Samsung Galaxy Gear vs. Pebble smartwatch
September 17, 2013
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.
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.
Pebble isn't just smaller, it's also 36 percent lighter than the Gear (weights include the default watch bands).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Sony's Smartwatch 2 has near-field communication on board (mostly for super-easy Bluetooth setup), but neither of these watches bothered with NFC.
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.
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.
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.
The post was corrected on 9/19 at 3 pm EST to correct Pebble's weight.
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