The Pebble Time Steel is a much cheaper wearable than the Apple Watch, and fully compatible with iOS 8 devices and later. So what’s the difference between the Apple Watch and the Pebble Time Steel and which should you buy?
Both the Apple Watch and the Pebble Time Steel rock a square design, with different flavours on offer. The cheapest version of Apple’s smartwatch, known as the Sport, still boasts a scuff-resistant aluminium frame, with a stainless steel model and a crazy-expensive gold effort also available. Every variant looks gorgeous, albeit rather chunky, and should keep that shiny finish for some time to come.
The Pebble Time Steel is also a good-looking watch, but it lacks the premium finish of Apple’s wearable, with a mostly plastic-coated frame that’s vulnerable to scratches.
The Apple Watch comes with a range of proprietary straps to choose from, but the lack of support for non-Apple bands means you’ll need to splash out to build up a collection. The Pebble Time Steel comes with a comfortable and attractive leather strap, plus a chunky metal band if you throw another £40 at Pebble. However, it also supports any standard 22mm band, so you can switch on the cheap.
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And if you’re too lazy to remove your watch in the shower, or you want to track your strokes in the pool, you should go for the Pebble Time Steel. It’s water resistant up to 30m, whereas the Apple Watch is merely rain and splash proof.
Interface and apps
Apple’s major selling point for all of its devices, besides the premium design, is strong support from third parties. And just like its iOS gear, the Apple Watch already boasts a strong selection of apps that cover pretty much every subject imaginable, apart from maybe monkey tennis.
The interface itself still needs refining, while apps take a while to load and third party notifications are thin on the ground. But on the whole, the Watch boasts a colourful and attractive user experience, complete with customisable wallpaper.
The Pebble Time uses a unique timeline interface which shows you everything you have planned in the future, as well as things you may have missed in the past (including any unanswered calls). It’s a simple set-up but it works well, although we’re not fans of the Time Steel’s notifications. Check out our full review to see why.
You can download a decent selection of apps from Pebble’s online store and most of them are free, although the selection isn’t as strong as Apple’s, even though the Apple Watch is still in its infancy. Still, you get plenty of watch faces to choose from, just like with Apple’s Watch, and you can now find apps from the likes of Uber, Evernote and Leaf as well as plenty of bedroom developers.
Fitness fans will probably lean towards the Apple Watch, which sports a built-in heart rate monitor on the back. The Pebble Time Steel has no such feature. The Steel does have plenty of fitness apps including RunKeeper and Endomondo, but the Watch seems to be a little more accurate at tracking your movements.
Of course, the Steel’s water resistance makes it the only choice for swimmers.
The Time and Watch both allow you to reply to messages with your voice, which is handy when you’re on the move. But the Apple Watch has a few extra features thrown in too, such as the ability to send your pulse to another watch user (which might come in handy one day, you never know) and a cool night mode. Check out our Apple WatchOS 2 write-up for more info.
If you want a watch that’ll keep on going for days without the need to charge up – for instance, you’re always on the road – then the Pebble Time Steel is your Huckleberry. With just over a week of use between charges, it’s one of the best wearables around for battery life. Meanwhile, the Apple Watch can survive a full day but will need charging overnight.
The Apple Watch uses a charging dock to power up, although there are third party stands that also charge it up and look neat sat there on your bedside table. Meanwhile, the Pebble Time Steel uses a proprietary charging cable which is a bit fiddly despite its magnetic connector.
Both watches have their own strengths and weaknesses. The Pebble Time Steel boasts water resistance and excellent battery life, while the Apple Watch is a more premium device with better app support and a built-in heart rate sensor, if that’s your bag. But if you opt for the Apple Watch, you’ll need to splash out a lot more cash and also prepare to spend more to swap bands.