Google’s Wear OS has come of age in many ways, and with the introduction of the Pixel Watch, the smartwatch battlefield is set to get more interesting. With its innovative software features and deep integration with core Fitbit health features, Google’s first smartwatch is uniquely positioned to take this market segment by storm.
There’s another reason power users and developers have turned to Google devices: the ability to unlock the bootloader and run third-party software, thanks to the company’s easy-to-use aftermarket development. Mountain View. This policy has prompted many users to participate in modifying or replacing the software preloaded on Nexus and Pixel smartphones. However, the situation is a bit different on the Pixel Watch, as the DIY possibilities are quite limited for this device.
Well, it’s all about perspective. When shopping for a watch priced around $350, you often think about specs and features more than anything else. You never have in mind how friendly your new laptop is to the modding scene. Or, if it uses recycled materials and recycled content. You just want one of the best smartwatches that feels premium and will last.
But it’s XDA, which means people here like to take full control of the hardware they own, especially if there’s a “Pixel” mark on it. If you’re considering buying the Pixel Watch, it might be a good idea to take a detailed look at its modding friendliness.
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The Pixel Watch is Google’s first Wear OS smartwatch with a unique design and support for a host of fitness tracking features.
Does the Google Pixel Watch come with an unlockable bootloader?
Unfortunately, The answer is no.
Unlike Google’s Pixel phones, the Pixel Watch doesn’t have an unlockable bootloader. While you can enable developer options, Google doesn’t even offer a typical “OEM unlock” toggle on the device.
According @MaxWinebach and a user on Telegram (snarkyalyx), there is no bootloader unlock option on the Pixel Watch.
Wear OS watch shutdown trend continues😥 pic.twitter.com/ciu2cc6Je3
— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) October 12, 2022
Without unlocking the bootloader, there’s no way to run third-party binaries on the first-gen Pixel Watch. If you are looking for root access, you have to rely on potential security vulnerabilities in the operating system or hardware platform to create an unofficial bootloader unlock method. Also, a locked bootloader means absolutely no aftermarket software updates, so no unofficial extensions after official support ends.
When we contacted Google about unlocking the bootloader, we received the following response:
Although the bootloader itself is no more restrictive than on Pixel phones, Fitbit does not currently provide the debug adapter needed to unlock the bootloader.
We know there are pogo pins inside the watch strap connector. If debugging through these pogo pins is possible, Google may enable the OEM unlock toggle with a future software update and allow us to unlock the Pixel Watch bootloader. But for now, the device can only run official Google software.
Is there a user-flashable factory image for the Pixel Watch?
Google maintains a dedicated download portal for factory images and full OTA packages for its Pixel smartphones. The company also offers a handy web-based flash tool for easy flashing.
However, the Pixel Watch has no such option available, at least right now. In fact, the lack of an unlockable bootloader means regular users can’t flash an official factory image even though Google provides them.
What about kernel source code?
The GNU General Public License version 2 (GPLv2) obliges each manufacturer of Android devices to publicly release the part of the Linux kernel code that they have shipped on their devices. An ideal release of kernel sources should come with a proper commit history, and all dependencies should be properly documented.
Since Wear OS (which is nothing but Android designed for smartwatches and other wearable devices) is built on the Linux kernel, Google must provide kernel source code for the Pixel Watch. The company has a great track record of releasing such sources, and the Pixel Watch is thankfully no exception.
If you are a developer and want to study things related to the Exynos 9110 SoC as well as other Watch hardware components, check out the kernel sources from the links below:
Google Pixel Watch kernel sources (code name: “rohan”): platform ||| Modules (Configuration || Device Tree || Drivers)
Keep in mind that you need to follow tags that start with “android-wear-11.0.0”. However, no device tree source is available.
Although the availability of kernel source code can be useful for creating a custom recovery or AOSP based ROM for Pixel Watch, you cannot install any of them without an unlocked bootloader.
Will Google provide a beta program for the Pixel Watch similar to Pixel phones?
The Pixel Watch is guaranteed to receive software updates from Google until October 2025. That’s three years of software updates for the Watch, while the company has confirmed it will offer at least five years of updates. software updates for its flagship Pixel 7 series.
Apart from the aforementioned discrepancy, there is no beta program planned for the Pixel Watch community. It seems logical, however, because offering beta-quality software to a device without publicly downloadable factory images is really not a good idea.
If you’re looking for a minimalist Wear OS smartwatch, go with Google’s offering. It also gives you access to a host of features you’ll find on Fitbit smartwatches, which is a big plus. That said, the Pixel Watch is far from the ideal reference device for tinkering with Wear OS that many would have thought.
Google Pixel Watch XDA Forums
Do you think the Pixel Watch is worth buying? We would love to hear your opinions! Share your opinion in the comments.