Wearable technology was a major focus of Google 1/O 2021, and this year’s conference is expected to follow in its footsteps. Google I/O 2022 is scheduled for tomorrow, May 11, and several rumours, reports and leaks indicate the search giant’s first smartwatch — likely to be called the Pixel Watch — might finally make its debut. The company is also expected to share updates about its Wear OS smartwatch software, which it overhauled last year in collaboration with Samsung.
Only Google knows what’s in store for its annual conference. But the company typically uses its opening keynote as an opportunity to preview developments across its major products. That usually includes platforms like Android and Wear OS, and apps such as google photosMaps and Search.
Aside from announcing updates, Google’s keynote usually says a lot about its overall approach and vision. We’ll likely get a glimpse of how Google plans to make its devices and services stand out from competitors, like Apple, Samsung and Amazon. If the rumors turn out to be true, the company’s stance on smartwatches could be a big part of this year’s event. A Pixel Watch announcement would be more than a new product; it would tell us about what Google sees as being the ideal Android smartwatch experience.
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Here’s what we’re expecting to see from Google as it relates to smartwatches and wearable technology at I/O 2022.
The Pixel Watch might arrive
There’s a chance Google could finally introduce its first consumer smartwatch. Google hasn’t said a word about plans to release a watch of its own, but it might be the company’s worst-kept secret. Reports from Insider and tech YouTube personality Jon Prosser and recent leaks claiming to show photos of the watch suggest a Pixel Watch is indeed coming.
Google I/O seems like an ideal time to make such an announcement. However, it’s possible we might not get the full story at I/O. Prosser suggest Google will tease the watch at its conference rather than reveal all the details. Instead, the company might launch the Pixel Watch in the fall alongside the Pixel 7, Prosser says.
Google made a similar move with the Pixel 6 last year. It announced certain tidbits about the phone in August but saved the full reveal for its October release.
So what do we know about the Pixel Watch so far? Everything but also nothing, it seems. Reddit user “tagtech414” leaked photos to Android Central and on Reddit that claim to show the watch itself. Both sets of images are consistent with previous rumors and renderings indicating it will have a round design.
We also expect Fitbit to be incorporated into the Pixel Watch in some way, although we won’t know for sure until the watch becomes official. Fitbit also previously said it’s working on a high-end Wear OS watch of its own, but it’s unclear whether this Fitbit watch and the Pixel Watch would be the same device. Pricing is another mystery.
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Wear OS updates
Google will also likely have general updates to share on Wear OS, the software it provides for smartwatches made by Fossil, Samsung and other companies. Google announced a new version of Wear OS during last year’s I/O that brings better integration with the company’s apps and smoother performance among other improvements. It developed the software in collaboration with Samsung, the world’s second-largest smartwatch maker in terms of market share, according to Counterpoint Research.
But so far, we’ve only seen the software on Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4, which still relies heavily on Samsung’s own apps and services. It doesn’t feel very Google-like, so it’s hard to tell how much of a difference the refreshed software makes. Google Assistant is coming to the Watch 4 in a future updatealthough a firm date hasn’t been announced.
Wear OS is also expected to come to Fossil wearables and Mobvoi’s TicWatch devices in mid-2022. fossil tweeted in March that the update would arrive to eligible watches in the mid to second half of the year, but we have yet to hear more specifics. A Google spokesperson said the company is working to bring Wear OS 3 to more devices this year, but has nothing to share about its partner roadmap at this time. Now that we’re approaching the middle of the year, hopefully we’ll learn more about timing and availability at I/O.
It’s possible that Google could announce the Wear OS Fitbit watch we’ve been hearing about, but Fitbit product announcements usually happen closer to the fall. Google could also unveil new features and other refinements to Wear OS now that it’s been almost a full year since the software’s reveal.
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Google’s plans for Fitbit
Perhaps the biggest question is whether we’ll learn more about how Google intends to fold Fitbit into its Wear OS platform. Fitbit plans to release a version of its app for Wear OS, as my colleague Scott Stein reported last year, although the timing is unclear. A Google spokesperson said it’s working to bring the Fitbit experience to Wear OS this year and will share more details closer to the launch.
It’s been more than a year since Google’s acquisition of Fitbit closed; it’s possible we could hear more about how the two brands plan to work together. There’s already some evidence of this in certain Google products. For example, the second-generation Nest Hub’s sleep tracking features will require a Fitbit Premium subscription in 2023. But Google and Fitbit still offer two distinctly different experiences, so it’ll be interesting to see how they eventually unite.
Google has made a name for itself in smartphones and laptops thanks to its Pixel brand, but it has yet to branch out into smartwatches. While advertising remains the biggest part of Google’s business, the company has made a push to compete with Apple and Samsung as a leading maker of consumer tech gadgets in recent years. It even opened its first brick-and-mortar retail store last year.
Acquiring Fitbit was a big step in expanding Google’s footprint in the wearables market, but Apple and Samsung still lead the industry. Apple accounted for 30.1% of the global smartwatch market in 2021, according to Counterpoint Research, while Samsung came in second with 10.2%. Depending on what Google announces at I/O, we could learn more about how the company hopes to change that.
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