Smartwatches are a big deal now, largely thanks to the development of Android Wear and the new Apple Watch.
However, there is a third option that seems often overlooked by people looking to purchase one of these new devices: the Pebble.
Debuting in 2013 at the price of $89 (that’s £60~) the Pebble featured a black and white e-Ink display, Android / iOS support, a 7 day battery life and boatload of input sensors.
Now, 3 years later, the Pebble Time is available for pre-order, with versions already being shipped to Kickstarter backers, and we honestly believe it’s serious competition for the Apple Watch.
It’s no secret that Apple upscales their prices well beyond the cost of production, and the Apple Watch is no exception. Launched at a price of $549, as much as a brand new smartphone, this first generation device is manufactured for around $200.
The Pebble Time, on the other hand, is launching for $199.99, significantly less than the Apple Watch.
Their specs are legions apart, however, with the Apple Watch having considerably better RAM and on-board memory than the Time but, as we’ll discuss shortly, this isn’t a bad thing.
5. iOS or Android? It doesn’t matter
One of the best things that the Pebble got right was the cross-platform capability; it works the same on both iOS and Android, with the same apps and content available through both. This will follow through to the Pebble Time, too.
A fantastic choice, as it means that the potential market for the Time is a whopping 96.3% of smartphone owners rather than 70% (Android) or 18.3% (iOS).
This means that no-one will feel alienated by this device and will be able to use it regardless of their platform (here’s hoping the Windows Phone gets some love, too, with the release of Windows 10 just around the corner).
4. Water resistance
Not a lot to be said about this one, but the Pebble Time works up to 30m deep in water while the Apple Watch lasts a laughable 1m deep. Something for the second gen, eh, Apple?
3. Battery life
As covered in one of our previous articles, battery life is one of the most essential components to any watch. It equals reliability and adds greatly towards the functionality of the device.
The Pebble Time comes in at roughly 6.5 days of use, whilst the Apple Watch lasts, at most, 18 hours.
This is largely thanks to the e-Ink display chosen by Pebble; where Apple have opted for a smartphone-esque full colour LCD, the Pebble only needs to be on when the screen is being updated rather than all of the time, draining battery.
While limited, this does mean that the display is much less of a drain on battery life and can be visible all of the time rather than requiring a flick of the wrist (I, for one, can’t believe that in 2015 people still think that motion controls are a good thing or enjoyed by anyone, ever).
2. User Interface
While the Apple Watch’s UI (user interface) does look cool, it isn’t the most practical thing ever devised.
Touch screens on that small a scale fail to feel nice and that, combined with the refusal to not make the UI non-smartphone like, means that it is neither intuitive, easy to use nor particularly functional.
The Pebble Time, on the other hand, doesn’t feature a touchscreen.
Don’t gasp too hard at that; it’s a good thing.
The use of three rugged buttons on the right hand side make the screen surprisingly easy to navigate around. The buttons can also be modified and set to perform certain tasks, allowing you to easily create shortcuts to your favorite app.
The best thing to come of this design choice, however, is the brand new “Timeline” interface, which features all of your calendar events, notifications, weather info, missed calls, app alters- everything you need– in an easy past, present and future screen. It’s functional and both acts and feels nice.
1. It isn’t a smartphone
The one thing that both Apple and Google don’t understand is that people don’t want a smartphone on their wrist. They want a watch; something that they can rely on and glance at occasionally.
Not to say that there isn’t a certain novelty in playing games on your smartwatch, you’re likely to rather be tapping away on your smart device than on a 1 inch screen on your wrist.
Pebble understands this, and so makes sacrifices in some areas to boost up the potential of other areas.
The prime example of this is the display; it’s still e-Ink, a format developed primarily for eBooks. The thing is, it works incredibly well. The refresh rate is low, the graphical capabilities are just as low and there are only 64 colours but, again, this is a watch.
Do you really need a watch with a few million colours? Spoiler alert: you don’t.
This follows throughout the design; there isn’t an overload of unnecessary specifications or storage and the result is a hugely better battery life, proper scratch, dust and water reistance and a generally more pleasent experience at a much, much, lower cost.
The Pebble Time isn’t a smartphone, it’s a smartwatch; perhaps the only smartwatch that cares more about being a watch than a phone, and that’s fantastic.
Not convinced? You’ll need an iPhone for that Apple Watch. Check out our comparison tool to find the best deal for you.