Google Pixel Watch leak shows round all-glass design

Enlarge / The official rendering of Evan Blass.

Google has been making a smartwatch platform for eight years now, and it has never seen fit to support this software platform with Google-branded hardware. One day, eventually, that might change, and this year the rumors are getting hotter than ever. The Pixel Watch could finally arrive.

Last I heard, venerable leaker Evan Blass has done an official render of the watch body. Blass’ leak matches previous images from Front Page Tech. An Insider report from late last year also said the Pixel Watch could launch as soon as spring, and 9to5Google recently spotted that Google had added a “Watches” section to the Google Store. It looks like we might hear about this watch at Google I/O 2022.

One of the Front Page Tech leaks.  This is an image created by Google, not a recreated render.
Enlarge / One of the Front Page Tech leaks. This is an image created by Google, not a recreated render.

Aside from the fact that it’s codenamed “Rohan” and will ship with Google’s new version of Wear OS, we know next to nothing about the watch. A crippling issue for Wear OS over the years has been the lack of a capable smartwatch SoC, so whatever chip ends up landing in the Pixel Watch will be major news. Apple has an in-house chip design company that can reliably deliver year-round battery life and processing power improvements for the Apple Watch. A big part of the reason Wear OS can’t compete is because Qualcomm failed to assess the smartwatch market and spent years selling the same basic chip to manufacturers without performance improvements.

Google and Samsung are teaming up to try and resurrect Wear OS, and while Google is pushing out a new OS overhaul, Samsung’s big contribution was a modern and capable 5nm smartwatch SoC in the Galaxy Watch 4. Google and Samsung have also teamed up to create the Google Tensor SoC in the Pixel 6. With the two companies working so closely together lately, will the Pixel Watch get a Samsung chip? It would be a huge win for the platform.

The other option would be Qualcomm. Qualcomm’s current smartwatch chip is the 2020 Snapdragon Wear 4100, a 12nm chip. from 5nm to 4nm, it looks like it will be several months before this chip is ready for commercialization. Google is no stranger to announcing I/O products that will launch months later, so it might handle that by saying the Watch will be released “later this year” with no specific date.

Another watch leak made by Google.
Enlarge / Another watch leak made by Google.

Rumors of the Pixel smartwatch date back to the launch of the Pixel brand in 2016. Part of the reason a Google Watch has taken so long is that Google has reportedly tried and failed at this idea before. A 2019 Insider report claims that Google was working on a Pixel Watch to accompany the first phone, but the product was shot down by Rick Osterloh, SVP of Google Hardware. Anyone can guess what these watches were: the LG Watch Style and the LG Watch Sport. Both shipped in 2017 with a suspicious slogan affixed to the box – “Designed with our friends at Google” – that might as well have announced to the world: “This is a canceled Pixel Watch”.

The Insider report quotes an anonymous employee explaining why these watches were not considered:

When evaluating whether or not to launch the pair of LG-made smartwatches, the aesthetics of the devices were a major concern for Osterloh.

“It didn’t look like it belonged to the Pixel family,” said the former employee who worked on the project. “We didn’t want a peripheral product to knock off the Google hardware brand name.”

This paragraph basically says that the LG Watch Style and LG Watch Sport were too ugly to be Pixel devices, so it’s interesting to see the current leaks look like a more modern take on the LG Watch Style design.

As usual, Google I/O is shaping up to be an interesting sight. The virtual event takes place on May 11, where we could find out more about this watch.