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Apple Watch vs Pebble Time Steel - Which smartwatch for you?

Seth Barton
9 Mar 2015
Pebble time vs Apple watch
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We put the Apple Watch and the Pebble Time, and TIme Steel, head-to-head

The new Pebble smartwatch was launched recently on Kickstarter. It's called Pebble Time and has quickly amassed over $17m of funding, with 67,000 backers to date. There are now two models available to back, with the basic Pebble Time and the Pebble Time Steel on offer. With over 1m watches sold to date, Pebble isn't the little company it once was, and it's using Kickstarter more to promote its new product than out of any need of it, but it pales in comparison to its big competitor.

Apple hasn't sold a single Apple Watch yet, but reports are that it's placed orders with its suppliers for over five million watches. With Apple entering the smartwatch market it's very hard to work out if anyone else with an iOS compatible device, such as the Pebble Time, will be able to compete.

Despite the fact you can commit your cash to a Pebble Time today, the watches won't actually ship until sometime in May. The Apple Watch is due to be launched in April, with exact date and prices to be unveiled today, see our Apple Watch release date, price and specs. That means it will actually beat the Pebble Watch onto user's wrists.

Here we'll go through the big pros and cons of each device, to give you a better idea of which watch will suit you best, both in terms of practical usage and appearance.

Apple Watch vs Pebble Time Steel - PRICE

The Pebble Time currently costs $179 on Kickstarter, with delivery in May if your quick or June if you're not. That includes shipping but not any duty or fees you might incur having it shipped into the UK. Once you factor those in, you'll be paying about £145 all in for your Pebble Time. When it's actually launched to retailers from June onwards it will have a retail price of $199, though it's hard to guess how much it will be priced at in UK shops, but around £180 would be our guess.

The Time Steel costs $250 at present, with all the import duties that be around £205, so expect it cost at least that when it hits shops here, late in the summer.

The Apple Watch is going to come in numerous variations, which we'll get into below, but only the basic aluminium model with a plastic wristband has been priced, with Apple saying prices will start from $349. At the current exchange rate that works out at £225, but with VAT at 20% that could be as much as £270.

We doubt anyone would buy the Pebble Time at £180, when what they really wanted was the Apple Watch for £90 more. The Pebble Time being cheaper is a point in its favour if you're undecided but it's not going to be a deciding factor for anyone.

Apple Watch vs Pebble Time Steel - DESIGN

The Pebble Steel comes in three different colours, silver, gunmetal or gold, but they're all stainless steel in construction. The Steel is a little heavier than its sibling, but it does contain a larger battery (with an estimated ten-day lifespan, rather than seven). 

Pebble Time Steel press image

 ^ All that glitters ...

The Pebble Time comes in three colours: black, red and white. They are made mainly of plastic, though all three models have a stainless steel bezel around the screen. Each colour has a matching strap, though these can be swapped out with any standard 22mm watch band, including metal bands should you be able to find one to match the tone of the bezel.

Pebble Time group shot

The Apple Watch is coming in a huge number of variants. The price mentioned above is for the 'basic' Apple Watch Sport, although with an aluminium unibody chassis it's hardly a stinker. The 'standard' Apple Watch is stainless steel and will come with a matching wrist band, or a leather one, or a plastic one, your choice. Then there's the 'high-end' Apple Watch Edition in 18-carat gold, though with some claiming it could cost $10,000 that's certainly unlikely to bother Anyone considering a Pebble Time.

Apple Watch group shot

Whichever Apple Watch you're considering it's certainly a more attractive device than the fairly-basic looking Pebble Watch. We're betting that the Pebble Watch is lighter and smaller, but we're yet to get confirmed specs for either device. What we do know is that the Pebble Time is 9.5mm thick, while the Apple Watch is (pretty accurately) estimated to be 12.6mm thick, making the Apple notably chunkier.

For the record both are water resistant, but only the Pebble Time is waterproof, so you can swim while wearing it.

Apple Watch vs Pebble Time Steel - DISPLAY AND SPECS

The big difference between the two devices is their displays. The Apple Watch comes with either a 38mm or 42mm colour LCD display, while the Pebble Time (and Steel) uses a colour e-ink display, which we estimate to be around 32mm across (based on measuring the 22mm strap in comparison). The Apple Watch display is a touchscreen, so you can tap and swipe it, plus it has a crown you can rotate to dial in settings; while the Pebble Time relies on the four buttons around its sides for inputs.

Apple's screen will provide the kind of colours and fast refresh rates we expect from a smartphone, and which you need for a touch interface. The Pebble's e-ink display has a limited colour palette and slow refresh rates. On the other hand e-ink displays use hardly any power and are very easy to read in bright lighting conditions.

The Pebble Time has a scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass front panel, while the Apple Watch has the same strengthened glass as the current iPhones, or a sapphire crystal finish, depending on the model.

We don't yet know the hardware specification inside each device, although we can bet that with that screen to run Apple's hardware will need to be far more powerful than Pebble's. Then again Pebble's should be fine for the job at hand.

Apple Watch vs Pebble Time Steel - BATTERY

Its less powerful hardware and e-ink display means that the Pebble Time will hugely outlast the Apple Watch in terms of battery life. Apple has stated that the Apple Watch will need to be charged daily, with recent rumours suggesting it would manage around 19 hours of combined active and passive use, or around 3 days simple sitting on standby.

The Pebble Time has a claimed battery life of seven days. We found that our Pebble Steel lasted for up to 5 days from a single charge, with 3 days being the quickest it ran down in normal use. That makes claims of seven days not at all unrealistic, a couple of charges a week should suffice. The Steel version beats even that with a claimed 10-day battery life, thanks to a larger battery.

Apple Watch vs Pebble Time - COMPATIBILITY and APPS

The Pebble Time is compatible with both iOS and Android devices, although if you're considering an Apple Watch or Pebble Time we'll presume you've got an iPhone, as the Apple Watch won't work with Android devices.

The Apple Watch will show notifications from your iPhone, let you use Siri for voice control and to dictate messages and have a variety of customisable watch faces. You'll be able to install and arrange applications on the 'home screen' via a companion app on your phone. Using these you'll be able to use the watch as a remote control for your Apple TV, track your exercise with various fitness apps, and presumably get directions from your phone's GPS. The watch will also let you make Apple Pay payments, and even control your car – based on early app compatible with Tesla cars. It's fully integrated with Apple's ecosystem, so feature such as Handoff and Continuity should let you seamless move data and tasks from device to device.

The Pebble Time is a much simpler affair, but that may be for the better. It now has a microphone, so you can send voice replies to notifications or take notes. However, it has largely spurned apps, instead having a single integrated timeline that takes notifications, news and reminders from various sources and arranges them chronologically. So you can flick back through recent events, missed calls or emails, or forward to appointments, alarms or upcoming sports fixtures. The simplification should mean it's easy to use, and the button-based control should mean you don't have to look at the screen as much.

Pebble time interface

Apple Watch vs Pebble Time - CONCLUSION

The Pebble Time (and the Time Steel) and the Apple Watch are actually very different devices. The Pebble Time looks to do everything most people want from a smartwatch today, the battery life looks to be great and the interface is simple, although you'll have to get used to controlling it with the buttons. It looks like the kind of thing you'd happily wear everyday, a handy extra with some pretty cool, if geeky, credentials

The Apple Watch interface looks more complicated, but the use of a touchscreen should be easy to grasp for most iPhone users. It looks smarter (even comared to the Pebble Steel) and certainly wins out in the style stakes. However, it's pretty expensive, it's something else to charge every night and you'll probably be wanting to upgrade it in a few years.

Personally, we'd wait and see. Yes, you can get a Pebble Time now for less if you order in advance, but will you still want it come shipping day, with the Apple Watch out there? Once the Apple Watch is out, you'll be able to go to the Apple Store and get a much better idea of whether you want to wear a large expensive smartwatch on your wrist everyday, or if the slimmer, simpler Pebble is for you.

 

 

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