I ran with the Apple Watch 9 and Google Pixel Watch 2 — and the results surprised me

 A photo of the Apple Watch 9 and the Pixel Watch 2.
A photo of the Apple Watch 9 and the Pixel Watch 2.

As a fitness editor, it’s my job to test some of the best fitness trackers and running watches on the market. After unboxing the new Google Pixel Watch 2, a smartwatch with Fitbit built-in, I decided to head out for a 25-minute run with it and the Apple Watch Series 9 to compare the data on the two devices.

Before I get started, it’s worth noting no fitness tracker will ever be 100% accurate. I am 5 foot 2 and have a short stride, so often find watches vary slightly in the distance when tracking my outdoor runs and walks. Before heading out, I plotted my route on Strava’s route builder and found it came to 2.3 miles or 3.7 kilometers.

Both the Apple and Pixel Watch 2 have built-in GPS to accurately track your distance. While Apple uses its Workout platform, the Google Pixel Watch 2 uses Fitbit’s interface to track workouts.

I ran with the Apple Watch 9 and Google Pixel Watch 2 — here’s my results

It’s worth pointing out here that I am currently six months pregnant, so I am following a run/walk method of running for 4 minutes and walking for one minute, to avoid my heart rate getting too high. The first thing I noticed was it was much easier to set up the run on my Apple Watch 9, thanks to the custom workout builder Apple released with WatchOS 9. I was easily able to build my run/walk repeats and see how much longer I had before moving to the next interval.

While I was able to set up Heart Rate Zone alerts on the Pixel Watch 2, that would have buzzed to stop me from pushing myself too hard, I couldn’t find a way to build a custom running workout on the watch, or the corresponding Fitbit app.

But what about the data recorded? Here are the results:

Apple watch 9

  • Total time: 0:25:02

  • Distance: 2.34 miles

  • Average pace: 10:40 min/miles

  • Active calories: 170 cal

Google Pixel Watch 2

  • Total time: 0:25:00

  • Distance: 2.44 miles

  • Average pace: 10:15 min/miles

  • Active calories: 225 cal

As you can see from the data, the distance isn’t all that different — 0.1 miles isn’t an awful lot to worry about. However, the pacing is pretty disparate between the two watches. A 10:40 minute mile is a 32-minute 5K, or a 2 hour 19 minute half marathon pace. A 10:15 minute mile is a 31:54 5K, or a 2 hour 14 minute half marathon pace. To add even more confusion to the mix, when syncing my Apple Watch 9 data to Strava, it estimated my average pace as 10:36 minute miles. As I was run-walking, I’d say the Pixel Watch 2 data is probably a little generous, but I’ll be doing more testing on the accuracy of these two watches in the coming weeks.

If you’re looking to upgrade your smartwatch, both the Apple Watch 9 and Google Pixel Watch 2 made it onto our list of the best smartwatches on the market. The Apple Watch 9 costs $399 (although we’ve seen it for less in these early Black Friday Apple Watch deals) and has Apple’s new S9 Processor, allowing you to use the new double-tap gesture. The Google Pixel Watch 2 costs $349 for the Wi-Fi model and $399 for the LTE model.

When it comes to deciding between the two, the decision could be made easier depending on which phone you use. However, if you’re comparing the two watches from a workout perspective, there’s one big difference — like most of the best Fitbits, to get full access to all of the data the Google Pixel Watch 2 records, you’ll need to pay for a Fitbit Premium membership. You get 6 months free when you register your new device, but after that, you’ll have to pay $9.99 per month, or $80 a year.

I’ll continue to do more testing to compare the two watches — next up, I’ll be digging my trusty step counter out and comparing the pedometer on both watches. Watch this space.

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