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When it comes to phones, Google’s big Pixel differentiators are the camera and ML/AI-powered voice features that work locally. This includes Call Screen, Hold for Me, and Direct My Call in the Phone app, while there’s transcription with Recorder, the new Google Assistant, and Gboard’s Assistant Voice Typing.
Pixel phones arrived at those core competencies after seven years/generations. The Pixel Watch is only a few months old, and I’m already wondering how Google will make future generations more Pixel-y.
In terms of voice, transcription on the Pixel Watch is just ordinary, and better chips will allow for more impressive accuracy and other on-device experiences. This is paramount when voice is the main input method, though I’m continually surprised by how well Gboard works.
The Pixel Watch does not really have unique Google apps — Home, Gboard, Contacts, Maps, Keep, Messages, Wallet, Assistant, YouTube Music, and Weather — that aren’t found on other Wear OS 3 devices. It does have a good set of watch faces, but the core OS is otherwise not customized to the same degree as the Pixel Launcher on phones.
Rather, Google’s early differentiator for the Pixel Watch is Fitbit’s health and fitness capabilities. In many ways, wellbeing is to the Pixel Watch as the camera is to Pixel phones. (There are no cameras on watches, though I actually think this concept should be given at least one more attempt in the modern era. There was the Galaxy Gear from 2013-2014 and that Meta smartwatch more recently.)
On the hardware front, Google is very proud of its per-second heart rate measurements, while Fall Detection was just added. The Pixel Watch is missing SpO2 and temperature tracking, which are staples for Fitbit trackers, but ultimately, there’s nothing stopping either from eventually being added. Meanwhile, on the Sense 2, there’s continuous electrodermal activity (cEDA) for all-day stress management and tracking, as an example of a future sensor.
More sensors coming to future Pixel Watch devices is par for the course, but the real promise is how Google takes advantage of that hardware, including faster chips, to do truly novel things.
On the extreme end, there is Apple’s genuinely innovative and game-changing work on noninvasive glucose monitoring, which just got profiled. It’s really a shame that this wasn’t something that Google also attempted (outside of contact lenses).
On the other side, I’m thinking of how the Apple Watch can detect when you’re washing your hands through the use of motion sensors and the sound of water, as well as soap. It’s honestly a feature that sounds right up Google’s on-device ML alley. Rather, we just have a very manual hand-washing tile on Wear OS.
Another feature that might be in that vein (and the reason I wrote this column, TBH) is water tracking/logging using a wearable. I’ve been trying to use watch apps where you manually enter your liquid intake for some time now, and the habit has just not stuck. I’m imagining a wearable that can register the motion of bringing up a cup/glass to your mouth and maybe even estimate how much you sipped based on the duration of the action. Everything I just described is probably easier said than done, but it hits that sweet spot I’m describing for Pixel-y features.
Puzzle solving: Google teases I/O 2023 with literal input/output puzzle
Finally: Pixel Buds Pro spatial audio with head tracking update rolling out. [Technically, Google only promised to enable static spatial audio with the January security patch on Pixel phones. The Pixel Buds Pro update, at the time, was set for the “coming weeks.”]
Review: Oppo Find N2 Flip beats the Galaxy Z Flip 4 in key areas, but doesn’t take the crown
Tip: Here’s how to get more space for widgets on Android Auto ‘Coolwalk’
FYI: Google Pixel Watch Faces update tweaks Assistant complication
Yeah, you/I didn’t get in: YouTube Music provides update on Listening Room. But in all seriousness, this beta is one of the strongest signs that Google really cares about music ahead of the incoming addition of YouTube Podcasts. The other indicator is the “create a radio” feature.
What (else) is happening:
Magic Eraser rolls out to all Pixel phones, Google One subscribers, & iPhone
The March Pixel update with Android 13 QPR2 and Feature Drop is late
March 2023 Pixel Feature Drop changelog leaks out
From the rest of 9to5:
9to5Mac: New 13- and 15-inch MacBook Air models will both use M3 chips; refreshed MacBook Pro is also in the works
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