Google Pixel Watch patent is giving me scary flashbacks to the Pixel 4

Google Pixel 4
(Image credit: Future)

The Google Pixel 4 from 2019 had a quirky feature in the form of its Soli chip, a radar sensor that could sense motion, and this let you skip songs on Spotify, navigate the menus or enjoy a host of other tricks just by waving your hand in front the screen.

Sounds good on paper, right? Well, in practice we found it far too basic, with not enough functions to keep us using it, and it also likely bumped the price of the Pixel 4 higher than it otherwise would have been.

Well, it sounds like Google has started smoking the same stuff as it was back then.

That's because a patent has surfaced which shows that Google didn't stop experimenting with motion controls after the Pixel 4, even though the Pixel 5 didn't get the feature. This comes from LetsGoDigital, which unearthed patents from 2020 that show motion gestures on the Google Pixel Watch.

Now, the Google Pixel Watch has been leaked and rumored about since before recorded history (or at least it feels like it), and it seems like Google has been toying around with many different forms without committing to anything in particular.

A patent fits with that, as it shows that a company is simply experimenting with an idea - though if Google did decide to commit to what was shown in the 2020 patent, it could arrive in 2022.

Sounds pretty cool, right? The patent shows someone swiping around on the wrist, in the area to the left and right of the watch, and this could be used for swiping between menus, changing volume, or pausing workout controls easily.

However, we're not convinced.

The Pixel 4 curse

If Google's history with motion controls teaches us anything, it's that the brand likes to create cool hardware, but doesn't back it up with useful software to justify the features.

It's all good and well creating accurate motion gesture software, but if there's no reason for someone who owns the tech to actually use this novel gimmick, it becomes redundant. It's the Pixel 4 curse all over again.

That's in addition to the fact that Google will be looking to offset the cost of its R&D and the motion-sensing chip with the device, and so the Pixel Watch could be pricey.

So Google, if you're reading this (and haven't already designed your Pixel Watch), lay off the motion-sensing tech. Instead maybe focus on software, because that's what wearables still struggle with.

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist.