Even at nearly 6 months old, PS is the shizzle. Here’s my take on it…
There are a number of Smartwatches out there (or soon to be out there). In my opinion, Pebble Steel is the only one that really has a decent handle on the market at this point. C|Net had an interesting article on this, too; but it doesn’t touch on all of the points I’m going to make here. I’ll try to run down why, as quickly as I can.
The Right Size
One of the biggest issues with fitness bands and Smartwatches today is their size. Too small, and you can’t get enough information on the screen to be of value. Too big, and you may as well strap your phablet to your wrist. Finding the sweet spot – i.e. the right size – has been an issue that most current Smartwatches have failed at.
Regardless of what the Pebble and Pebble Steel do or don’t do, they don’t look like anything else other than a watch, and that is largely due to the fact that the Pebble is watch sized. Most Android based watches, including the second generation Galaxy watch from Samsung, the Samsung Gear 2 and they are large and bulky on your wrist, unless of course, you’re someone like Andre the Giant or LeBron James, and then you’re likely not going to look at the device and think, “man, this thing is huge.”
The Right Functionality
· Apps and Watch Faces
This may have something to do with the amount of time that the Pebble and Pebble Steel have had on the open market; but there are a number of usable apps and watch faces available on the Pebble platform. Android Wear is still very young, and while there are some apps available for it, the Pebble still has more.
However, I’m not making this bullet about the amount of apps available on one platform over the other. I think Android Wear will quickly close the gap over time. My point here is the difference between platforms and apps. Pebble is about telling time and putting usable, value-added information on your wrist where you can use it. Pebble notifications allow you to see the events pushed to your phone on your wrist, allowing you to check the notification(s) without seeming rude. Most other Smartwatches try to be a smartphone on your wrist and not a companion or extension of your phone.
· Great, readable screen
The Pebble Steel uses an e-paper styled reflective LCD display that’s readable in all types of light, including – and most importantly – natural, direct sunlight. If you’re in a dark room, Pebble supports a “shake to light” backlight. It’s not too bright, to be too disturbing to others, yet bright enough to see; and it doesn’t stay on too long, either. Other smartwatch displays like those used by Samsung use OLED displays, and those appear black in direct and/ or natural sunlight. LG’s G Watch is the same way. Both the Samsung and LG watches also sport color displays, while I’m certain they’re beautiful to look at, they also suck battery life. The Pebble’s display is always on, and is always available.
· Battery Life
Speaking of battery life, one of the best features of the Pebble Steel is that it lasts up to four to five days on a single charge (depending on how many notifications you get and how often you have it update weather, news and other info). With Smartwatches, it’s all about data, notifications and update frequency. The more you have pushed to your watch, the shorter the battery life.
The Samsung watches can last up to two to three days on a single charge most other Android Wear watches require daily or nightly charging. There’s also a chance that you could run out of power during the day, and then what good is the device as a watch?
The longer the battery lasts, the better off you are. Even analog watches that require manual winding usually last a longer than two to three days on a single wind. This is going to be one area that wearables in general are going to have to concentrate and innovate heavily in. If wearables require daily or nightly charging, I don’t see them getting used much in the long run; and they’ll likely end up being a category of devices that doesn’t last long.
Notifications are the lifeblood of a smartwatch. The Pebble app on your smartphone pushes any and all notifications received AND displayed on your device (a very important distinction, especially if you can control what notifications your phone does and does not display) to your watch. This allows you to discretely check your notifications without having to take out your phone, turn on its screen. In many cultures and countries, glancing at a watch is a much more acceptable action than interrupting a conversation to check a vibrating smartphone.
While Pebble and Pebble Steel don’t do much more than this, one has to ask if there’s much more that a smartwatch needs to do? This is the great wearables conundrum. What should devices in this category do? While fitness bands like the Nike Fuel Band can display the time as well as the fitness information it tracks, what the right balance of functionality and displayed information is, has yet to be universally defined or accepted by users and their most primary voting power – their money.
This part of the whole smartwatch field – what should a smartwatch really DO – has yet to be clearly defined by either a vendor or a demanding public. As a result, the Pebble with its simple notification system, does a good job. It provides users with the information they want and provides for upgrades and updates via new firmware in the future.
The Pebble Steel is water proof to 5 ATM (about 160 feet or 48.77 meters). That being said, you could conceivably not only swim and shower with it, but you could go on shallow dives with it. However, I wouldn’t want to test how long each watch would stay water tight at depth.
Other Smartwatches, like the Samsung Gear watches or the LG G Watch are water resistant. The difference is that you can get a water resistant watch wet, but it will need to be dried off as quickly as possible. It can’t be held under water. A water proof watch can be held under water without fear of water coming in contact with the interior of its case.