With Apple releasing their new Apple Watch many other smartwatch companies are likely taking notice of the powerhouse entering their market with what looks like an impressive entry. Pebble which came out with its Pebble Smartwatch and, not long ago, the newer Pebble Steal, is not doubt one of those companies paying close attention to what happens next.
The Pebble Smartwatch launched as a $10 Million Kickstarter campaign that blasted past its funding goal of $100,000 and finished up as the most funded campaign on Kickstarter up to that point when the crowdfunding campaign finished on May 18, 2012. Even today it still ranks as the second all-time highest funded Kickstarter campaign. The watch took longer than expected to ship initially. It also got an update earlier this year with the Pebble Steel. Pebble didn’t start the class, but the company did prove that a phone-connected smartwatch could sell well, thus kicking off the smart wearable fever that resulted in the release of products from Samsung, Motorola, LG and possibly HTC.
So, how do the Pebble watches (above) and the Apple Watch (see below) compare?
Apple Watch and Pebble on Design
The first Pebble Smartwatch (red watch above) didn’t look at all stylish, however Pebble’s newer model, the Pebble Steel (silver and black above), took a huge leap forward. It’s got a steel metal construction with a pair of included bands, one made of stainless steel with links and the other made of black leather. While the Pebble Steel looks nicer than the original Pebble Smartwatch, it doesn’t compare to the look and design that Apple showed off at their September 9th announcement.
Apple plans to ship two sizes with multiple colors and designs that will appeal to a wider variety of buyers. The Pebble Smartwatch and the Pebble Steel will likely only appeal to geeks and mostly large-wristed men or women. People who care more about function than fashion may find the Pebble Smartwatch and the Pebble Steel appealing.
The Apple Watch still seems bulky and thick for people with petite wrists. However, the smaller watch design will fit better than either Pebble design.
Apple didn’t just offer two sizes, but three versions with multiple colors and materials. We get…
- Stainless Steel
- Silver Aluminum
- 18-Karat Yellow Gold
- Space Black Stainless Steel
- Space Gray Aluminum
- 18-Karat Rose Gold
In addition to the six material designs above, Apple plans to give buyers multiple watch bands.
The band styles will match the watch materials with options including…
- Link Bracelet
- Sport Band
- Leather Loop
- Classic Buckle
- Modern Buckle
- Milanese Loop
The bands fasten to the watch by sliding into place instead of using the traditional pin watchband fastening mechanism that the Pebble Smartwatch used.
The Apple Watch comes in three styles: the basic Apple Watch, the Watch Sport and Watch Edition. That means buyers will get to choose from 18 different models with six of each kind. By comparison, Pebble buyers can pick between the Steel and the original Smartwatch. Pebble also took the original design and added some bright colors and called it #FreshHotFly. Add those three new models to the original five and the two Steel styles for a total of 10 different designs.
Since the original, and this newer brightly colored Pebble, uses traditional watch band connections, buyers can mix and match with any traditional watch band they can find, leaving infinite possibilities. Apple Watch buyers will only get the ones Apple offers since it uses a proprietary connector. Third-parties may try to make bands to fit the Apple Watch, but who knows if Apple will encourage, allow or put up legal barriers to such development?
Controlling the watch uses two different methods on each watch. The Pebble includes buttons on both sides that let users go up/down in lists or scroll screens. The button on the other side backs out of menus to a higher level. On the Apple Watch we get a touchscreen and the digital crown, a scroll wheel and button on the side of the watch.
Apple Watch and Pebble on Battery Life
We don’t know how long the battery of the Apple Watch will last, but a Pebble gives users at least three days and possibly seven days. There’s no way the Apple Watch will last that long. Estimates today put it at one day with a need to charge each night.
Apple Watch and Pebble on Functionality
The basic philosophy of both watches matches one another. Pair each watch with a phone and get notifications on the wrist instead of just on the phone. This means wearers don’t need to pull out their phone while they’re running, sitting in a meeting, driving down the highway, or just working at their desk. It also means the watch notifies the wearer silently as their wrist buzzes, instead with a sound on their phone.
Both watches let the users install apps that extend watch’s functionality. Since the Pebble’s been around longer it will likely offer more apps in the Pebble store. If Apple Watch app developers get on board, then expect that to change after a short period. However, at first, don’t expect as many Apple Watch apps. Until we see what Apple’s store offers, we can’t really compare the two perfectly.
The watches also share the ability skin the watch faces with many different styles. The Pebble Store includes hundreds of Pebble watch faces. Apple will ship the Apple Watch with many faces as well. They’ll let developers create faces too. The color differentiates the two because the Pebble only uses a black and white e-ink style display, while the Apple Watch uses a color display.
Apple Pay seemed less prominent in the Apple announcement to people who only see Apple as a hardware company, but the service may revolutionize the way people pay for things using something other than cash. Pebble doesn’t include the feature that lets a user wave their watch over a payment machine on a point of sale device. Android users had this feature in their phone, but Apple added it to the phone and to Apple Watch.
Apple showed off a feature that lets wearers communicate with each other right from the watch. Users can respond to text messages and even communicate using drawings and vibrations. That’s something the Pebble won’t do. The Pebble Store includes many apps that will send stock responses over text, but the wearer can’t respond by drawing on the screen or tapping a vibration pattern. The Apple Watch will also let users talk via the watch, something the Pebble doesn’t do.
Fitness tracking comes with both watches, but the Apple Watch does a little more. It includes a heart rate monitor using sensors on the back of the watch that reads heart rate all the time. In fact users can send the heart rate as a response to other users with the watch. They will feel a buzz in the pattern of the sender’s heart rate. Pebble relies on third-party apps for most of its fitness tracking features, but they’re there.
Apple Watch and Pebble on Compatibility
This comparison is simple. Pebble works with both iPhone and Android. The Pebble app for iOS works with any iPhone or iPad running iOS 6 or later. The Android app runs on Android phone running Android 4.0 or higher.
The Apple Watch only works with the iPhone 5 or newer. People who own an older iPhone or run Android can’t use an Apple Watch. Between these two options, they must go with Pebble.
Apple Watch and Pebble on Price
The price comparison falls in favor of Pebble. Apple said that the Apple Watch will cost $349 while the cheapest Pebble, either the original Pebble Smartwatch or one of new Pebble Smartwatch in the three neon colors, will cost only $150. Even the Pebble Steel costs just $249, $100 less than the cheapest Apple Watch.
We didn’t get a full price list of the Apple Watch. Some models will certainly cost more than $349.
Budget buyers will need to go with one of the 8 Pebble Smartwatches or splurge $100 more for the Steel.
Which watch should users buy? It’s too early to tell since the Apple Watch won’t ship till 2015. Impatient users can get the Pebble Smartwatch and Pebble Steel today at getpebble.com and other retailers.
Who should pay the premium for the Apple Watch? Aside from the Apple fanboy, serious athletes may want to take a look at the Apple Watch fitness features. They’re more feature rich than what the Pebble does now. Android users can’t use an Apple Watch with their phones, so they only need to choose wether to get the Pebble or some other watch like an Android Wear. Apple users need to decide if they don’t mind getting locked into the Apple ecosystem.
Budget conscious buyers should go with the $150 Pebble Smartwatch, since the Apple Watch will cost $200 more.