The Pixel Watch only has one job: not to suck

Later this fall, Google is expected to launch the Pixel Watch. Given the history of Wear OS, it’s understandable that there’s a lot of anticipation. Will the watch be good? Will it not deliver on the promise of Wear OS 3? Honestly, those questions might be more appropriate for future iterations of the watch. For now, all Google has to do is create a smartwatch that gets the basics right.

Case in point, XDA Developers recently reported that Google seems to be working hard to address an egregious oversight in Wear OS: backups. In a teardown of Google Play services v 22.23.12 beta APK, XDA says there is a code that refers to “supplementary backups” through Google One. Right now, if you upgrade to a new phone, you can’t back up your non-Samsung smartwatch data Wear OS. Yes, even though it’s 2022 and almost all consumer devices allow you to create cloud backups, you still need to factory reset your Wear OS smartwatch. (Technically, there is a workaround for this problem, but it shouldn’t be need a solution for something as basic as a cloud backup. )

This just underlines how low the bar is for the Pixel Watch. Competitors like Samsung and Apple already have cloud backup for their watches because, again, it’s 2022. As long as the Pixel Watch can run 24 hours on a single charge, has a nimble chip, and can lower the list of expected features of smart watch (for example, contactless payments, music streaming, basic fitness tracking, Backups, etc.), it will succeed at Not Sucking, which is all Google needs to establish that its portable devices can play ball. Anything else on top of that is gravy.

And there’s reason to believe that Google may succeed in creating a smartwatch that beats the “don’t suck” bar. Since announcing Wear OS 3 with Samsung at I/O 2021, Google has made demonstrable progress in making Wear OS a viable platform. Popular third-party developers not only created apps optimized for Wear OS 3, but Google also strove to build app improvements for Wear OS 2. That includes software like Google Pay and Messages, streaming through YouTube Music, and other touches. basics you’d expect to see on modern smartwatches. That momentum only seems to be building as we get closer to the debut of the Pixel Watch. For example, 9to5Google found signs that the Pixel Watch may also be compatible with Google Fi, which could suggest that the watch maybe Supports LTE data without the need for a phone number. (Or Google could go the same route as other carriers and charge a small fee for an additional line.)

Google Fi support would go beyond the bare minimum. But also, based on its I/O 2022 presentation, we can expect a streamlined Wear OS 3 UI, a new Fitbit integration, and emergency calling. We should expect apps like Google Assistant, YouTube Music, Google Wallet, Google Home, and Google Maps, which is a solid lineup as far as native apps go. At least on paper, this is what you’d expect to see in a modern smartwatch.

I’m not ready to say that the Pixel Watch will be good or even “good enough”. That’s not something you can decide until you’ve put it to the test. There are things you just can’t tell from a spec sheet, like how well it integrates with non-Pixel phones, how fast the performance is, and what the battery is like in real life. I’m just saying that the bar for a good Wear OS watch is incredibly low, and so far, Samsung has been the only game in town. I’d be genuinely surprised if the Pixel Watch could give the Galaxy Watch 5 a run for its money. But what if it can successfully provide Android users with a viable alternative to a Samsung watch? That’s something we haven’t seen yet.

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