In this comparison we will look at the newest line of smartwatches, the Android Wear 'collection' – this time the Samsung Gear Live version – versus the old, reliable Pebble brand, and their newest Steel model that was released in January. The Pebble Steel is essentially the same innards as before, only enveloped in a new, beautiful steel body that really dresses up the watch immensely. The Gear Live, on the other hand, also has a metal bezel, although it comes with a silicone style band (that is replaceable) – both devices would look good on your wrist at a black-tie event, although the Pebble would look more retro while the Gear Live would be more modern looking.
Other than the Bluetooth, accelerometer and to some extent water resistance , these two watches are like night and day from each other. The Pebble Steel is trying to be an elegant looking watch that you can wear on any occasion – even at a formal affair – and anyone that sees it on you wrist would think to themselves, "nice looking watch." The Samsung Gear Live is more apt to attract attention when someone glanced at your wrist and the person would come out and ask you, "hey is that one of those new hi-tech watches that I heard about?" Does that make the Gear Live a better smartwatch? – certainly not – this only goes to tell you there is a different 'look' and perception to the devices.
Both devices receive a bevy of notifications that can cause them to vibrate and light up – Calendar, Facebook, Google Hangouts, Gmail, Instant Messages, Phone Calls and Texts – and the Gear Live can receive any notification that shows up on your phone, including message previews of Twitter, Facebook, Gmail and even from ESPN SportsCenter.
Please take a look at the specifications below, where you can see how ridiculously different these two devices are from each other, yet they perform pretty much the same functions. After that, we will look a little at each individual watch and plot its strengths and weaknesses to help us determine which device will win this comparison.
Samsung Gear Live
The Samsung Gear Live is not the first smartwatch that Samsung has taken a stab at, but it is the first version of Android Live and the first of Samsung's smartwatches that can be used with ANY smartphone running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean or higher. The Gear Live suffers from the same deficiencies as the LG G Watch – Android Live is a new OS designed specifically for wearables and it needs a little work and a few updates to make it really special and functional. It also suffers from a lack of a robust App selection, but again, they will be plentiful in a short while. With that out of the way, let's look at the technical specs of the Gear Live and see how it stacks up.
The first thing you glance at with a watch is the display. The Gear Live has an AMOLED display with 278 Pixels-Per-Inch (PPI) on a 1.63-inch display – the colors are vibrant and a pleasure to look at compared to the rather 'boring' Black & White only display on the Pebble…however, the Pebble's display is much easier to see in the outdoors – boring, yes, but also very useful. The size and speed of the Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor, the amount of RAM and the amount of internal storage of the Gear Live, are simply way over the Pebble's set of electronics – but again, Pebble doesn't need to feed a colored screen or handle the likes of Google Now. The Gear Live also sports a Heart Rate Monitor for the athletic types and also has an IP67 certification for dust and water resistance – better than the Pebble's 5ATM rating. The 300mAh battery in the Gear Live is almost three times the size of the Pebbles paltry 130mAh – but the Pebble Steel will go a full 5 days without a recharge compared to the 2 days of the Gear Live. The Android Wear line of smartwatches are definitely more tech savvy and more fun to use with their colored displays and extra features, but the battery does pay the price. Speaking of price – at $200, the Gear Live is $50 cheaper than the Pebble Steel.
The Pebble Steel is Pebble's latest and most expensive stab at the smartwatch, and at $249, it is certainly their best looking rendition – design to be elegant enough to wear to a black-tie dinner. The PebbleOS is not designed to overwhelm you or knock your socks off – but it gets the job done with a series of button pushes – it is not a touchscreen – but the menus are set out in a very logical fashion The display is limited to Black & White, and though a little boring in my book, you can easily see the display in the outdoors and direct sunlight.
The single-core processor, the 96K of RAM and only 1MB of internal memory is simply not in the same league as the Gear Live – nor does it need to be given its simpler design, however, the 1MB of storage only allows you to use about 8 Apps at a time…so carefully pick your favorites. The Pebble App Store has a huge selection of applications that are updated all of the time, so while it is easy to find a good App, it may be tough picking out the 8 you want on you Pebble Steel.
The Pebble Steel does have a Sleep Tracker and an E-Compass is promised in a future software release, and the standard type notifications listed in the Introduction. The metal or leather band – it comes with both – are great looking, but of a proprietary design. The small, 130mAh battery, can give you close to a week in between charges and the device comes in either Silver or Black metal.
…And the Winner is…
In pure elegance of design, the Pebble Steel takes front and center – it would be equally at ease at the dinner table or a dinner party. In being able to read the display in the bright sunlight, again, the Pebble Steel with its monochromatic e-paper display wins. In quantity and variety of applications and the ability to run either and Android device or an iOS device, the Pebble Steel wins – hands down – provided your appetite is satisfied with only 8 applications. If you enjoy the retro look and like to push buttons to navigate around the screens, then the Pebble Steel will not let you down.
Now while it seems like I am giving the old "two thumbs up" to the Pebble Steel – there is only one finger (a thumb) in its direction – the other fingers clearly go to the Gear Live for my tastes. I like color and lots of it – I like the look of the 'Jetson's' future – I like to use my voice to navigate and my fingers to swipe a display rather than push a button – I am willing to wait a couple months to see and enjoy the bevy of applications that will soon be available for the Android Wear devices, in this case the Gear Live…so for those reasons, I pick the Gear Live over the Pebble Steel.
If the items I listed in the first paragraph sound like you, then you will be very happy with the Pebble Steel, very happy. However, if you like the items listed in the second paragraph, then you will be equally happy with the Samsung Gear Live – you get good looks that can get you through a black-tie affair or at a Trekkie convention with no problems. I choose the Gear Live from these two as the winner of this comparison because I believe it will 'live long and prosper' as a smartwatch of the future.
Please hook up with us on our Google+ Page and let us know what you think of these two smartwatches and which one you would chose and WHY…as always, we would love to hear from you.