Pebble Time vs. Apple Watch – The Smartwatch Showdown
One is a crowdfunding success story that pulled in over $20 million USD in 2015. The other is the latest innovation from the most valuable tech company in the world. They’re both poised to revolutionise the way we use and think about wristwatches, and they’re both on sale now.
Which one should you buy? Well, that’s the question on every tech head’s mind.
Apple Watch price when reviewed: $399
Pebble Time vs. Apple Watch – Big Names, Big Battle
We’re talking, of course, about Pebble Time and the Apple Watch. There’s a lot to like about both of these products, and you’ll have to spend a fair amount of cash to get your hands on either one. The Pebble Time will run you £179 for the basic model, which isn’t chump change, but it’s considerably less than the Apple Watch’s starting price of £299.
How do these two competitors stack up against each other? Let’s have a look.
Pebble Time price when reviewed: $69.50
1. Versions and Choices
When comparing the Pebble Time and Apple Watch, it’s not as simple as comparing one product with another. Instead, there are multiple versions of each.
For example, there’s the Pebble Time, which comes in red, white, and black, but then there’s the Pebble Time Steel, which looks a bit sleeker, comes in stainless steel, black, and gold, and will set you back an additional £20.
As for the Apple Watch, the number of options is dizzying. For a company that tends to offer just a few configurations of its main products, the different available versions of the Apple Watch is, frankly, overwhelming. There are 20 models of the Watch, ten models of the Watch Sport, and, for the tech lover who has in excess of £8,000 to spend on a timepiece, eight models of the Watch Edition. It’s not comparing apples and oranges — it’s comparing orchards and groves.
Pebble Time price when reviewed: $69
2. Smartwatch Design and Aesthetics
It’s tough to compete with Jony Ive and Apple’s immensely respected design team. Good design is what Apple does best. (Sometimes it’s at the expense of good engineering, some would argue, but that’s another discussion for another time.)
The Apple Watch, no matter which model you’re looking at, is no exception to the company’s longstanding reputation for outstanding industrial design. It’s sleek and shiny, with no rough edges and a Dieter Rams-esque minimalist look that gets out of your way and lets you use the device. Whether you go for the 38mm or the 42mm version, you’ll have only one button (referred to as the crown) to deal with.
Pebble Time and Pebble Steel
This isn’t to say that the appearance of the Pebble Time is lacklustre. On the contrary, this is also a beautifully designed watch with a strong nod to minimalism and a high level of functionality; the Pebble Steel edition is a touch more low profile and glossy looking than the Time.
The severe bezel on the Pebble’s face, though, gives it less of a freshly poured look than the Apple Watch. Plus, it takes some space away from the usable screen size as well; that space may be just a few millimetres, but when we’re talking about a watch face, every last millimetre counts. The Pebble Time definitely looks good, but just not as good as what Apple’s offering — which is to be expected.
Still, it’s worth mentioning again that the design of the Pebble Time is still pretty nice.
3. Screen Details
There are big differences between the Apple Watch screen and the Pebble Time screen: they look different, they feel different, and you can directly interact with just one of them. Let’s start with Pebble’s e-paper display. It’s colour, but only 64 colours, which seems sort of lacklustre, especially when compared to the full colour brilliance of the Apple Watch’s 290 ppi AMOLED display. E-Paper looks better in bright sunlight than AMOLED, but overall, Pebble’s screen definitely has an outdated, one might even say a retro appearance.
As for screen covering, Pebble uses the industry favourite (and fun to say) Gorilla Glass, while the Apple Watch screen is either Ion-X glass on the Watch and Sport models or the truly stunning sapphire glass on the Edition iterations. The Gorilla Glass is nice, though the Ion-X feels a bit better, and the sapphire is just beautiful.
4. User Experience
One big advantage of the Apple Watch is that it has a touchscreen display, whereas Pebble Time does not. So, to interact with Pebble, you’ll need to use the four buttons on the side of the face. That may have been OK ten years ago, but in 2015, the lack of a touchscreen seems awfully antiquated. Plus, the buttons are not as responsive as they probably should be, though they get the job done well enough.
The touchscreen on the Apple Watch does take some getting used to, especially if you have large or clumsy fingers, though it is consistent with the feel of the iPhone. The swipe and tap interactivity is familiar, and there’s a digital crown that can take you back to your home screen and also zoom in and out. The user experience on the Apple Watch is simply more fluid than Pebble’s button-driven navigation, though Pebble has done a good job of making the most of those four buttons.
5. Wearing Experience
These two smartwatches feel quite different when strapped on. Pebble Time actually feels like a regular watch. It’s lightweight, coming in at 42.5g, and as with other watches, you eventually forget that you have it on.
The Apple Watch, however, feels less like a watch and more like a piece of equipment. The exact weight depends on the specific model you go for, but the watch plus the band weighs either a little more or a lot more than the Pebble. It’s also physically larger.
I’m not sure why the Apple Watch feels so different than the Pebble, though I suspect it’s a psychological thing: you know that you’re basically wearing a really expensive iPhone on your wrist. This may be a big turn off for some users.
Pebble Time actually feels like a regular watch
6. As a Fitness Tracker
Whether you go with the Pebble Time or the Apple Watch, you can probably ditch your fitness tracker. While neither one is a super high end sports watch, they both offer basic tracking capabilities. Pebble works with popular fitness apps like Jawbone, Misfit, RunKeeper, and a few others to track both your physical activity and your sleep. It’s also water resistant to 30m, which means you can wear it in the shower and even while you’re swimming.
Update Dec 2015: The Pebble Time Round got a new software update which features a free health-tracking app called Pebble Health, which adds even more fitness tracking capabilities to the already “well-rounded” (pun intended) device. Before the Pebble Health, Time Round users could utilise third party apps like Jawbone Up and MisFit to track daytime activities and even sleep but alleged compatibility issues marred the effective use of this gizmo as a tracker. The new App has been designed exclusively for the Pebble Time Round, and one can use it to share data to Google Fit and Apple’s Health App for a better breakdown and view of the device’s readings.
It seems like Apple, however, has really tried to position its watch as a direct competitor to not only smartwatches, but to higher end fitness trackers. It can track quite a lot with its built in Workout app: steps, elevation, calories burned, and just about everything else you want to keep tabs on. It has an onboard heart rate sensor, and it also syncs with Apple.
There’s NO GPS sensor on the Apple Watch, but it can sync with your iPhone to keep track of location and distance data. Unfortunately, it’s water resistant only to about a metre, so you definitely should not swim with it on your wrist.
7. Cool Apps and Compatibility
Apple made apps cool, so you might expect that the Apple Watch will easily win the apps battle here. It’s true that there are well over 3500 apps for it already. However, Pebble claims to have over 8000 apps for its watch, so if this is a numbers game, Pebble wins easily.
Both watches can do things like keep your calendar, reply to messages, control your music, and so much more. But one awesome app-like feature on Pebble (and not on the Apple Watch) is the timeline feature; it shows you the past, present, and future on a customisable scroll. You can see messages, appointments, and even the score of last night’s game. It’s a feature that we’ll probably see, in a similar form, in a future version of Apple’s WatchOS, though it’s definitely not there now.
We need to mention compatibility issues, though. As an Apple Product, the Apple Watch works only with iOS devices. Pebble, on the other hand is fully compatible with both iOS and Android. If you’re an Android phone user, this is a big deciding factor.
8. Battery Life and Charging
Pebble’s e-paper display may not look super impressive, but on the plus side, it doesn’t use up a lot of power. This means that the Pebble should run for at least a week (and up to ten days) on a single charge. It goes from 0% to 100% in about two hours.
On the other hand, Apple’s AMOLED display is a real power hog, so expect a day and a half tops on a single charge. Getting the battery to 100% takes a little longer than on the Pebble, though if you get in the habit of charging your Apple Watch every night, you should always wake up to at least a day’s worth of juice.
Both watches have magnetic chargers that glom onto their respective devices, which is so much handier than trying to connect the cable to a tiny jack.
9. Smartwatch Street Cred
The Pebble Time is a curiosity. Anyone who pays any attention to new technological developments and devices will know about it, and if they see one on your wrist, they’ll probably have a few questions. By buying and wearing the Pebble Time, you put yourself out there as someone who is hip to the latest technology and isn’t afraid to purchase a cool new product made by an upstart, energetic young company.
However, it’s just so tough to beat the wow factor of a brand new Apple product. Everyone knows about the Apple Watch — everyone. From the full-on tech head to your well-meaning aunt, anyone will recognise the Apple Watch strapped to your wrist, and everyone will think it’s the coolest thing they’ve ever seen. Wearing one is sure to get you some attention, so you’ll have to get used to showing people how it works and why it’s so great.
When you buy an Apple Watch, you don’t necessarily look cooler or more forward thinking than anyone else, though. You just look like you’ve got the money to spend on a brand new Apple device.
10. Other Features
The Apple Watch has Siri, so if you’re used to using this digital assistant feature on your iPhone, you’ll be happy to know that she (she?) is also on your wrist. Pebble doesn’t have a comparable feature, though its watch can take dictation for messages, calendar entries, and other things.
The Apple Watch also has NFC, or near field communication, payment capabilities, and Pebble Time doesn’t. This may not seem like such a big deal now, as Apple Pay is just getting off the ground in the UK, but it could be a breaking point in the future. Though of course, a future iteration of Pebble Time may incorporate NFC payment functionality.
Apple Watch vs. Pebble Time – Do We Have a Winner?
The Pebble Time puts up an incredible fight against the Apple Watch. It’s priced competitively, it has impressive battery life, and it’s compatible with Android devices. All in all, it’s a high quality smartwatch that has a good array of features.
However, if we’re talking about usability, good looks, and the cool factor, the Apple Watch comes out ahead. Sure, it’s a smartwatch, but it’s also a fun toy, a curiosity, and a head-turning gadget — and you can have it if you’ve got the money to spend.
If you’re considering picking up either the Pebble Time or the Apple Watch, the features that are most important to you will guide your decision.
And if you’re not especially thrilled by either one? You’ll probably want to check out the handful of impressive Android Wear watches on the market.
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