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Grow Your Business Technology

Apple Watch vs. Pebble Time: Which Is Better for Business?

apple watch, pebble time, smartwatch
The Pebble Time has a slightly boxier design than the Apple Watch. / Credit: Apple/Pebble

Apple's upcoming smartwatch might help you be more productive – but it's not the only new smartwatch in town. The new Pebble Time smartwatch offers 10 times the battery life of the Apple Watch, and costs a lot less. And it improves upon the original Pebble smartwatch in a few key ways, by adding a color display and support for voice commands.

But can the Pebble Time (coming in July) compete with the Apple Watch, which offers a slicker, more colorful touch screen, features like Siri and Apple Pay, and an earlier April 24 launch date? While we wait to get our hands on both devices for review, here's an early feature-for-feature comparison of both watches, with a focus on how they might help you do your job. Keep in mind that our conclusions are based on early details, and therefore preliminary.

A smartwatch's design doesn't really determine its usefulness, but business users will probably want something that looks at home in an office or a conference room. Fortunately, premium versions of both the Apple Watch and the Pebble Time are coming, both of which offer a more professional appearance than the basic plastic models.

The Apple Watch comes in four versions: aluminum, stainless steel, black stainless steel and gold. Six different straps are available, which include leather, stainless steel and plastic. We also like the large crown, which you can twist to control your navigation through the interface.

The entry-level Pebble Time smartwatch offers a plastic face in black, white or red, with a matching silicone band. The Pebble Time Steel model, meanwhile, offers a stainless steel face in silver, gunmetal black or gold. Each comes with leather and stainless steel straps that can be swapped out. And the Pebble Time's four bulky navigation buttons aren't as elegant as the Apple Watch's crown and touch-screen combo.

Winner: Apple Watch

Fashion is subjective, but we consider the Apple Watch easily the slicker of the two. Still, we prefer the more traditional round faces of Android Wear watches like the Moto 360 and the LG G Watch R to either.

Like most smartwatches, the Apple Watch and Pebble Time both work by linking to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Without a compatible phone, neither provides much functionality.

Unless you own an iPhone, the Apple Watch isn't even an option. It can only be linked to iPhones, including the iPhone 5 and later models. If you own an iPhone now and switch in the future, your Apple Watch will become obsolete.

The Pebble Time, meanwhile, offers broad compatibility. In fact, it can link to just about any smartphone out there, including the iPhone and Android phones, as well as BlackBerry and Windows Phone models.

Winner: Pebble Time

The Pebble Time wins this category easily. Few smartwatches offer such broad compatibility.

Your smartwatch can't help you do your job if it's out of juice. That's why long battery life is a huge boon to business users.

The Apple Watch's bright, colorful LCD display is impressive, but it's a real battery hog. Like most Android Wear devices, the Apple Watch must be recharged nightly. Apple estimates you'll get about 18 hours of mixed use out of the device before it's drained – long enough to get you through the workday, but not much more.

This is where the Pebble Time really shines. Pebble estimates its newest smartwatch can last about 10 days on a charge. That's thanks to its super-efficient e-paper display, which only draws power when it refreshes itself. The bottom line is that you won't have to worry if you forget to charge your Pebble Time overnight.

Winner: Pebble Time

The original Pebble already offers unparalleled battery life, and the Pebble Time looks to follow in its footsteps.

Voice commands are a key feature on a small-screen device like a smartwatch, since they let you perform all sorts of actions without fussing with tiny controls. 

Siri, Apple's voice-controlled assistant, is baked into the Apple Watch. You can summon the app with just your voice, then ask it to save a note, set a reminder or perform a Web search. You can even take a call using the watch's built-in speaker and microphone.

The Pebble Time is the first Pebble smartwatch with voice commands, and it's a welcome addition. We don't know much about the Time’s voice controls yet, though we suspect that you can save notes and update your calendar using your voice, just like on the Apple Watch. You can't take phone calls with the Pebble Time, though.

Winner: Apple Watch

The Apple Watch's ability to take phone calls helps it edge out the Pebble in this category.

Both smartwatches in this matchup are primarily focused on taking alerts and notifications from your smartphone, and putting them in a more convenient spot on your wrist. But what else can they do?

The Apple Watch offers more hardware features. For example, it includes an NFC-chip, which lets you pay for things and check into hotel rooms, making business trips easier. There's also a heart rate monitor on the back, which can help the watch track your health. 

Out of the box, you'll get simpler hardware with the Pebble Time. However, Pebble says that developers will have the ability to make special bands that add extra features like a GPS or heart rate sensor in the future.

Winner: Apple Watch

Apple's smartwatch simply does more.

Outside of the alerts, most of your smartwatch's functionality will come from apps. The Apple Watch will launch with a decent – if limited – range of apps. In particular, business users might benefit from apps like Evernote, for saving notes, and Salesforce, for monitoring business analytics.

The Pebble ecosystem is far more robust – at least for the time being. It currently includes about 6,500 apps, including everything you'll need for taking notes, tracking your schedule and getting things done.

Winner: Pebble Time

The Pebble app library has been growing for years, but expect the Apple Watch to catch up quickly.

Apple's smartwatch may include some impressive technology, but you'll pay for it. The Apple Watch is pricey, starting at $350 for the Apple Watch Sport model, which has a plastic band. If you want a steel or leather band, you're looking at a minimum $450 investment. 

The Pebble Time, meanwhile, starts at $199 for the basic plastic version. The Pebble Time Steel, meanwhile, costs $299 -- $150 less than the cheapest steel Apple Watch.

Winner: Pebble Time 

The Apple Watch offers more features, but you'll pay a lot for them – especially if you want one of the fancier models.

A smartwatch can be a pretty good investment for business users who want to ensure that they never miss an important alert or phone call.  While the Apple Watch has more hype behind it, we think the Pebble Time will probably be a more sensible choice for business users. At launch, it will offer more apps and much, much longer battery life, while matching much of the Apple Watch's core functionality. You'll have to wait a few more months to get it, though.

Brett Nuckles

Brett Nuckles has been a working journalist since 2009. He got his start in local newspapers covering community news, local government, education and more before he joined the Business News Daily staff in 2013. He graduated from Ohio University, where he studied Journalism and English. Follow him on Twitter @BrettNuckles.

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