Google’s Fitbit integration needs to be better on the Pixel Watch

Google’s Fitbit integration needs to be better on the Pixel Watch

Google has been talking about its vision of the smartwatch and how a mini wrist computer will enrich our lives since 2014, when the search giant launched Android Wear (now known as Wear OS) at Google I/O that year. Google had the right idea: Smartwatches are considered indispensable everyday tools for many of us today, but it was other companies, particularly rival Apple, that turned the idea into reality. Even the next two brands that contributed to the rise of the wearable industry (Samsung and Fitbit) did so largely without using Google’s wearable software.

Google knew it had to correct course and did so by partnering with Samsung for the launch of the Galaxy Watch 4 series last year. That Google essentially gave the South Korean tech giant the first exclusive access to the new Wear OS software and allowed Bixby to remain the default voice assistant on those watches showed which company had the negotiating advantage during negotiations. But while this partnership between Google and Samsung to rejuvenate Wear OS was taking place, Google had another plan in the works: buying Fitbit outright, a process that took two years.

A screenshot of a Google employee announcing the partnership between Google and Samsung during IO 2021
Google and Samsung partnership to be announced at Google I/O 2021

In an interview with the edgeGoogle’s senior vice president of hardware Rick Osterloh confirmed that it bought Fitbit primarily for its health and fitness platform. software from scratch, so he waited until a good one was available for purchase.

This shortcut Google took (we’ll just buy the competition and have them build the thing for us) doesn’t seem like the best approach to take for Apple, whose products are refined and polished primarily because they run a tight ship in Cupertino, controlling every aspect of the cycle. product development. And this really shows in Google’s first self-made smartwatch, called the Pixel Watch.

The Google Pixel Watch in various colors

Released last month along with the excellent pixel series 7Pixel Watch is supposed to be Google’s answer to the Apple Watch, a wearable that works seamlessly with Android devices (or even just Pixel devices) and delivers an immersive Android experience the way Google envisions it. Whether it’s the price, the way it’s marketed, and even the design of the hardware, the Pixel Watch is destined to take on the Apple Watch.

But after using the Google Pixel Watch daily for three weeks, I think the Pixel Watch misses more than it hits, and Google needs to find a better way to integrate Fitbit, not only as part of the Pixel Watch platform in the future, but also As for the brand under its corporate umbrella Alphabet, because as it stands now, the Fitbit integration is hurting both the Pixel Watch and recent Fitbit products.

The Pixel Watch experience doesn’t feel smooth, in part because Fitbit is in the way

One of the reasons I love the Apple Watch (and actively miss it when I’m on an Android device) is its perfect synergy with the iPhone and the greater Apple ecosystem as a whole. When I wear an Apple Watch, it feels like an extension of the iPhone. I can leave a voice memo on my handheld device, and in a second, that same memo is synced and it’s on my iPhone. Setting up a new Apple Watch, or pairing an existing Apple Watch with a new iPhone, is always a snap: just scan the cloud-like code, tap a few prompts, allow a couple of permissions, and the watch is ready to go.

The Google Pixel Watch thinks it's not paired with a Pixel 7 Pro when in fact it is.
The Google Pixel Watch thinks it’s not paired with a Pixel 7 Pro when in fact it is.

Pixel Watch does not offer this experience. Right off the bat, the setup experience feels disjointed. When I first powered on the Pixel Watch with a newly set up Pixel 7 Pro, I was prompted to download the Pixel Watch app to begin pairing. Considering that Google launched these products in the same eventand packed the products together in one box for video reviewers, It seems like an oversight that the Pixel Watch app doesn’t come pre-installed on the Pixel 7 Pro. With an Apple Watch, there’s no app to download—everything you need to connect is already on the iPhone.

But that is not all. Installing the Pixel Watch app only allows you to pair the watch and start some basic settings. Halfway through the setup process, I’m told to install the Fitbit app to set up health and fitness tracking. I have to download two apps before you could start using the Pixel Watch?

Since I have used Fitbit devices in the past, I was able to log in to my Fitbit account right after installing the app and proceed with the pairing process. If you’ve never used a Fitbit device, be prepared to spend another three minutes signing up for a Fitbit account.

Fitbit provides excellent health and fitness tracking, but has the worst sync system of any wearable I’ve tested

I mentioned in the last paragraph that I was a Fitbit user in the past, because I think it made solid hardware with the most accurate sleep tracking algorithm I’ve ever tested. So why did I stop using Fitbit? Because it has the most frustratingly slow and unreliable sync process of any handheld device I’ve tested. Not only is it slow (even a simple task like changing the strap or watch face can result in a two-minute sync, and the firmware update typically takes 30-40 minutes, during which the Fitbit app prompts you to don’t close the app), but it’s often unreliable and broken. In fact, I’ve tweeted about my frustrations with Fitbit’s software for years.

I really like Fitbit products, but it always takes like 14 “sync” taps and at least three or four minutes just to sync with the app.

And update the firmware? My Fitbit Versa 2 was trying for 40 minutes lol. Apparently I can’t even turn off the phone screen while it’s updating

– ben (@bencsin) March 21, 2020

Waiting 30-40 minutes for the firmware update is not uncommon with Fitbit devices.

This reminds me why I would eventually stop wearing a Fitbit every time.

—Richard Lai (@richardlai) June 15, 2020

And since the Pixel Watch basically relies on Fitbit’s software to do most of the health and fitness tracking, I can confirm that Fitbit’s trade-offs are present in the Pixel Watch experience. Sleep tracking is accurate, fitness tracking is on point. But all of Fitbit’s annoying sync quirks are here. Although my Pixel Watch stays next to the Pixel 7 Pro most of the time, every time I go into the Fitbit app, it needs to sync for a minute before the day’s fitness data appears in the app. I also have to go to the Fitbit app, because if I try to check anything beyond the most basic data (like if I want to check yesterday’s step count), the watch prompts me to go to the Fitbit app on the phone.

Pixel Watch asks me to check Fitbit
The Pixel Watch wants you to check the Fitbit app.

Worst of all, for some reason my Pixel Watch thinks it’s not connected to my Pixel 7 Pro, even though it clearly is. I got a persistent and unmovable notification on my watch asking me to re-synchronize my watch for a week. To pair again, I’d have to factory reset the watch (I’ve already done that twice), so I’m not going to bother. I’ll only be looking at the notification that says you’re offline (when you’re not) for the foreseeable future.

A perfect portable experience, this is not.

The Pixel Watch thinks it's not paired.

Fitbit now feels like a lame duck brand, with its products suddenly relegated to sub-brand status

Did you know that Fitbit released a couple of new smartwatches recently? Nope? I don’t blame you Fitbit announced the products via a press release on August 24, and the announcement itself was teased just a day earlier via a tweet. These were not cheap products that were advertised. No, they were the Fitbit Versa 4 and Sense 2, successors to product lines that are (or were) considered to be Fitbit’s premium flagship offerings. The original Fitbit Sense, in particular, was an ambitious smartwatch with the industry’s first electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor for stress tracking, and it launched on a polished virtual keynote that looked like something created by Apple or Google.

Fitbit Sense 2, Inspire 3 and Versa 4
New Fitbit products, launched through a press release.

The unceremonious launch isn’t undeserved, because both the Sense 2 and Versa 4 are literal downgraded versions of previous devices in the line, with key features like Wi-Fi, Google Assistant, and third-party app support. Why would any company do this? Because Fitbit is now a sub-brand of Google, and the sub-brand is never given top priority over the main brand. Fitbit watches were pretty much nerfed, so that wouldn’t take the spotlight off the Pixel Watch.

There’s no getting around this – the Pixel Watch is clearly where Google will be investing its wearable resources for the foreseeable future. The best Fitbit products that can be right now are niche products that try to cater to a more budget-conscious segment.

The good news? Pixel figured it out, so the Pixel Watch should too, years later

Right now, the Pixel Watch can still be considered one of the best Android wearables, because the standards aren’t very high. The Pixel Watch still offers a premium design, the ability to summon Google Assistant and answer text messages (this sounds like such a basic question, but many Android wearable offerings can’t do this), and it’s great for tracking exercises. , as long as you deal with Fitbit sync issues. But it’s clearly a long way from where Google wants it to be: Android’s Apple Watch, something that just works and feels like an integral part of the Pixel experience.


The good news is that Google should be able to get there, like it did with the Pixel series, after seven generations. Both my colleague Adam Conway and I gave the Pixel 7 series high marks recently (he reviewed the professional model, I tried the Pixel 7 standard), and each of us separately concluded that these are Google’s most polished and premium devices that are finally worthy of living up to that “Android world’s iPhone” moniker that Pixels have been bestowed since the beginning. first day.

Hopefully, the Pixel Watch won’t take seven years to get to the same place.

google pixel clock
Google Pixel Watch is Google's first smartwatch under the Google Pixel brand.  It's dated in some ways, but it has a lot of charm for what it is.
google pixel clock

The Google Pixel Watch is Google’s first smartwatch and it comes with a lot of pros and cons.

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