Google Assembles an Apple Watch Competitor

@jon_prosser x @rendersbyian

Google is taking another swing at smartwatches.

The tech giant is said to be in the final stages of development for its long-rumored Pixel Watch and is anticipating a 2022 product launch.

A renewed effort, Google has surprisingly struggled to launch a smartwatch of its own. After years of false starts, it settled for a $2.1B Fitbit acquisition in January, along with licensing its software to third-party wearables.

But that might be changing. With the rumored smartwatch launch, Google will be making its flagship entry into the fiercely fought wrist wars.

Codename: Rohan

According to sources, initial iterations of the smartwatch (internally referred to as “Rohan”) are being tested by Google employees before a potential spring 2022 release.

Potential features. Heart rate monitoring, step counting, and other health and fitness tracking tools are said to be in the works. Apart from the standard specs, Google’s UX program polled participants on desired Wear OS features in 2020—including sleep apnea detection, recovery time monitoring, stress tracking, and more—but there’s no telling if/when those features will be included.

Software. “Rohan” will likely run on Google’s revamped Wear OS platform and will be distinct from the Fitbit ecosystem and brand.

Aesthetics. Early renderings of the device reveal a round watch face with no physical bezel.

Big Tech, MD

As we detailed in July, the wrist wars are heating up. Smartwatches are Big Tech’s ticket into healthcare… And with nearly 40% of American households reporting wearable ownership, the $92B fitness tracker market is attracting a lot of attention, from health ecosystem plays like Apple and Amazon to healthtech innovation (like pulse oximeters and COVID-19 detection) from WHOOP, Oura, and Withings.

Meanwhile, Google’s health projects have had a rocky year.

  • In June, the company redistributed over 130 Google Health employees across other divisions, narrowing in on clinical/regulatory work instead of consumer health.
  • Then, in August, chief of Google Health David Feinberg left the company for Cerner, a health IT company.
  • At the same time, Google officially dissolved Google Health, redirecting hundreds more employees, including from its Care Studio search tool and its health AI work, to other teams.

Many saw the reorgs as Google’s retreat from healthcare. Yet, Google continues to assert that it’s determined to “weave health into all parts of [its] business.”

Punchline: Reassembling the troops, Google appears to be pivoting its healthcare strategy. With “Rohan,” Google is taking a page out of Apple’s playbook — using consumer’s wrists to get a foot in the doctor’s office.

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