OPINION: The launch of Google’s Pixel 6 phone is fast approaching and, as expected, it’s already causing huge waves in the tech community, with fans and journalists waiting with bated breath to learn more about the Android flagship. For me however, it’s not the most exciting product expected from Google this year by a long shot.
Instead, the fabled Pixel Watch is a much more important prospect for Google. There have been rumblings about this wearable since Google unveiled the first iteration of its Wear OS all the way back in 2014 – though back then, people were calling it the Nexus Watch.
At the time, there weren’t many credible rumours about the Google wearable. Google also made it clear pretty quickly it wasn’t really that bothered about Wear OS, failing to offer any significant updates and not even supporting popular services, like Maps, on the platform. As a result, when the company announced plans to acquire Fitbit, many questioned if Wear OS’ days were numbered and the Pixel Watch was largely forgotten.
That all changed this year however, with credible rumours and “leaks” starting to appear and Google unveiling its biggest update to the operating system since it launched: Wear OS 3. The OS was triumphantly revealed alongside the Galaxy Watch 4 earlier in August.
But, that claim came with a big caveat: the version seen on the Watch 4 was co-developed with Samsung. So the majority of the fitness tracking features, cool UI flourishes and extras aren’t necessarily from Google and as such, it’s uncertain as to which of these features might appear on other Wear OS 3 watches, like the incoming Fossil Gen 6.
If Google really wants to get serious about taking on the Apple Watch, it needs to pull the same trick it did with the first Nexus phone and launch an own-brand wearable.
This isn’t because I think it’ll be a sales success – Nexus and Pixel devices have never really been mass market – but because Google needs to give developers a blank canvas to work on when developing the software. In this light, the Pixel Watch would be a pivotal release, with Google showing the world that it’s serious about wearables and providing developers with a top-notch device to code and test on when making apps.
Android initially struggled before the Nexus, partly because companies were making so many sweeping changes to its code that it was hard for developers to find a handset with a clean install to work off. This is one reason why so many services broke or crashed on early handsets with the OS, creating flawed user experiences compared to the iPhone. Developers favoured targeting iOS as a result.
The same is true now with wearables. The Apple Watch 6 is a technical marvel, but the truth is, its main selling point is its software, having the most developed app ecosystem on the market, much like iOS did back in the day.
So, for me, the Pixel Watch will be a far more interesting and important product for Google if the rumours ring true and it does indeed release the wearable.