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Samsung Gear 2 vs. Pebble Steel


March 12, 2014

Gizmag compares the features and specs of the Samsung Gear 2 and Pebble Steel smartwatches

Gizmag compares the features and specs of the Samsung Gear 2 and Pebble Steel smartwatches

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We're only a few months into 2014, but we've already seen quite a few new smartwatch releases. Two of the highest-profile are the Samsung Gear 2 and Pebble Steel. How do you decide between these two very different watches? Read on, as Gizmag compares their features and specs.


Sizes are similar, though the Gear's curved bezel makes it a bit taller

Sizes are pretty close, though the Gear's extended (and curved) front bezel technically makes it a bit longer.


Both watches have pedometer apps (though on the Pebble, the tracking takes place on your p...

Notifications are one of the biggest reasons to buy any smartwatch. Both the Gear 2 and Pebble Steel will vibrate your wrist when a new alert comes in. Both display notifications from third-party apps, let you choose which of those apps you receive notifications from, and have a notification center where you can read any alerts you might have missed.

Smartphone compatibility

You'll need a compatible smartphone to get your money's worth from either watch

Neither watch will do you much good without a paired smartphone. And you could argue that phone compatibility is Pebble's killer feature. It will play nicely with any recent iPhone or Android handset.

The Gear 2, meanwhile, only works with Samsung Galaxy phones that run Android 4.3 or higher. That list is growing, though, and includes high-profile releases like the Galaxy S5, Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 3, and Galaxy Note 2 (assuming your carrier has pushed the update to Android 4.3).


Both watches' main bodies are made of stainless steel

Both watches' main bodies are made of stainless steel. Pebble Steel looks more like something you'd find in a jewelry store, while the Gear 2 looks more like a sleek and futuristic tech product.


The Gear 2 is listed as 31 percent lighter

Unless it's ridiculously heavy, weight probably isn't a spec worth paying much attention to on a smartwatch. With that said, the Gear 2 is listed as 31 percent lighter than the Pebble Steel.

Swappable bands

Swappable band options for each watch

Pebble Steel includes two bands: a steel one that matches the watch's chassis, and a black leather one. You can also swap it with any standard 22 mm strap. Ditto for the Gear 2.

Pebble did just announce a slightly-cheaper version of Steel that will only include the leather band.


Color options for both watches

Three color options for the Gear 2 (though two of them have identical bodies) and two for Pebble Steel.

Display (type)

Very different screens on each watch

The Gear 2 has a more smartphone-like display, with its multi-touch color Super AMOLED. The Pebble Steel has the same non-touch, monochrome "e-Paper" display as the original (plastic) Pebble. I've seen many people mistakenly describe the Pebble's screen as e-ink – and though the effect is similar, this one is actually a Sharp LCD.

Display (size and resolution)

The Gear's screen is larger and sharper

The Pebble Steel only gives you 59 percent as much screen real estate as the Gear 2. Its display also has much lower resolution. You could argue that bigger does not equal better when it comes to wearable computing. But for two devices that are very close in size, the Gear gives you a much bigger window into your notifications and other content.

Always-on display

The Pebble Steel has an always-on display, while the Gear's only turns on when you lift yo...

One potential advantage with the Pebble's screen is that it stays on all the time. No matter where your watch is or what you're doing with your arm, a quick glance is all it takes to see whatever is displayed on its screen.

The Gear's screen stays off when you aren't looking at it. Lift your arm (in a classic "looking at your watch" gesture) and it will automatically turn on. Of course it also turns on when you receive a notification. After a few moments of inactivity (customizable in the watch's settings) its screen will turn off.

Water resistance

Water resistance ratings for each watch

Both watches give you some solid water resistance. You can actually swim, though, with Pebble on. The Gear 2 is rated for 1 meter of submersion for 30 minutes, which is better for rain or the occasional dunk than for swimming.

Heart rate sensor

The Gear 2 has a heart rate sensor

One of the biggest new additions in the Gear 2 is its heart rate sensor. Wearable computers hold a lot of potential for health and fitness tracking, and, along with the Gear Fit, it looks Samsung is trying to take the early lead there.


Both watches vibrate your wrist and when a new smartphone notification comes in

Both devices let you track a walk or run.

Sleep tracking

Both watches run apps that claim to track your sleep patterns

If you're into wearable tech that tracks your sleep patterns, both of these watches run apps that claim to do just that.


The Gear 2 has a camera on its main body

The Gear 2, like the original Galaxy Gear, has an outward-facing built-in camera. Unlike the OG Gear, though, it's now on the watch's main body (instead of its band). Samsung also makes a variant of the Gear 2, called the Gear 2 Neo, that doesn't have a camera.

Pebble Steel has no camera, though there is at least one third-party Pebble app that will turn the watch into a remote shutter for your smartphone's camera.

Phone calls

You can make actual phone calls on the Gear 2

As many a Samsung commercial has been quick to point out, you can use Gear watches as phones. Technically the call is still taking place on your phone, but you can dial, answer, reject, and actually talk through the watch.

Pebble lets you answer or reject calls from the watch, but since it lacks a microphone or speaker, you have to pick up your phone for the call.

Voice control

The Gear 2 has Samsung's S Voice virtual assistant built-in

It definitely isn't Siri or Google Now, but a scaled-down version of Samsung's S Voice lives inside the Gear 2. It lets you do things like dictate text messages, initiate calls, check the weather, and set alarms or reminders. The Gear's S Voice doesn't do a lot besides that, though, and it doesn't do anything like search the web, give sports scores, or answer random questions like "how old is Ben Affleck?"

Standalone music player

The Gear 2 can function as a standalone music player – and can be paired with a Bluetooth ...

Both watches let you control your smartphone's play/pause/skip music functions. The Gear 2 takes that a step further by letting you store songs on the watch itself, and listen to them through either a Bluetooth headset or the watch's speaker.


Battery life estimates for each watch

These are the manufacturers' estimates for each watch's uptimes (with "typical" use). It looks like the Gear 2 is going to last a bit longer than the Galaxy Gear, and I never had a problem getting it through a full day.


The Gear's IR blaster lets you use your watch to control your TV

Why would you want infrared in a watch? To control your TV, that's why. I can see a watch making for a very handy remote control.


Samsung ditched Android for Tizen with the new Gear 2

Lots of the headlines covering the Gear 2 announcement zeroed in on Samsung's shift from Android to its own Tizen OS. There was so little third-party development for the original Gear, though, that this probably means very little on the user end. Plus owners of the OG Galaxy Gear will be eventually updated to Tizen as well.


The Gear 2 now joins Pebble in having an SDK for developers

Both watches provide software development kits for third-party app makers. This is a big shift for the new Gear, as Samsung only opened up the original Galaxy Gear to hand-picked developers. And Samsung's hands apparently weren't picking very many.


Simplicity isn't just part of the Pebble's identity – it's an absolute necessity, as it on...

Pebble has a pretty active development community, but the watch's hardware severely limits how many of those apps you can use on a regular basis. It only lets you store eight downloaded apps or watch faces at a time.


The Gear's processor is much more smartphone-like

Pebble Steel isn't pretending to run anything more than simple text-based apps, so we wouldn't worry too much about its rudimentary processor. With that said, the Gear's dual core chip gives it a much higher ceiling for eventually running much more smartphone-esque apps.


Release dates for each watch

Pebble Steel started shipping last month, but it looks like orders from Pebble's website (currently the only place to get one) are pretty backed up. In other words, if you haven't yet placed an order, don't expect to get one within the next month.

The Gear 2 launches in April, alongside the Galaxy S5, Gear 2 Neo, and Gear Fit.


The Gear 2 costs $50 more than Pebble Steel, though there are also cheaper options for bot...

We expected the Gear 2 to go for US$300, and it turns out that was right on the money. The camera-less Gear 2 Neo will shave $100 off of that, to undercut the Pebble Steel.

The original Pebble's $150 price made it easy to live with the watch's simple hardware, but with the Pebble Steel's fancier design, it's creeping closer to the tax bracket of higher-end rivals like the Gear 2. You can save $20 on it, though, by skipping the stainless steel band.

Technology or classic style?

Again, it's debatable whether wearables should even be looked at through the lenses of tech specs and hardware features. If you want a watch that, first and foremost, looks like a piece of jewelry, and, secondly, functions as a tech product, then Pebble Steel is right up your alley. If extensive features are more your cup of tea, then the Gear 2 might be the better choice. Both approaches are valid, and only you can know what you want out of a smartwatch. But with that said, if app developers take advantage of the Gear's higher-end hardware, then it will eventually do much more than Pebble Steel does.

Just remember that unless you own a Samsung Galaxy phone, or are thinking about buying one sometime soon, this comparison isn't going to mean a lot to you. As many cool features as the Gear 2 has, you have to pair it with a Galaxy phone or look elsewhere.

If you want to read up on these watches' 2013 predecessors, then you can hit up Gizmag's reviews of the Galaxy Gear and standard (plastic) Pebble.

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

I liked the article and comparison, except for one mistake. On screen size 320*320 vs 168*144 equates to 102,400 pixels vs 24,192 pixels which is 4 times as many pixels. This is a huge difference, roughly the same difference between 800*600 vs 1900*1080 monitors. Otherwise fair assessment everywhere else.

My prediction is the Gear tied to the new S5 will start to pull Samsung further ahead of Apple in cellphone sales and deservingly so. However, this blows my mind because Apple was the 1st company to come out with a good touch screen smartwatch that linked to it's phones several years ahead of everyone else ( the Ipod Nano ) only to pulled it from the market when it started to become popular (really bad idea).

Matt Fletcher
12th March, 2014 @ 07:14 pm PDT

Really like this comparison! Most that I've read start with a distinct bias towards the Pebble but this lays it out far more objectively. I've had a Pebble (plastic version) and rated it's functionality but it went on eBay as soon as the Gear 2 appeared and I can't wait to make better use of my wrist.

Incidentally, I'm sure that the information on the straps is the other way round. The Gear 2 can take any standard 22mm strap, although it looks like anything too fat will struggle to fit under the lip at the edge of the watch. The Pebble Steel, however, can only be fitted with either of the 2 straps it comes with - look at the three mounts where the strap attaches - a standard strap isn't connecting to that.

Well done though!

13th March, 2014 @ 02:34 am PDT

A quick note to add to your comparison, the Samsung Gear 2 features 22mm standard watch strap pins allowing the user to attach any standard watch strap Samsung manufactured or 3rd party to the device.

Dan Parry
13th March, 2014 @ 03:22 am PDT

Ghastly ugly designs! If you are going to go digital then show the seconds.

It seems that the watch world has way too much baggage and acceptability.

Completely unacceptable. And not even worth reviewing.


Lewis M. Dickens III
13th March, 2014 @ 09:07 am PDT
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