Google has dipped its toes into the consumer hardware business in the last few years. While it started off rocky — ahem, Google Glass — the tech giant quickly redeemed itself with its line of smartphones, Pixelbooks, and Google Home products. This year, when Google launches a Pixel 3 smartphone, it may re-enter the wearables market with its first smartwatch, the Pixel Watch. Here’s everything you need to know.
Google just announced a revamp of policy surrounding the Wear OS apps that run on devices like the Pixel Watch, aimed at improving the overall quality of them — a clear suggestion the company is looking at the wearable ecosystem as it prepares for some sort of launch. The policy, unveiled on August 15, calls for mandatory review of apps by Google rather than allowing app makers to voluntarily submit to the process (you know, if they feel up to it). Google also now insists that developers include at least one screenshot of the app in action.
The new policy is meant to address two common issues Google says it has seen in Wear OS apps: Weak support for different shapes and a lack of screenshots detailing an app’s appearance. Some of the best wear OS watches are weird shapes, after all. Here’s how Google puts it:
- Support for different screen types: Wear OS by Google is available in both round and square screens, and some round devices also have a chin. Developers are advised to test on all screen types. If a physical device is unavailable, they are asked to use the Wear OS by Google emulator.
- Wear OS by Google app screenshot: To pass the review, the app needs to have at least one Wear OS app screenshot. To keep prerelease Wear apps private, the Google Play Store will not show the Wear screenshots unless the Wear App is in production or open testing.
The policy will become mandatory as of October 1, 2018, Google said — might this be the date the Pixel Watch launches?
Since we’re still several months away from a possible Pixel Watch announcement, details on the rumored smartwatch are sparse. But we do expect the Pixel Watch to ship with flagship-quality hardware.
Much like similar premium smartwatches, we anticipate both Wi-Fi and LTE versions of the Pixel Watch; German website WinFuture reports that the Pixel Watch is currently being developed as three different models, code-named “Ling,” “Triton,” and “Sardine.” If true, this also means it’s possible the Pixel Watch will come with size variants as well. That same report also goes on to state that the Pixel Watch will come with at least 1GB of RAM, though it’s uncertain whether that would apply to every model.
It’s highly likely the Pixel Watch will pack in the hottest new wearables chip set that should ship later this year, the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100. The new processor will reportedly be smaller, more efficient, and perform better than its predecessor, the Snapdragon 2100.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of the rumored Pixel Watch is its operating system. The Pixel Watch will most likely run a stock version of Wear OS, or a version with special features just for the Pixel Watch — similar to Google’s brand of Android for the Pixel phones. Since the smartwatch will be Google’s own hardware, it should receive frequent software updates and support for at least a few years.
While rumors of the Pixel Watch’s features aren’t widespread yet, expect Google Assistant, Google Assistant, and a touch of Google Assistant. Google has leaned heavily into Assistant in the last year, improving it heavily and packing it into more products. It would be fair to assume that Google’s voice assistant will be a big part of the Pixel Watch’s intended use.
Release and availability
It may be a bit of a wait until we actually see the Pixel Watch. Since Google will almost certainly wait on Qualcomm to release its newest chipset for wearables before it announces Pixel Watch, it’s likely we won’t see the watch until late in the year.
Right now, we believe the Pixel Watch will be announced alongside this year’s crop of new Pixel smartphones. While a specific release date isn’t mentioned, industry analysts Canalys took the possibility of a Pixel Watch into consideration in its wearables report for the second quarter of 2018, highlighting such a watch as being serious competition for the Apple Watch. Last year, Google announced the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL in late October, so we’re anticipating a similar announcement date for this year.
In terms of availability, it’s likely Google will sell the Pixel Watch both on its own website, as well as in major retail outlets. If Google does make an LTE version of the Pixel Watch, it maybe a carrier exclusive throughout the holiday season.
Besides the Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, and second-gen Pixel Buds, a reliable source tells me — with high confidence — that Google's fall hardware event will also introduce a Pixel-branded watch. Have a great summer!
— Evan Blass (@evleaks) May 10, 2018
It’s hard to guess exactly what the Pixel Watch will look like. There have been no leaked images or schematics of the device just yet, so anything we list is almost pure conjecture.
That said, we anticipate the Pixel Watch will be smaller than many other smartwatches on the market. Since it will likely use a smaller, yet to be released, processor, Google will likely be able to shave off a few millimeters of the overall case width.
On the other hand, Google is reportedly looking to pack features into the watch. According to a report from WinFuture, the Pixel Watch will contain a heart rate monitor, Bluetooth support, and other premium features.
Google has yet to confirm it is even making a smartwatch, so we’ve yet to receive confirmation on the name. Famed leaker Evan Blass and other tipsters have referred to the upcoming device as the Pixel Watch, and that name appears to be on brand. So for now, that’s good enough for us.
Updated August 19, 2018: Added details about Google’s revamp of policy surrounding Wear OS to improve quality — a clear suggestion the company is looking at the wearable ecosystem as it prepares for some sort of launch.