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Samsung Galaxy Gear vs. Pebble smartwatch

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September 17, 2013

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

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

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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

The Gear has the larger main unit

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 is 36 percent lighter than the Gear

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

Build

It's odd to see a Samsung device that isn't made of plastic

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 are sold in a variety of colors, but you might have trouble finding a Pebble in anyth...

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)

The Gear's display is much more like a smartphone's than Pebble's is

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's screen is also bigger and sharper

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

Compatibility is a major advantage for the Pebble smartwatch

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

The Pebble watch is compatible with the iPhone (iPhone 4 and up)

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

Pebble's Bluetooth LE isn't available right now, as software has it disabled

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

Since notifications are such a big part of the smartwatch experience, it's worth noting th...

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

The above are manufacturer estimates for battery life ... we can vouch that Pebble's typic...

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

The Galaxy Gear makes phone calls (technically through your phone), while the Pebble doesn...

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

The Galaxy Gear delivers voice control, via Samsung's S Voice

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

The Galaxy Gear has a 1.9-megapixel camera on its band

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 have some waterproofing, but Pebble's is superior

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

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

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

The Gear's processor is faster, but most processing happens on your phone

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

Neither watch has an NFC chip

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

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

The Gear costs twice as much as Pebble ... and that's not including the Samsung Galaxy pho...

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 covers consumer technology for Gizmag. He's previously written for Android Central, Geek, GottaBeMobile, Android Police, and The Huffington Post.
He lives in New Mexico, U.S., with his lovely 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
21st September, 2013 @ 11:15 am PDT
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