Here’s what each sensor on the Pixel Watch actually does

Google’s Pixel Watch is a smartwatch with a slew of health features that Fitbit supports. That said, the Pixel Watch has a lot of sensors packed into the 41mm frame, like heart rate, ECG, and even a blood oxygen sensor — although the latter isn’t enabled. Here is a list of each of them and what they do for you.

The Pixel Watch is an interesting product because it is a device that runs on the Wear OS but originally integrates Fitbit health tracking. Fitbit is a separate company — owned by Google — that has a wide range of health trackers and wearable fitness devices. These wearables are great products that track vital stats and well-being very well.

While the font is nice, none of the Fitbit devices run Wear OS, which leaves a major part of the Android integration you see with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 or something similar. However, the Pixel Watch fully integrates with the Pixel series of phones as well as other Android devices, while also having a suite of health tracking features built and tuned by Fitbit.

With that said, the Pixel Watch packs a total of eight different sensors, with just four to keep track of your vitals. The rest is for general watch use, although they do pull their weight.

Health sensors on Pixel Watch

There are four main health sensors on the Pixel Watch. Three help collect data on your heart rate, sleep quality, time and number of steps. On top of that, the Fitbit app calculates numbers to determine in-depth information such as your stress levels and the number of calories you burned throughout the day.

Optical heart rate sensor

The optical heart rate sensor is perhaps the most frequently explained sensor on the Pixel Watch. Using powerful sensors, the optical lens picks up tiny movements in your skin to determine when your heart is pushing blood through your veins.

That little green light that lights up on the Pixel Watch is the heart rate sensor doing its job. As blood absorbs green, a pulsing green light helps the sensor determine blood flow.

This data is collected once every second by the Pixel Watch, and there is no way to turn it off. When you wear the watch, you get accurate readings of your heartbeat throughout the day. The collected data is then aggregated for you to view your patterns and extreme heart rate.

Multi-purpose electrical sensor

Pixel Watch has the ability to collect EKG readings – EKG. These readings determine whether or not you have atrial fibrillation – atrial fibrillation – a heartbeat. Basically, this means that your heart rate is irregular and can indicate signs of other health problems.

To collect ECG data, the Pixel Watch uses an electrical sensor that senses signals passing through the watch. This is why you need to touch the crown with your finger while reading the ECG. Electricity passes from your finger to your wrist through the Pixel Watch, giving the sensor a clear readout of what’s going on.

Pixel watch ECG heart rate sensor

NB: The Pixel Watch’s ECG feature is only available in certain regions. Learn more from Fitbit.


The accelerometer is just a fancy pedometer in that it counts the number of steps you take and checks it with your acceleration. With these estimates, the accelerometer can determine how many steps you’ve actually taken given the speed at which you’re moving.

Although the Pixel Watch is still not 100% accurate, it does a good job of estimating your steps to give you a very accurate reading of your activity.

blood oxygen sensor

Pixel Watch is also equipped with a blood oxygen sensor, which calculates the oxygen saturation in the blood. This sensor also uses lights to determine how much blood is saturated and unsaturated in the veins and arteries. Whatever photodiodes are in the Pixel Watch reading will give you a better idea of ​​the amount of oxygen in your blood.

Unfortunately, the Pixel Watch’s blood oxygen sensor is not active at this time. Although the sensor has a place on the watch, Google has not made any statements regarding when and where this feature will be unlocked for use. While it would be incredibly useful, it remains inactive on the Pixel Watch for now.

Function based sensors

The Pixel Watch has four other sensors besides the one already mentioned. These four sensors assist with the function of the watch as well as providing you with additional environmental data.


The compass may be the most obvious sensor, detecting whether you are on the right track or not heading in the right direction. Unfortunately, the Pixel Watch does not have a stock compass app, like the Apple Watch app. Instead, the Pixel Watch uses the compass in Google Maps.

Google Maps on the Pixel Watch gives you a nice written view, as well as a live top-down view of your location on the map. Pointing the top of your watch in any direction will reflect on the map, showing you the correct direction.


Like a compass, an altimeter measures a factor in your environment. Obviously it measures how high you are in relation to sea level. To determine this, the altimeter reads the barometric pressure to determine how high you are.

Although there is no app that will show you an explicit reading of your altitude, the altimeter is used to determine the number of flights of stairs you climbed that day.


Just like on a phone, the Pixel Watch’s gyroscope determines the physical orientation of the device. One of the main areas where it is used is tilting to wake up your device. If the feature is enabled, raising the watch toward your face will usually wake the device. This gyroscope senses movement and direction and increases screen brightness so you can read notifications and the watch face.

Pixel watch heart rate sensor blood oxygen

Ambient light sensor

Finally, the ambient light sensor does exactly what it sounds like – it senses light. This is generally used when the Pixel Watch’s auto-brightness feature is enabled, allowing the watch to select how many lumens of brightness out of the 1,000 it should use.

In very bright situations, there is an additional setting that peaks brightness so you can see it in the brightest conditions.

Overall, the Pixel Watch has an abundance of sensors that not only help it track general environmental data but give you a clear understanding of your health with the help of the Fitbit app. Of course, we hope that Google will enable the blood oxygen sensor soon so that the Pixel Watch can reach even more possibilities. However, the array of sensors on the wearable is a good start.

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