The Pixel Watch 2 was officially announced (partially, at least) by Google today, roughly a month ahead of the launch event where we’ll see the smartwatch sequel fully announced. One early detail about Pixel Watch 2 that’s already come out, though, is that the watch may have higher requirements for its connected Android phone.
On the lengthy teaser page where Google is showing off the Pixel 8 series, the company also briefly talks about the updated Pixel Watch 2 which looks practically identical to the original version. It has the same buttons, band connector, and all of that. Really, it’s as we expected. The same hardware, just with different internals.
As we’ve previously reported on numerous occasions, that new underlying hardware includes a switch from an outdated Exynos chip to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon W5, a change that should result in drastically better performance and battery life. The watch is also expected to launch with updated software, and it seems that could include a higher requirement for paired smartphones.
The original Pixel Watch launched based on Wear OS 3 and its companion app required that smartphones installing it had at least Android 8.0 installed. As of June 2023, 92% of devices met that criteria.
But, with Pixel Watch 2, Google suggests that Android 9.0 or higher may be required, which would cut off a little over 8% (again, as of June) of Android phones.
The change is hinted at in a footnote on the page:
Works with most phones running Android 9.0 or newer and requires a Google Account, Google Pixel Watch app and internet access.
The Pixel Watch app in the Play Store, notably, still only requires Android 8 or higher despite a recent app update. Google’s new footnote isn’t very definite about whether or not this will be a strict requirement, but it would be odd to specify otherwise.
Presumably, this change could boil down to the Pixel Watch 2 launching with Wear OS 4, which is expected. In that case, the original Pixel Watch may also have the same requirement whenever it also gets that upgrade. Google has previously hinted at a beta release of Wear OS 4 for the existing Pixel Watch.
The Pixel Watch 2, meanwhile, is all but confirmed to launch with the new version.
All of that said, cutting off support for Android 8 likely won’t have a major impact, as it seems safe to assume that most folks buying a $350 smartwatch aren’t still using a device old enough to be stuck on Android 8.
Pixel Watch 2 is set to launch on October 4, with Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro right alongside it to complete Google’s next hardware generation. Stay tuned, of course, for our full coverage.