The shipment of Apple Watch starts on April 24. While it is not likely to face much of a challenge from any existing Android Wear, its tussle with Pebble will be interesting. We have here compared the two sets of smartwatches in terms of a few important parameters.
The uncertainties about the release date of Apple Watch are finally over. During the March 9 Apple event, it was officially announced that Watch would hit the markets on the 24th of April, with pre-ordering being open from April 10. While Tim Cook’s ‘one more thing’ is easily the most hyped smart gadget of the year, the Pebble smartwatches are more than worthy rivals. The startup company set new records in crowdfunding on Kickstarter in 2012, and this year, it is also gearing up for the launch of a new smartwatch edition – the Pebble Time Steel. The million dollar question (the pun is partially intended!) is whether Apple Watch or Pebble will find long-run favor among users. The following comparative study should give an idea:
- Available Versions – Pebble started things off with a rather unremarkable regular smartwatch, but soon grabbed eyeballs with the much sleeker Pebble Steel. The Time Steel would be an interesting addition to the portfolio of the company’s smartwatches. Apple Watch, on the other hand, will also be available in three different versions – Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Edition and the Apple Watch Sport. In terms of numbers, both Apple and Pebble offer equal options – but the basic version of Apple’s smartwatch certainly has an edge over that of Pebble.
- Display screen – Device experts and iOS developers worldwide were surprised when Apple did not provide iPhone 6/6 Plus a sapphire glass screen display. Watch, however, will be having it, along with high-end Retina Display features. The latter will ensure crystal clear display of all visuals – from images to icons. Pebble smartwatches come with an e-paper display, with the LCD backlighting being a high point. Comparatively though, it is less tough/resistant than Sapphire glass, and visual elements can appear blurred on it. The Force Touch option of Apple Watch also contributes to its superiority.
- App Support – A recent FastCompany report revealed that Pebble has well over 1100 native applications, along with more than 100 companion apps (i.e., which require a companion iOS/Android device). Not surprisingly, Google’s Android Wear, with a measly 193 apps at the Play Store, did not have a chance to compete against it. Apple, on its part, has confirmed that there will be a set number of native apps on Watch, and has released WatchKit for the creation of third-party Watch apps. However, professional mobile app developers feel that it will take some time for the Cupertino company to match up with the sheer range of apps that Pebble offers on its smartwatches. And as we all know, apps are everything for any smart gadget!
- Battery performance – Tim Cook put doubters to rest by confirming that the battery of Apple Watch would last for a minimum of 18 hours (termed ‘all-day battery support’). However, this performance rather pales into insignificance in front of the 3-7 day battery life of Pebble smartwatches. With Watch, you will need to have a charger ready everyday – but with Pebble, charging might very well become a weekly task.
- Platform support – This is yet another factor where Pebble steals a march over Apple Watch. The latter is supported only on the new iOS 8 platform, and has to be paired with an upgraded iPhone 5 or iPhone6/6 Plus. In contrast, Pebble smartwatches are compatible are compatible with both the iOS and the Android ecosystem (from iOS 6 and Android 4.0). This automatically ensures a bigger reach, and consequently, better sales. Apple Watch has to rely on its higher selling price to pull in more revenue.
- Smartwatch functionality – When it comes to bundling in functional features in a smart device, expect Apple to do a great job. The presence of the new and improved Siri is being viewed as the icing on the cake for Apple Watch, which already has a taptic engine, a mic and a speaker. Unlike Pebble Time Steel, users will be able to make calls with Apple Watch too. The availability of near-field communication (NFC) on Watch is a real clincher in its favor as well. The maximum that can be done with Pebble Time Steel is receive notifications, create voice memos, and use the built-in GPS feature. The absence of calling options is a drawback.
- Material and design – Pebble Steel, as its name suggests, is made of stainless steel – and it is a definite improvement over the all-plastic original Pebble smartwatch. Apple, on its part, has gone with steel for Apple Watch, and anodized aluminum for Apple Watch Sport. The most talked-about version is, of course, the Apple Watch Edition – which boasts of a stunning 18-carat gold finish. App development experts as well as general tech enthusiasts feel that Apple Watch can easily double up as a fashion accessory – something that Pebble does not quite do.
- Customization options – Android Wear has a grand total of less than 30 watch faces. Compare that against the whopping 4300 faces that the Pebble smartwatches come with. Users have more than ample opportunities to pick their favorite watch face to show off. To start things off, Apple is offering six different designs for each of its Watch version, a total of 34 different designs, and ‘millions’ of customized faces. We will have to wait and see whether it indeed offers more personalization options than Pebble.
- Focus on health & fitness – Pebble smartwatches have Runkeeper, while Apple Watch will have the HealthKit and Research Kit apps. Both of them offer personalized health and fitness tracking – although Apple’s health support seem more well-rounded than that yielded from the Pebble wearables. Pebble Time Steel and Apple Watch will have built-in accelerometer (the other versions of Pebble watches also have 3D accelerometers). It’s a fairly close race in this regard, with Apple Watch appearing to win it by a hair.
- Price pinch – Apple has always been (except for that disastrous iPhone 5C experiment) been associated with premium products. The price tags of Apple Watch versions reflect that…once again. The Apple Watch Sport is the cheapest of the lot, at $349/$399 (for the 38 mm and 42 mm models). The starting price of the mid-range Apple Watch is $549 (which changes according to the band chosen), while that of Apple Watch Steel is $599. If you wish to flaunt the Watch Edition, you will have to cough up in excess of $10000 (not everyone’s cup of tea, one might add!). In comparison, Pebble offers smartwatches on a budget – with the basic Pebble watch model available for $99. Pebble Steel comes with a price tag of $199, and Pebble Time Steel (expected to launch in July) would be priced at $299. All of them are cheaper than the cheapest version of Apple Watch. The message is loud and clear – if you want to own an Apple device, you have to pay big for it!
- Controls – The Digital Crown and the taptic engine of Apple Watch make it the more advanced smartwatch, but first-time users can get a little confused by it. In contrast, the Pebble watches offer a more user-friendly device control setup. There are buttons on either side of the screen, for scrolling and navigating across menus. It will be a challenge for iOS app developers to make apps for Watch with smooth in-app navigation.
- Physical dimensions – While the smaller version of Apple Watch is roughly similar in dimensions with the existing Pebble smartwatches (15”x1.4”x0.4”), the larger Watch model would be a quarter of an inch wider. The upcoming Pebble Time Steel has a thickness of only 0.37 inches. Both Pebble and Apple Watch are lightweight, streamlined gadgets. Nothing to really choose between the two here!
- Additional features – For all its affordability, the Pebble wearables do not offer much in the way of extra features. Apart from the notifications, GPS and voice memo sharing feature (Time Steel has a mic), the only other feature worth noting is the E-Compass. Watch, on the other hand, soars high in terms of additional functionality, with support for Apple Pay and seamless Passbook integration. For those who wish their smartwatches to do more, Apple Watch is the way to go.
While the spotlight is firmly on the imminent arrival of Apple Watch, one thing emerges pretty clearly – Pebble will prove to be a stiff challenger. It has been in the market even before the first Android Wear was launched, its features are mostly comparable with those of Watch, and it is much less pricey than the eagerly-anticipated Apple smartwatch. iOS app development experts feel that the absence of a third-party app marketplace for Watch can initially hurt its prospects too. The overall functionality of Apple Watch is more, and it certainly sports a more beautiful appearance than the Pebble watches. The question remains, will there be enough people eager to fork out big bucks for what is, in essence, a companion device of an iPhone?
Well, that’s the users’ call!