While Google confirmed last month that a Pixel Watch was on the way, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the device, such as B. the hardware specifications. However, the rumor mill was buzzing, and the gist is that the device will reportedly feature a 300mAh battery and Samsung’s last-gen portable processor. The latest report from 9to5 Google claims the watch gets around 24 hours of battery life on a single charge, and that fast charging isn’t in the mix. It may be tempting to scream doom and gloom, but what if it works? These numbers are self-evident.
Battery life remains one of the biggest challenges for smartwatch manufacturers. Try packing a bigger battery to get more juice and you end up with a gargantuan watch that rules out anyone with wrists. Try designing a sleek and elegant watch and you will end up with something that can barely last the workday. Add an always-on display, an increasingly popular feature, and you end up with even worse battery life. Try to include as many advanced features as possible and watch how quickly the battery goes from 100 to zero percent.
This is also an enormous burden for consumers. If you want to track sleep, a smartwatch with long enough battery life and/or fast charging is a must. The same is true if you are an active person engaging in several hours of GPS activity per day. (That’s one reason many marathon runners choose a Garmin, Polar, or Coros over a more “advanced” wearable.) It’s also a consideration for people who use their smartwatches to take calls on the go.
When you put all these factors together, the Pixel Watch is decent by today’s standards at 24 hours on a single charge. I haven’t tested a Wear OS watch that lasts more than a day. Apple is sticking to an estimated 18-hour battery life for all of its smartwatches — although many models will offer you a bit more. Samsung’s Tizen watches often hovered around the 24-48 hour mark, while the Galaxy Watch 4 is notorious for dropping extremely nearing its estimated 40-hour battery life. Meanwhile, Fitbit used to knock it out of the park when it came to battery life, but as it’s added always-on displays to its latest trackers, that’s dwindled to two to three days with the feature enabled.
Of course you will find fitness watches with a battery life of more than a week – sometimes even several weeks. I’ve been testing the Garmin Forerunner 255 for over a week with about five hours of GPS activity and I still have 40 percent battery left. That’s because this watch prioritizes fitness tracking, has a low-power transflective screen, and doesn’t have a ton of “smart” features. This is usually the case with multisport fitness watches.
You can’t have your cake and eat it – not yet. Right now, there is an inverse relationship between battery life and feature set on flagship watches. The more features you want, the worse your battery life will be. If you want an always-on OLED display, you have to put up with frequent charging. Would you like a digital assistant that can be triggered by a wake word? Sorry, you have to be careful when charging. If you want to track sleep reliably, you need a creative charging plan.
The best solution so far has been fast charging. If the rumors are true, the most disappointing thing is that fast charging isn’t on the table. On the other hand, this is also relatively new for high-end smartwatches. Fossil enabled it for a while, but Fossil also has exactly one watch that’s cellular. (And it’s not even the latest model.) It wasn’t until 2021 that Apple really got to fast-charging the Apple Watch Series 7. This is also not possible on the Galaxy Watch 4. Chances are, many smartwatch owners are used to two-hour charge times, even if they’re not the happiest about it.
If – and this is a big if – the Pixel Watch can manage 24 hours with an always-on display enabled while listening to Assistant in the background, that’s good enough. It’s only “bad” if Google doesn’t deliver a watch that doesn’t last a whole working day with about an hour of GPS activity. At the moment we just don’t know because we don’t have the final product in our hands. Until we do, it’s best to take rumors about the Pixel Watch’s battery life and performance with a heavy grain of salt.