The smartwatch segment is a relatively new and exciting frontier for technology. As someone that switches between iOS and Android pretty frequently, I’m always on the look out for the one that best fits my needs. I’ve used all the major releases so far like the Apple Watch and a few Android Wear watches. But it wasn’t until I forgot my Huawei watch at my parents house, and had to fall back on my old 2013 Kickstarter Pebble; that it became clear to me that Eric and the team at Pebble understand what a smartwatch should be better than Apple or Google.
I wore the Apple Watch for 2 weeks before returning it because it was trying to do a little too much for it’s own good. The short version is that the Apple Watch was a little too unstable and that, coupled with nightly recharging, made it less appealing. So I decided the Pebble was fine for the time being.
Yet not too long after that I bought the beautiful Huawei watch to try out Android Wear. While I was a little happier with Android Wear, it’s UI is kind of convoluted (way too many swipes to get certain things done), the OS is too reliant on just the touchscreen for navigation, and the battery only last 2 days. But it works with both iOS and Android and has an always on screen, so I stuck with it until recently.
So, for the second time now, I’ve come to realize that Pebble is still the smartwatch for me. Why did it take me so long to figure that out?
First and foremost, as a lover of mobile tech I thought that Google, Apple, and even Microsoft knew better than anyone else. SURE the Pebble is neat, but it can’t compete with the ingenuity of the Apple Watch or the versatility of Android Wear! These big companies have been dominating the mobile space for a decade and you just assume that whatever they put out will be better than anything made by a small company. Turns out the simplicity of Pebble is what makes it better than Android Wear or the Apple Watch. Google and Apple are too focused on making a tiny computer that sits on your wrist. In my opinion, that is NOT what a smartwatch should be. We already have a super computer in our pockets. Having a slightly dumber computer on my wrist is just redundant. A smartwatch should be an extension of the super computer in your pocket. It should simply let you know there are things to address on your phone, and allow for short interactions if necessary.
The new Pebble timeline interface is amazing. It’s been about 7 months since I wore a Pebble so I’m very new to the revamped operating system on Pebble, but I love it more than both Android Wear or Watch OS. Like I said above, a smartwatch is about information at a glance. I just feels right to look down at my watch and just push up or down to see what my day looks like. Also, I love the hardware button shortcuts to get to favorite apps. Makes it a breeze to change a song in the car without looking. That’s just not possible on competing smartwatches.
I really tried to tell myself this didn’t matter but…battery life is the most important feature for any smartwatch! I like waking up and just throwing my watch on. Or not have to worry about recharging while away from my home for the weekend.Jeff Hawkins, creator of the Palm Pilot, once stated that a design goal for it was that users wouldn’t have to worry about battery life. I’m paraphrasing here, but that’s clearly one of the realities of the Pebble smartwatch – you don’t worry about battery life.
Pebble has also done a great job of supporting even theirthree year old smartwatches. Here I am trying to find the next best smartwatch, and Pebble has been chugging along making vast improvements to it’s OS and bringing more features to the iOS side too. When I first used the Pebble with my iPhone it was fairly limited. Now it has a good deal of the Android interactions. I mean, clearly not as much, but it’s a monster improvement.
Finally I just want to say that I know that Android Wear and the Apple Watch are superior in many ways to the Pebble. I know that Apple and Google will continue updating their respective hardware and make things better. But as far as I can see, Pebble seems to be the only ones making a smartwatch the right way. They focus more on what it can show you quickly instead of how many things it can do. Which is the right mentality to have when making a smartwatch in my opinion.