also recently received FDA clearance for passive monitoring of atrial fibrillation on Fitbit devices. Given that Google owns Fitbit, it’s not hard to imagine that it will also benefit from Fitbit’s years of research into advanced health tech features. Qualcomm – whose lackluster Snapdragon Wear chipsets have also contributed to Wear OS’s struggles to catch up to competitors – is also expected to release a more powerful chip this year.
Basically, all the pieces fall into place. Of course, there are still many questions. Will the Pixel Watch focus primarily on fitness and wellness or will it also incorporate smarter features such as LTE connectivity? Will it work equally well with all Android phones, or will it prioritize Google’s Pixel ecosystem? What about iOS? We probably won’t have those answers until the second half of this year. But one thing is certain. It’s a big year for Google’s wearable platform – and topping it off with a Pixel Watch would be one hell of a way to make a statement.