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Google Pixel Watch vs. Apple Watch Series 8: Which should you buy?

Google's long-awaited smartwatch is here, offering Fitbit-powered health tracking in a sleek design. But how does it compare with Apple's newest release, the Apple Watch Series 8?
Written by Christina Darby, Associate Editor on
Google Pixel Watch vs Apple Watch Series 8
Image: Google, Apple

Google today is finally tossing its hat in the smartwatch ring with the Google Pixel Watch. After the launch of Wear OS in 2014, consumers have been waiting for an official smartwatch made by Google -- from the hardware to the software. After much speculation and some short previews, the watch is before us in full glory. 

The Pixel Watch comes at a time when there's stiff competition. Just shy of a month ago, Apple unveiled three new members of its line of smartwatches, the Apple Watch Series SE, Series 8, and Ultra, marking its eighth generation of wearables.

So, if you're eyeing a new smartwatch from one of the big tech giants, which exactly should you trust with your hard-earned money to track your time, health, and even sleep? Here are the key reasons why you should opt for one over the other.

More: Google's Pixel Watch is a big deal. But taking on the Apple Watch is a massive challenge

Specifications



Apple Watch Series 8 

Google Pixel Watch 

Dimensions 

45mm or 41mm 

41mm 

Connectivity

Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, LTE (GPS + cellular model only)

Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, LTE and UMTS2 

Compatibility 

iPhone 8 or newer with iOS 16 

Android 8.0 or newer 

Display 

45mm: 396 x 484 pixel Always-on Retina LTPO OLED

41mm: 352 x 430 pixel Always-on Retina LTPO OLED 

Custom 3D Corning Gorilla Glass 5, 320 ppi  with DC-P3 color, rightness boost up to 1,000 nits, Always-on AMOLED display

Battery 

18-hour lithium-ion battery (36 hours in Low Power mode) 

120 minutes to full charge 

24-hour lithium-ion battery 

80 minutes to full charge 

Sensors

GPS, altimeter, blood oxygen, optical heart sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light sensor, body temperature sensor, high-G accelerometer 

Compass, altimeter, blood oxygen sensor, multipurpose electrical sensor, optical heart rate sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light sensor 

Durability 

IP6X dust-resistant, water-resistant up to 50 meters 

5 atm 

Case colors and materials

Aluminum: Midnight, Starlight, Silver, (PRODUCT) RED

Stainless Steel: Graphite, Silver, Gold 

Stainless Steel: Matte Black, Polished Silver, Champagne Gold 

Price 

Starting at $399 

Starting at $349


You should buy the Google Pixel Watch if...

Google Pixel Watch worn on wrist
Matthew Miller/ZDNET

1. You prefer the Google/Android ecosystem

It should come as no surprise that Google intends to build an ecosystem of products that's just as competitive as Apple's -- with the Pixel Watch serving as another piece of its centralized puzzle. Unsurprisingly, the new watch is only compatible with Android devices and not iPhones. The Pixel Watch features Wear OS, Google's proprietary smartwatch software that allows users to access a bounty of Android apps and functions -- like Google Maps. Wear OS also integrates the familiar "Hey, Google" command to complete hands-free tasks, send text messages, and even control other Google devices in your home. If you have a Nest thermostat, for example, you can monitor and adjust your house's temperature right from the Pixel Watch. 

As an added bonus, Google will bundle three free months of YouTube Music Premium when you purchase a Pixel Watch.

Also: Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro hands-on: The start of Google's walled garden  

2. You want Fitbit's technology for health tracking

This is Year 1 for Google's fitness watch, but the company's Fitbit acquisition means it's bringing a wealth of exercise and health experiences to the new wearable. By implementing Fitbit's health tracking tech, Google's smartwatch can track your heart rate, active calories, steps, and even sleep cycles. Like the Apple Watch Series 8, the Google Pixel Watch gives you a breakdown of your different stages of sleep and the overall effectiveness for further action. Along with the exercise and resting metrics, customers get a free six-month Fitbit membership with access to a plethora of fitness, breathing, and meditation classes. 

Google Pixel Watch four colors

All the primary SKUs of the Google Pixel Watch.

Image: Google

3. You want a more traditional watch design

Perhaps one of the biggest differences between the Pixel Watch and Apple Watch Series 8 lies in the hardware design. The Google Pixel Watch has a more traditional circular watch face, rounding out the edges to create a dome-like shape, and capitalizing on every inch of surface area for the display to shine in. For those who want the benefits of a smartwatch without straying from the timeless design, the Google Pixel Watch is the better of the two, with classic colors like Matte Black, Polished Silver, and Champagne Gold. 

More: The best smartwatches you can buy today

You should buy the Apple Watch Series 8 if...

Apple Watch 8 on a stack of coasterlike objects
June Wan/ZDNET

1. You prefer Apple's ecosystem 

A key reason for Apple's user loyalty and new customer pull is its flourishing ecosystem -- a walled garden of products that is easy to buy into but hard to put aside. The Apple Watch Series 8 is no exception. If you have an iPhone, you'll gain exclusive access to detailed health reports via the Apple Watch, such as sleep habits and cycle tracking. Have an Android phone? You're better off looking elsewhere. If you're used to using Siri and Apple Maps, sticking with the Apple Watch may be a less jarring transition. 

2. You want integrated women's health features

The Apple Watch Series 8 introduced a new suite of health features geared toward women's health. With WatchOS 9, the watch can track menstrual cycle and ovulation patterns for natural family planning purposes and body awareness. If these health features could be of use to you, the tracking is easy to set up and Apple promises your health data is both secure and easy to access for both you and your doctor, provided you choose to share with one. 

More: The Apple Watch Series 8 offers ovulation cycle tracking insights

Apple Watch Ultra on a stand
Jason Hiner/ZDNET

3. You want a bigger smartwatch

Besides the distinctive squircle design, the Apple Watch Series 8 comes in 41mm and 45mm sizes, while the Google Pixel Watch only comes in a 41mm model. If you want a larger display for scanning text and swift interaction, the Apple Watch is the bigger and better option.

4. You want crash detection

Another feature that is exclusive to the Apple Watch Series 8 is its crash detection feature. With built-in accelerometers and G force detection, the Apple Watch Series 8 can detect if you've been in a car crash and will even contact emergency services. While the Google Pixel Watch says a fall detection feature is coming this winter, Apple's crash detection is already up and working for more severe instances. If you want your watch to double as a life-alert tool, the Series 8 is the one to buy. 

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