Photokina 2014 highlights

Pebble Steel vs. Samsung Galaxy Gear

By

January 13, 2014

Gizmag compares the features and specs of the Pebble Steel and Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwa...

Gizmag compares the features and specs of the Pebble Steel and Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatches

Image Gallery (22 images)

Last week at CES 2014, we saw one of the most intriguing smartwatches to date. The Pebble Steel takes the guts of the original Pebble and puts them in a snazzy-looking watch that could be right at home sitting next to a Rolex. Read on, as we compare its features and specs to those of the Samsung Galaxy Gear.

Size

The Galaxy Gear has a larger body, though that includes a segment that begins to bleed int...

The Galaxy Gear's main body is larger, as it includes a curved portion that bends around to bleed into the watch's band. Generally speaking, the Gear is going to look and feel a little bit bulkier on your wrist. Pebble Steel is going to feel more like a standard watch.

Weight

Samsung lists the Gear as being lighter than the Pebble Steel (at least with its metal ban...

Neither watch is going to feel noticeably heavy on your wrist, though the Gear is listed as being lighter.

Build (main body)

Both watch's main bodies are made of stainless steel

Both watches' main bodies are housed in stainless steel. Having spent time with both devices, though, we'd say the Pebble Steel is easily the more premium-feeling of the two. The Galaxy Gear, meanwhile, looks more like a tech gadget that happens to live on your wrist.

Build (bands)

Pebble Steel ships with two classy bands, while the Gear's band is an integrated part of t...

Pebble includes two bands with each Pebble Steel. You get both a metal band that matches your color of choice for the main body, as well as a black leather strap. The Gear's integrated band is made of a firm plastic.

Colors

Color options for both watches ... though you can also customize the Pebble's color with y...

The Pebble Steel is sold in two colors, while Samsung offers six different hues for the Gear.

There is a big difference here, though. All but one of the Gears have identical bodies, with only their bands providing different colors. The two Pebbles' bodies are different and you can swap their bands for any other that you like. You'll just need to pick up a standard 22-mm band in your color of choice.

Swappable band

You can swap the Pebble's band for any standard 22 mm one

As we just mentioned, the Steel lets you swap for any standard band, while the Galaxy Gear's band is a permanent part of the product.

Always-on display

The Pebble Steel's always-on display is one of its biggest advantages over the Galaxy Gear

This is one of the key differences with Pebble. As long as the watch is powered on, its screen is on. The Gear's screen, meanwhile, stays off until you wake it up with a motion-sensing gesture. This makes Pebble a much better choice for fitness tracking, as you can glance down at any time without any fiddling or arm-raising required.

Display (type)

The Pebble Steel's screen is lower-powered, but lacks color or touch control

The Pebble Steel uses a power-sipping "e-paper" (Sharp LCD) screen while the Gear uses a smartphone-like Super AMOLED display. The Gear's is also a color touch screen, while the Pebble's is black & white and relies on physical buttons for navigation.

Display (size and resolution)

The Galaxy Gear's screen is larger and sharper

The Gear's display is noticeably bigger, with resolution that's going to look a bit sharper too.

Android compatibility

Android compatibility is a big advantage for Pebble

Compatibility is a huge advantage for the Pebble, as most Android phones from the last couple of years will play nicely with it. The Galaxy Gear, meanwhile, only syncs with a handful of Samsung Galaxy handsets. You can check out Samsung's complete list to find out if your phone and firmware combination is Gear-friendly.

iPhone compatibility

Pebble Steel is compatible with iPhones; the Gear isn't

Another big advantage for Steel, as Pebble hooks up with iPhones.

Notifications

Both watches buzz your wrist when you receive a new notification

What do you use a smartwatch for? With this first batch of wearables, the number one answer has been notifications. Both of these watches will buzz your wrist whenever a new alert comes in. You can customize which apps you receive notifications from, so you won't get interrupted every time a new Fruit Ninja nag message pops up.

Fitness tracking

Both watches buzz your wrist when you receive a new notification

The wrist is also a great place to display workout data, and though neither of these are dedicated fitness trackers, they each have compatible pedometer apps. In both cases the actual tracking takes place on your phone, but you can read the data on your watch.

As we already mentioned, this is one area where the Pebble's always-on display gives it an advantage. The Gear will show you your current workout, but you'll have to tap and swipe the screen a couple of times to see how far you've gone.

Music controls

Both watches buzz your wrist when you receive a new notification

Another handy use for a smartwatch is to quickly control your phone's music. So if your handset is sitting on the other side of the room while it streams Kool and the Gang to your Bluetooth speaker, you can pause, switch tracks, or tweak the volume from your watch.

Open-source SDK

Pebble's open-source SDK (now in version 2.0) is one of its biggest advantages, as there's...

Because anyone can develop and release apps for Pebble, it taps into the creativity of third-party developers ranging from mega-corporations to a guy on his laptop. An upcoming Pebble update will add an app store to its iOS/Android companion apps that will only make it easier to find those apps.

Samsung, meanwhile, only lets hand-picked developers release official apps for the Gear. So far that list is very short – and underwhelming.

Battery life

Battery life is another big advantage for Pebble

When it comes to battery life, Pebble Steel is the clear winner. You'll only need to snap on its magnetic charging cable once or twice a week. You'll need to put the Gear in its odd charging cradle every night or two.

Camera

The Galaxy Gear has a camera in its band, while the Pebble Steel can serve as a remote shu...

The Galaxy Gear has a camera built into its band. It's only 1.9 megapixels, but takes surprisingly solid photos for that resolution. It's debatable whether having a camera on your watch is essential, but it does let you capture Kodak moments with minimal delay.

Pebble Steel doesn't have its own camera, but there are third-party apps that let you use it as a remote shutter for your smartphone's camera.

Voice control

Samsung has voice control built-in, but it's pretty lackluster

Voice control is a handy feature to have in a smartwatch, but unfortunately the Galaxy Gear uses Samsung's crappy Siri knockoff, S Voice. It's good for dictating text messages – a very handy feature on a watch – but not much else.

Phone calls

You can use your Galaxy Gear as a phone, while the Pebble is limited to acting as a call-r...

You can also make and take phone calls on your Gear. The call is technically taking place on your phone, but the effect is as if the Gear is your phone. You can use Pebble Steel to answer and reject calls, but you'll need to pick up your phone when it comes time to actually talk.

Water resistance

You can swim or shower while wearing Pebble ... you won't want to try that with the Galaxy...

You can shower and swim while wearing Pebble – just don't expect the Bluetooth connection to hold while you're underwater. The Gear's water resistance is much more limited, only allowing for the occasional splash.

Processor

The Galaxy Gear has a faster processor, but we found Pebble Steel to be plenty zippy in ou...

The Gear has a faster processor, but we found Pebble Steel's UI to be pretty zippy. Updated software makes it a little faster than the current software on the standard Pebble (though it should soon get that speed-boosting software update too).

Release cycle

Release dates for both watches

Pebble Steel starts shipping in late January, though current orders are now pushed back to "shipping by mid-February." The Galaxy Gear has been on store shelves since late September.

Price

The Gear retails for $50 more than the Pebble Steel

Pebble Steel rings up for US$50 cheaper than the Galaxy Gear. If you want to save a few bucks, and don't mind a plastic body, then the standard Pebble will only set you back $150.

Elegant simplicity or empty kitchen sink?

We had high hopes for the Galaxy Gear when it launched. It has a pretty slick design with a kitchen sink full of smartphone-like hardware components that app developers could have had a field day with.

But Samsung really dropped the ball with software. Browse the Galaxy Gear section of Samsung's app store, and you'll see a virtual ghost town. There are a few big names, including eBay and Evernote, but the list is way too short. Again, it comes back to an invite-only status for app developers – and Samsung doesn't appear to be too concerned with bringing new blood into that fold.

Pebble, meanwhile, is moving in a much more encouraging direction. We think Steel is the sharpest-looking smartwatch we've used. Though its internal hardware is almost completely identical to the standard (plastic) Pebble, its body is such a huge upgrade that it feels like an altogether new device. And that upcoming app store (including Javascript-based Pebble SDK 2.0 apps) is going to increase the value of all Pebble watches. One of the coolest new things to keep an eye out for will be gesture-activated apps: think raising your wrist to get nearby restaurant recommendations, like with the upcoming Yelp app for Pebble.

So though we aren't here to declare a victor, we think the Pebble Steel is probably going to be the smarter bet for most customers. If for no other reason, the fact that Samsung hasn't done much to boost the Gear's app selection should be a yellow flag. And rumors of a second-gen Samsung watch launching within the next three months or so aren't particularly encouraging either.

For more on Pebble, you can check out our original Pebble review and our Pebble Steel hands-on impressions from CES.

Updated 1/18 to state that Pebble Steel requires Android device running 4.0 or higher. We had originally stated that it was compatible with Android phones running 2.3 or higher.

Buy this on Amazon
About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
6 Comments

The Pebble sounds the better bet for me.

The Gear may overtake it is the app supply improves, but it does not sound likely at the moment.

I like the idea of the Pebble's standard swappable band as well, gives you the choice of suiting varied clothes colours, with Samsung you need several identical - all needing charging - watches, or your, say, yellow band might not suit your red shirt!

Some people think that is important these days.

The Skud
13th January, 2014 @ 06:06 pm PST

Clearly Pebble won this duel over the Gear.

Pebble is more wearable, it's got a better display and durability, and it has the backup of a great amount of developers and partners that make of it a smartwatch with more and more functionalities.

Albert M
14th January, 2014 @ 04:11 am PST

Good comparison.

Only one small error, the Pebble will let you change the band, but not for a standard watchband, it is proprietary (But they will release the schematics for it for free).

Emmanuel Leroux Sanders
16th January, 2014 @ 07:50 am PST

Is this a joke?

This was the most biased article I have ever read in my life! You didn't even touch on specs that matter and all the specs galaxy won you still made an excuse for pebble. Of course the ui of pebble will be faster its 1990's UI doesnt take much power now does it? This pebble watch is an all around joke and shouldn't even be compared to the galaxy gear. As a watch, yes better device. Black and white ink screen with no controls.. As a smart piece of technology obviously we want the full color touchscreen device. I love how all the Galaxy pros were briefly touched on and made to sound bad while you drag on about the tiniest detail of the pebble. Even when you say the galaxy gear only has one watch with a different face color ummm the pebble only had two face colors as well! Not to mention only two bands while gear carried several. Wording is key here and obviously you wanted to try to make the pebbke look better. You basically said that both watches have two different face options. The pebble has only two bands while galaxy gear has several. Obviously galaxy won this area so you worded it to look like pebble had the upper hand! I'm done here and this writer is ridiculous. If you want to be a critic you have to be willing to be fair. Take your opinions to your Facebook page not a review site! Thank you!

David Beebe
16th January, 2014 @ 07:58 am PST

I think the author of this review has slanted virtually every comparison... even where the Gear is a clear winner, with lackluster language to try and downplay the clear advantage the gear has... I mean display alone... E-paper black and white non touch Vs. a Super Amoled color touch screen ...176 Vs. 278 ppi?...and the author still makes no statement of who has the upper hand... but makes sure to use words like "Power Sipping" to slant toward the e-crapper screen on the pebble... come on... how much pebble stock does Will own?

Both of these devices are on the front of the curve for wearable tech and they will both evolve and improve over time... but I think from the jump, and especially being the first on the market... the Gear has a HUGE upper hand technologically and the apps will come... how many pebble apps are their currently... Oh Wait... the device isn't even in the hands of consumers yet... Come on Will... I think you really missed the mark on this one...

Yes swappable bands are nice for the geeky hipster that wants to look cool showing off his gadget... but I'll bet your skinny jean wearing, clove cigarette smoking, Chai Mocha Latte sipping "friends" would be more impressed with a full color touch screen than the metal banded first Gen Mini Kindle that your wearing on your hand...

GadgetGeek
16th January, 2014 @ 09:30 am PST

Anyone who takes this article seriously is a big JOKE!

This Article like mention in a few comments is extremely biased! The Samsung Gear Watch is all around superior to the pebble, it was its first run in the market and watch Samsung come back with EVEN BIGGER. By the time the pebble een reaches consumers hands, the s gear watch will have more advanced features ready to take the market share.

I personally love that only Samsung made the watch for Samsung users! Its support and they are clearly marketing their phones a lot better than other manufactures. If they even choose to they could release it for every platform, device out on the market!

I hate seeing articles that are biased just reminds me to never come back to read an article from such a "skilled full" character as yourself.

Marvin Gilyana
20th January, 2014 @ 09:35 am PST
Post a Comment

Login with your gizmag account:

Or Login with Facebook:


Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our 28,545 articles