When it comes to wearable tech, all eyes appear to be on the Apple Watch. That said, it faces determined competition from the very company that, just a few years ago, defined what a smartwatch could achieve: Pebble.
Following the Kickstarter-smashing success of the original Pebble Watch, the new Pebble Time is approaching release, bringing with it a stylish redesign, new voice features and software that works with Android and iOS devices alike.
We've taken a look at both the Pebble Time and the Apple Watch to see which smartwatch, on paper, deserves to take the world's wrists by storm.
Dimensions and design
Apple Watch: 39x33x10.5mm or 42x40x10.5mm
Pebble Time: 40.5x37.5x9.5mm
While the Pebble Time's length and width sit in between the two Apple Watch sizes, it's a sliver thinner than both. It's also quite a bit lighter, weighing just 42.5g whereas the Apple Watch can vary between 56g and 125g depending on which strap is equipped. The Pebble Time should therefore have a slight edge for active users who want their smartchwatch to be as bulk-free as possible.
Strictly aesthetics-wise, though, the Apple Watch wins. The Pebble Time's bezel looks gigantic compared to Apple's slimline, polished aluminium design, which has the added practical benefit of maximising screen space.
Both devices have been built for durability, though with differing techniques. The Pebble Time's Marine-grade stainless steel case is treated with a PVD (Physical Vapour Deposited) coating for extra toughness, while the Apple Watch's own stainless steel case has been cold-forged, supposedly making it up to 80 percent stronger. The glass display is also protected by a layer of sapphire crystal. It's hard to say which has the advantage without real-world testing, though it's worth noting that Pebble claims its watch is water-resistant to 30 metres; the Apple Watch is certified to the IPX7 waterproof standard, meaning it can survive a "short duration of water duration" at depths of less than one metre.
Apple Watch: OLED Retina display, 272x340 with 290 PPI or 319x390 with 296 PPI
Pebble Time: E-Paper 2.5D display, 144x168 at 180 PPI
The Pebble Time can't hope to compete with the high resolutions and crisp PPIs of both Apple Watch sizes. Still, it's not all bad news - the 64-colour display is a big improvement on the monochrome screen of the original Pebble Watch, and the use of transflective E-Paper tech should mean the Pebble Time will be easily readable in direct sunlight.
E-Paper draws a lot less power than OLED screens as well - though for anyone for who wants their apps to look their best, the sharper Apple Watch displays should be the superior choice.
Apple Watch: watchOS
Pebble Time: Pebble OS
Both smartwatches take advantage of custom-designed operating systems to run apps and connect with other mobile devices. It's the latter regard that gives the Pebble Time one of its biggest wins over the Apple Watch: it can sync with both Android and iOS devices, whereas the Apple Watch - in typical Apple fashion - can only sync with iOS.
This will allow almost anyone to pick up a Pebble Time and have it to work together with their current smartphone or tablet; getting the most out of an Apple Watch demands the user own, or be willing to buy, an iPhone or iPad.
Functionality is a bit more even-footed. Both smartwatches support speech-to-text dictation, allowing users to respond to text messages hands-free. Both devices will also run a huge number of first- and third-party apps, from Evernote for the Pebble Time to Instagram on the Apple Watch. However, the Pebble Time is missing one useful tool: it doesn't natively allow users to set reminders, which the Apple Watch will do out of the box. Those who want to truly future-proof their timepiece may also be tempted by the Apple Watch's support for Apple Pay, a contactless payment system backed by eight major UK banks and all major credit and debit card providers. It's due to launch in the UK this July.
Apple Watch: 205mAH, up to 72 hours' battery life
Pebble Time: 150mAH, up to seven days' battery life
No contest here; even with the smaller battery, the Pebble Time claims more than twice the battery life of the Apple Watch. What's more, Apple's 72-hour estimate is based on "Power Reserve" mode, which disables everything but the basic watch interface. Normal usage will, according to Apple, see battery life plummet to 18 hours at the most.
This is where the Pebble Time's E-Paper screen starts to pay off. Yes, it's not nearly as good-looking as the Apple Watch's display, but unlike the latter's OLED tech, E-Paper only draws power when refreshing - hence the lengthy battery life. Daily charging might not be a huge problem for casual consumers who can leave their Apple Watch plugged in at home overnight, but for business users who frequently travel, the Pebble Time's longevity is a considerable advantage.
Apple Watch: 8GB
Pebble Time 16MB
Storage is an easy victory for the Apple Watch, trouncing the Pebble Time's tiny 16MB flash drive. That's enough for a fair few apps, but storing music and pictures is a no-go.
To be fair, the Apple Watch makes the odd move of segregating its memory, capping picture storage to 75MB and music storage to 2GB. The rest, presumably, will be taken up by apps, settings and the OS. Still, while this limits the Apple Watch to holding a couple of hundred songs and photos, that alone is a lot more than what can be squeezed onto the Pebble Time.
While facing the hugely-anticipated Apple Watch off against the plucky, crowdfunded Pebble Time might seem like an unfair fight, the latter is a serious challenger to what might otherwise be another case of Apple dominance. The extended battery life, superior waterproofing, platform agnosticism and low price - just £179 to the £299 cost of the cheapest Apple variant, the 38mm Apple Watch Sport - will make it an attractive prospect to fitness enthusiasts and "road warrior" enterprise users alike.
Still, there's the old maxim of "you get what you pay for" to consider, and the Apple Watch clearly has the better display and storage specs. These give it a versatility which, unfortunately for this underdog, the Pebble Time just can't beat.
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