Purchasing new hardware? Read our latest product comparisons

Samsung Galaxy Gear vs. Pebble smartwatch

By

September 17, 2013

Gizmag compares the features and specs of the Samsung Galaxy Gear (left) and Pebble smartwatch

Gizmag compares the features and specs of the Samsung Galaxy Gear (left) and Pebble smartwatch

Image Gallery (21 images)

In a few weeks, Samsung will launch the most advanced smartwatch to date, the Galaxy Gear. But if you're only asking for the simplest essentials, then the Pebble smartwatch is a great product that you can buy today. What happens when you put the two side by side? Let's find out, as Gizmag compares the features and specs of the Samsung Galaxy Gear and Pebble smartwatch.

Size

When comparing only the watches' main bodies, the Galaxy Gear is much bigger. We're talking 12 percent taller, 12 percent wider, and nine percent thicker. Part of the increased height, though, can be chalked up to how the Gear's face curves around your wrist a bit farther than Pebble's does.

Weight

Pebble isn't just smaller, it's also 36 percent lighter than the Gear (weights include the default watch bands).

Build

Pebble is made of plastic, but we don't necessarily have a problem with that. Its striking looks and smaller footprint (or, ahem, wristprint?) make it a fairly stylish addition to your attire.

Colors

Both watches are made in a variety of colors, though the Pebble's lone retail home (Best Buy) currently only sells the red and black models.

Display (type)

This is one of the biggest differences between the two watches. The Galaxy Gear's screen is basically a shrunken-down smartphone screen. Pebble's screen is monochrome, and doesn't respond to touch. Instead you'll have to use physical buttons on the side of the watch.

Display (size and resolution)

The Gear also gives you a much bigger and sharper screen. Its pixel density is in the same ballpark as the Galaxy Note 2, while the Pebble's density is closer to that of Amazon's (pre-Paperwhite) Kindle e-readers.

Android compatibility

Pebble has a huge advantage here. If your Android phone runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread (released in late 2010) or higher, then you're in the clear.

The Gear, meanwhile, only works with one phone at launch, Samsung's Galaxy Note 3. October software updates (to Android 4.3), though, will supposedly add the Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3, and Note 2 to that list.

iPhone compatibility

Tally up another win for Pebble, as it syncs with iPhones (iPhone 4 and later). It also works with the iPod touch, but you'll want to sync with a smartphone to get the full benefits of your new smartwatch.

Bluetooth

Your shiny new smartwatch gets most of its data from your phone, so it needs to connect somehow. That somehow is Bluetooth.

Pebble technically has the hardware to support the power-conserving Bluetooth Low Energy, but its software doesn't support it (at least not yet).

Notifications

Why bother shining the spotlight on notifications? Because that's one of the core features of this first wave of smartwatches. Get a text, email, or call on your phone, and your wrist-computer will let you know with a vibration (or perhaps a sound).

The difference here is that Pebble's main job is to serve up notifications. The Gear does that, and much more.

Battery life

In our testing, Pebble's battery lasted around five days. With lighter use, the "up to seven days" estimate is probably reasonable. We're still waiting to put Samsung's 24+ hour estimate for the Gear to the test.

Phone calls

This is one of the big draws of the Galaxy Gear. It includes a microphone and speaker, so you can use it to make phone calls. Your smartphone is still placing and receiving the calls, but on the user end, it should appear that it's all happening on the watch.

Voice control

Another big advantage for the Gear: Samsung's S Voice (think Siri, only made by Samsung) is in tow, taking us all one step closer to Dick Tracy's watch.

Camera

Speaking of Dick Tracy, the Gear also includes a camera. It isn't, however, front-facing to allow for video chat. Instead, it lives on the strap, opening the door to some creepy spy shots. Its resolution is about what you'd get from a smartphone's front-facing camera.

Water resistance

Both watches give you some water-proofing, but Pebble's is better. The Gear is limited to some rain or maybe a shower. You can actually go swimming while wearing your Pebble (we've been swimming daily in ours, and it's still ticking like the day we bought it).

Watch band swapping

Since the Gear's camera is embedded into its strap, it wouldn't exactly make sense to swap it for a standard watch band (which you can't even do). Pebble lets you swap its strap for a standard 22 mm watch band.

Processor

Since so much processing happens on your synced smartphone, we aren't going to worry too much about the watches' CPUs. For what it's worth, though, the Gear's is much faster (though it's still much slower than modern smartphone processors).

NFC

Sony's Smartwatch 2 has near-field communication on board (mostly for super-easy Bluetooth setup), but neither of these watches bothered with NFC.

Apps

Both watches run apps, but in very different ways. Samsung has struck deals with a slew of top developers, bringing wrist-based versions of apps like Path, Evernote, Pocket and Glympse to the Gear. Pebble, meanwhile, has an open-source SDK, so its apps tend to be more of the low-key homebrew variety.

Expect more polish, variety, and commercial appeal from the Gear's apps; expect more flexibility and (perhaps) outside-the-box creativity from Pebble's.

Price

It all leads up to this. It's a no-brainer that the Gear delivers more features and superior specs, but you'll also have to pay twice as much to get those extra goodies. If you account for buying a new Galaxy Note 3 to sync with it, then that price difference goes up dramatically.

Wrap-up

Like we said at the top, these are two very different approaches to smartwatches. We have the crowdfunded startup watch, playing the budget underdog role. Then we have the debut Galaxy Note 3 "companion device" from one of the biggest names in mobile.

There's a temptation to use these comparisons to declare a clear-cut, absolute "winner." But we can see both of these watches making different people very happy. Pebble's notificiations, music controls, and fitness tracking will be enough for a lot of people. That US$150 price tag is pretty nice too. Then you have the Gear, with its multitouch color display, voice control, camera, and ability to make calls. Just be prepared to lock yourself in to Samsung's Galaxy ecosystem if you want to enjoy those perks.

For more, you can check out our comparison between the Gear and the Sony Smartwatch 2, our hands-on with the Gear, or our full review of Pebble.

The post was corrected on 9/19 at 3 pm EST to correct Pebble's weight.

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Before finding a home at Gizmag, he had stints at a number of other sites, including Android Central, Geek and the Huffington Post. 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
1 Comment

I keep waiting to see these smartwatches add voice to text features without cameras or mandatory carrier fees. Just transcribe for the hearing impaired. Higher end versions can sync to other devices or send e mail or text mail or make relay calls. The hearing impaired need cheap devices to just live or hold down a job. Most workplaces won't allow cameras. And it would be mandatory for either Uncle Sam or the employer to pay for it. The employers are forced to build ramps, bathroom stalls for the walking challenged. I don't see them being forced to provide simple communication tools for the deaf. Maybe it's because no one is manufacturing them. Out of all the millions of deaf world wide, it amazes me that someone doesn't try to hit this market nitch.

noteugene
2nd May, 2015 @ 5:25 a.m. (California Time)
Post a Comment

Login with your Gizmag account:

Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our articles