Google's Pixel Watch is a big deal.  But taking an Apple Watch is a huge challenge

Google’s Pixel Watch is a big deal. But taking an Apple Watch is a huge challenge

Image: Google

This Thursday at the Made by Google event, Google will launch its latest Google Pixel devices, including the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. But perhaps the most anticipated release is the Google Pixel Watch, the first smartwatch “built by Google, inside and out.”

So is the watch worth waiting for? Will it be a real challenger to the Apple Watch? Here’s everything you need to know.

Also: Google will unveil the Pixel 7 and Pixel Watch on October 6

Google has already released a video revealing the design of the Google Pixel Watch, which includes a sleek, circular, domed face with a simple scrolling crown.

The watch will use Google’s Wear OS technology, including integration with Fitbit. And while all the exact details, including pricing, will be revealed on Thursday, what’s clear is that the release of the watch represents a milestone for Google’s product portfolio.

“The Pixel Watch is the first major smartwatch designed from the ground up by Google. This is a watershed event,” says Neil Mawston, managing director of technology analytics firm Strategy Analytics.

Google already has a large ecosystem of devices, including smartphones, speakers, displays, streaming devices, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, security cameras and doorbells. While there have been many Android smartwatches over the years, this is the first one created entirely by Google.

Google’s Pixel smartphones were used to showcase the best features of Android. If the Pixel Watch is used in the same way to showcase the potential of Wear OS, it could develop into an interesting competitor to the Apple Watch, although Google’s offering will certainly have some catching up to do in terms of features and market share. It could also help point the way for other Wear OS tech companies looking to succeed in the smartwatch market.

“Pixel Watch helps complete Google’s ecosystem of products and services, finally allowing it to compete with Apple, Samsung and other competitors,” Jitesh Ubrani, research manager at IDC, told ZDNET.

So why hasn’t Google ever released a smartwatch yet? The answer is timing.

Right now, Google is in the best position it’s ever been in due to a combination of recent acquisitions, a presence in the smartphone market, and the development of Wear OS.

Launched in 2014, Wear OS has gradually gained momentum, with big brands such as Michael Kors, Citizen and even Samsung using it in their smartwatches.

Google’s $40 million acquisition of Fossil in 2019 and its $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit, which was completed in 2021, were also drivers of Wear OS growth.

Also: Want a new Apple Watch? We compared the 5 best models available

The technology from both of those purchases has allowed Google to strengthen and expand its Wear OS capabilities, and it’s now implementing those upgrades into its first watches.

“Google has been slower than Apple to realize the smartwatch opportunity, but its purchase of Fitbit in 2021 helped jump-start Google’s efforts, and its market momentum is now starting to pick up nicely,” says Mawston.

“We estimate that Wear OS has more than doubled over the past year from an 8% share of the US smartwatch market in Q2 2021 to 21% in Q2 2022. Samsung and several other hardware OEMs are strongly supporting the Wear OS platform.”

Google’s Wear OS isn’t the only Google product that’s seen growth over the past year. Despite only having a 3% share of the smartphone market in the first quarter of 2022, Google still has a much larger market share than the 1% share it had a year ago, according to Canalys.

Google’s growing presence in the smartphone market may have encouraged it to take the next step and release a product for the growing smartwatch market.

“The Pixel line of phones, sitting at the center of the ecosystem, needed to find a foothold before Google was able to introduce add-on devices like watches,” says Ubrani.

Google is a late entrant compared to some of its biggest competitors, such as Apple, which launched its first watch in 2015. According to Canalys, Apple currently has a 28.9% share of the smartwatch market and dominates the entire space .

Apple recently added new watches to its lineup, including the Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch SE, and Apple Watch Ultra. Apple’s established presence in the smartwatch space is likely to pose a challenge to the Google Pixel Watch.

And that is not the only challenge ahead.

“The Pixel Watch’s Achilles heel is likely to be distribution, as its US and global retail presence is far smaller than the established Apple Watch,” says Mawston.

The selling point of the Google Pixel watch will depend on its unique features, such as the health features that the watch will bring through Fitbit integration, to make it an attractive option that stands out from the competition.

“Google Assistant and Fitbit’s health features are expected to be front and center on the Pixel Watch, and putting them on someone’s wrist can create a pretty powerful experience that’s unique to the Pixel,” says Ubrani.

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