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Android Wear or Pebble Time — which is best for you?

Smartwatches are uniquely personal pieces of technology. We all want a phone that has a certain look or feel, and most of us think our choice says something about who we are, and how we want people to perceive us. When it comes to our watch — essentially a piece of jewelry — things go a step further. When it's a smartwatch, one with which we interact and do more than see what time it is, things get even more complicated.

And the "style" bit is just part of it. When you spend money on a smartwatch, you are buying more than just looks. You're interested in the features, the interface, the ecosystem and how it all aligns itself together. A smartwatch needs to do more than tell you what time it is (though it needs to do that very well) and what it can do and how it does it is every bit as important as how it looks.

We've got plenty of great choices when it comes to Android-compatible smartwatches. Android Wear is the crowd favorite (with good reason) and is Google's player in this game. But with the release of the Pebble Time, there's an additional choice that we can't overlook.

Let's break it down and figure out which is the better choice for you — Android Wear or the Pebble Time.

The look. Being fashionable is important

LG Watch Urbane

First and foremost, a smartwatch is a watch. You may know a total watch-geek — there are plenty out there. They are interested in mechanical complications and the number of jewels and all sorts of things that are inside the watches they love. But they, like the rest of us, also care how a watch looks when it's strapped to the wrist.

Remember way back at the top of this post (Pepperidge Farms remembers) when I said how important the way a watch looks can be? The folks making Android Watches know this. The styles offered range from modern and simple like the original LG G Watch or Samsung Gear Live to the more sophiscated look of the LG Watch Urbane or the Huawei Watch. Android Wear truly offers something for everyone.

Pebble Time

The Pebble Time simply doesn't offer the same graceful styling that some of the Android Wear watchmakers do. I'm not about to call the Pebble Time ugly — that's something each of us has to decide for ourselves. I'm just saying that you get one design choice (though a Steel version is coming this summer) in three different colors; black, white and red.

I can appreciate the time and effort that went into a unique design for the Pebble Time. I can also appreciate that it's not the prettiest watch in my watch case.

If how a watch looks is the most important factor in your buying decision, chances are you'll want to look at some of the various Android Wear watches.

The software and how it all works

Android Wear cards

Android Wear is truly a Google product. The interface is a mix of cards and lists and really reminds us of our Android phone each and every time we interact with it. It looks good — some of us think it's downright beautiful — and is pretty intuitive once you go through the initial tutorial. Tap, swipe, speak. Easy Peasy.

Applications install to your phone, and they share an interface to Android Wear that lets you act on and with the important parts. For example, using the IFTTT and WeMo apps, I can turn on my porch light as I drive towards my house by speaking a few words and tapping the screen on my watch. Android Wear does these sort of things, where we start an action or process, very well. Definitely better than anything offered on the Pebble Time.

Both Android Wear and Pebble Time are great ways to get notified of what's happening. Notifications come quickly, and each offers a set of quick actions — archiving a message in the Gmail app, for example — that are useful and easy. Both platforms also allow you to reply to some notifications using your voice, and transcription works well on both.

Pebble Timeline

What the Pebble Time offers that Android Wear doesn't is called the Timeline. It's a scrolling list of events and reminders that you can navigate through (current, future and past) to help you keep track of what's happened, what's happening now, and what's going to happen soon. Applications can pin information to the Timeline, and once you try it you'll soon realize that it's the best interface for a wearable if you use your smartwatch to help stay organized and focused.

The Pebble Time uses physical buttons instead of a touchscreen, and to me it feels a little clunky. Tap the bottom right button to move forward in your Timeline, then tap the middle right button to dive deeper into an entry, then tap the left button to go back. The buttons are plenty large enough, and figuring out the function of all four is easy enough. It's just not as elegant and simple as swiping, tapping and long pressing would be.

Using buttons instead of a touch interface bothers me, maybe more than it should. But the user interface for the Pebble Time is perfect to help keep track of things like calendar events and when the Orioles are playing (thanks, ESPN app) and many will think it's superior to the card and homescreen method that Android Wear uses. I'm one of those people. If you're one of those people, I'm going to recommend the Pebble Time here.

If you're the type of person who wants to do more than the Timeline can offer, and want to do things like control lights or interface with other apps and hardware, Android Wear does more of this sort of thing. Android Wear is likely more future proof in this space as well, and that's an important consideration.

That battery life

Moto 360

Look, we're proponents of charging your devices — this includes your watch — every day if you need to. It takes energy to do "stuff" and we get it. Android Wear watches do a lot of stuff, and all have great colorful screens that pop and shine and make us ohh and ahh. They need daily (or almost daily) charging because of this. Until Samsung invents a solar S Cell or something that can use gamma rays to keep a battery charged, we're going to suggest you drop your Android Wear watches on the charger once a day and stop worrying so much about it.

The Pebble Time, on the other hand, can last up to seven days on one charge according to the folks at Pebble. It easily lasts me five days on a charge, and that's with me fiddling and poking and prodding and generally monkeying around with it because it's new and shiny.

This is easy to explain: e-paper. The Pebble Time uses a color e-paper display, which means it uses a metric crapload less battery power to do what it does. It also means the display isn't bright and pretty like the one on our phone, but it's not terrible. It's a bit tough to read in dim light, and the backlight (press a button or flick your wrist to activate it) doesn't help a whole lot, but it looks great outside in the bright sun.

I can't tell you if the tradeoff of having a great looking LCD or OLED display on an Android Wear watch is worth the extra time on the charger for you, but it isn't for me. I have enough things that beep here to keep charged, and those few extra days mean a lot.

I'm going to use the Pebble Time

Pebble Time

This is where I pick a winner, right?

The truth of the matter is that either one of the choices — one of the great Android Wear watches or the new Pebble Time — is a winner. It's awesome that we can do so much with a tiny box of silicon and circuits on our wrists, and even more awesome that we have plenty of great choices. I've used both Android Wear watches and Pebble's offerings a good bit, and you won't be disappointed with either choice.

But I chose the Pebble Time. Not because of the looks, because I think several of the Android Wear watches look better and feel better on the wrist.

Not because of the battery life, because I've figured out a sane charging schedule with my Moto 360 that works perfectly for me, and it never runs dry.

Definitely not because the Pebble Time uses push buttons instead of a touchscreen.

It's the Timeline. I've said before that I don't (and likely won't) use many of the functions and features built into Android Wear, both by Google and third-party apps. I recognize how cool they all are, and may change my mind if something comes along that ticks that box in my brain. That might happen, too — Googlers are a crafty bunch. But the way the information I want to keep track of is laid out in Pebble's Timeline is exactly what I envisioned when I thought about using a smartwatch. I know at a glance what I need to know, what I need to do, and what's important to me.

The Pebble Time is far from perfect, and the same can be said for most any product. But I really think it's the product that works best for me. If you want just what you think is important coming to your wrist, are OK with the looks, and want to stay away from the charger a little more, I'd recommend the Pebble Time to you, too.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

51 Comments
  • I'm still rocking my Gear 2 Neo and love it!!!! I get about 4 days of use before i need a charge. I can't wait to see the next circle Gear.
  • Never got 4 days out of my gear 2. However it would edge out about 3 Posted via my Nexus 6
  • i have OG pebble, LG G Watch, and the Gear 2 Neo, and the Neo is my favorite
  • c:
  • All I saw for that one watch was LCARS OS
  • 7 day charing vs once a day (or less)... I'm sold on Pebble. Posted via the Android Central App
  • 10 with Time Steel. ~30 with vector.
  • I own the gear 2 (ignored as usual by the tech media) for over a year and wear it daily. I bought a LG R in December and although it looks good and has great notification screen it lacks a speaker ( and a camera!). I naively thought the Android Wear LG R had a speaker and so could take and make calls. Like all other smartwatches (excl. Samsung ones) it can't and it's going on ebay soon. Talking of eBay, gear watches seem to be in short supply and sell quick on ebay these days.
  • I love the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, and I think Samsung just gets it right.
  • After reading your Pebble Time posts I almost wish I would have backed it when I had the chance. I love my original Pebble and it works without a hitch. I just can't justify buying a new watch when the only feature I really would like is the microphone. Every now and then I get a text and my phone is not within reach and I would love to just speak a response. Looking forward to more articles about the Pebble Time! Posted via Android Central App
  • Me too- Two weeks into Pebble Time and no regrets! Posted via Android Central App
  • Yes!!! I didn't know how much I would love the microphone feature, but GOOD NESS(!!) it's great. Glad to be rep'n a Champions Edition. I don't brag about it too much, but it's nice to explain when people ask "what's that mean?" I love the Weather Land (reno) & 8-bit (dPunisher) watchfaces, but my fav is definitely Domo (NHK). . . just bc Domo. I know it's not colored, but I'm also rep'n a "Domo takes over the city Godzilla style" background on my Note 4. So yah.... DomoFTW
  • You can get the timeline on the original pebble. Install the pebble time app on your phone and it will update your original pebble to the latest OS with timeline.
  • Used to rock gear 2 but switched to moto 360. Android wear is for me but there are some bugs that need to be worked on. I get delayed notifications and sometimes it takes to long to reconnect. Posted via my Nexus 6
  • I think some of it has to do with the individual watches. My Moto 360 while the prettiest is the worst performer out of the 5 smart watches I own. It reconnects all the time (slowly), has notification delays or absent notifications, and other issues with unresponsiveness . My LG G Watch which is going on 2 years old has never exhibited these issues for me. Nor my G Watch R and Zen watch. Processor maybe? I don't know.
  • Strange I've never had any of those problems with my moto 360. It may be because I have a Motorola phone though.
  • Peanut butter pebble time..... Peanut butter pebble time..... Posted via the Android Central App
  • That Pebble Time is damn ugly. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have had an original Pebble for over a year and have loved it. I got a Moto 360 on Sunday and returned it on Monday. I just missed the Pebble too much. Also, I just want my smart watch to notify me when I get emails, texts, calls, etc. And the Pebble does that well. I am excited for the Pebble Time! I think Android Wear still has some room to grow. Also, I think Google really needs to fix Lollipop notifications and how Android Wear and phones handle them... this was really frustrating to me while using the Moto 360 for just 24 hours.
  • Hi Jerry. I have a vera home automation hub that has my thermostat, a pipe heater and some hue bulbs. I can run them from my pebble either with the Vera scene app for pebble or PebbleTasker+ Tasker+ Imperihome Pro. The scene app is a simple way to control devices but I use the latter on my PebbleSteel since I also use Pebbletasker for various things already (find my phone, un/mute, etc) It is so nice being able to adjust the temperature from my bed without fumbling for a phone. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Phil, Your conclusion is something I agree 100% with.
    I love the way my original pebble shows the info, but hate the quality of the housing and wish they had more designs to offer as well. Posted via the Android Central App
  • That would be Jerry. Nonetheless, I agree as well :p
  • Simple answer to your question.. It would be android wear Posted via the Android Central App
  • Wear a real watch and love your phone more.
  • Well, judging by that headline comparison pic alone...Android Wear.
  • At this point in time, my answer would be Tizen, only because that's the OS on my Gear S, and because AW does not allow stand-alone phone functionality.
  • Gahhh the Pebble Time looks like a right clunky POS, I think I'll wait for the Moto 360 2. I'm sure an app can just immitate the features of the Pebble timeline anyhow, so devs theres your next project!
  • Great comparison and I agree I am really enjoying my pebble time, I like the way it works but I do also feel the not having to charge it every day works so well for me as I use it to wake me up in the morning and not disturb my wife, if I had to charge it all the time this may not work.
  • I might get a pebble time for a child, but not myself. I don't want accessories that look like they belong next to the ninja turtles action figures at Walmart.
  • One word: Vivoactive
  • What terrible analog watchface for Pebbletime you choose in your article for comparision... I'll use this one in my PebbleTime... looks better (not near LG but...) https://instagram.com/p/3Ra9u3IyYl/?taken-by=titan_pebble
  • Am I the only one who keeps expecting to see a picture of a giga pet on the screen of the Pebble Time? It's all preference. For me, a watch is more about form over function. I need my 360 to tell time, give basic notifications and look good while wearing it. It doesn't need to last four days on a charge, survive a tornado, and sync time with a satellite. I have my G-Shock if I need that. It doesn't need a camera or microphone. I have my phone for that, and I personally think overusing your wrist for those functions leads to social acceptable issues similar to Glass. I guess it is all about use case.
  • Love my pebble steel.
    I prefer buttons as opposed to on screen for most things. Roku remote and calculator not good without touchscreen. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Still don't know how I feel about a smart watch. I have a moto 360 that I just bought and like it charging isn't a problem. I own the first pebble and like it because I was able to take in the pool. That is why I ordered a pebble time when it was announced and think love it like i loved my old pebble. For me is just to read a message and that's all.
  • I liked the simplicity of the OG Pebble when it first arrived. I didn't care for the Moto360 at all and gifted that away. I love my Gear S, especially the way it hooks into my Note 4. I have a perfect recharge schedule every two days figured out (the battery cradle gives me that extra juice if needed as well). I sleep with my watch on my wrist and love snoozing my morning alarm from my wrist, checking some emails and responding to some texts before I even get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes, I'll make a call from my bed to the office letting them when I'll be in, if I feel like making a big breakfast and being late. All without even touching my phone. It's definitely made my life better, or more lazy, which is better lol.
  • I need excellent design and great battery life so neither at present.
  • I've had a Pebble Time for two weeks now, and I have to say that it does exactly what I want it to do. I get notifications that I care about, I get weather at a glance, I get Timeline, I can swim with it, and I can get through a long weekend of camping without needing to plug in. Is Android Wear way more powerful? Absolutely, but I also don't need any of the additional functionality that it provides. Pebble Time isn't perfect, but none of the other options are either. I prefer battery life and simplicity in my watch, and Pebble has delivered.
  • Call me old or whatever but I would not wear a digital anything on my wrist.
  • 2 things Jerry did not make a big deal about:
    Always on display. I look at my watch a lot and I don't want to press a button or make a jester to do it. I move my eyes, not my wrist.
    Waterproof. I can shower and swim with it. I can wash dishes and get gunk all over it and just wipe it off. I would probably destroy a touch screen display.
    Also, less of a big deal for some, but cloud Pebble and the tutorial documentation makes it really easy to make your own watchface/app. I wore a specific sports watch all day every day for close to 20 years before Pebble and I could not find a watch layout that was close. I got an account and used the documentation to make exactly what I wanted. I am not a c or java programmer either. For Pebble time I did the same thing. Realized I could not remember a specific time to know how long it was since that time, so I made an app to create Timestamps to pin times to the past Timeline so I could go back to review them later. Cloud Pebble works through a browser so I even do some tweaking from my Droid turbo (made a change, tested and released it from Walmart once). Search Precisioneer and Timestamp in the pebble app store if you are interested. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yes, the always on display is a great point. The time/weather/whatever is always visible and updated without killing the battery.
  • I prefer the buttons. I can control my music without looking at my watch and dismiss notifications without looking past seeing it is something I don't want. I use the customized and canned responses to messages way more often than the microphone. It is much better in meetings. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I completely disagree with this review when it comes to the matter of buttons. I find the "swipey" interface to Android Wear to be infuriating. It takes way to long to go where you need to go. It covers your screen with fingerprints. UI elements have to be huge because the touchscreen area is small. It doesn't work while it's wet. Can't use it with gloves on. And you have to look at the watch to interact with it. Pebble has the opposite of all that, and none of those problems, all as a result of using buttons. A great compromise, would be if Pebble had touch bezels, like original Sony Live View, to compliment it's buttons. You could use them soley for scrolling or directional movement. This would be the best of both worlds, and far better than a digital crown or full touchscreen.
  • Right on the target, Phil. Right on the target Posted via the Android Central App
  • Sticking with my Basis Peak... Constant HR monitor FTW. (I'm old and fat. It just a good idea)
  • Can't read article, now.  Must go find LCARS watch face....
  • Loving (or at least liking) my gear live. Who said I need to charge it every day? It's at 70% just now at the end of the day. Should get three days out of it, but I prefer to charge it every two.
  • Apparently people don't realize that most (if not all) Android Wear watches are water resistant. I could shower, swim and wash dishes with my Moto 360 if I wanted to, but I don't, mainly because the strap has that nice Horween leather
  • What I would like to know is what resolution the Pebble Time's display has. So far from every picture I've seen of it doesn't look real great. Like someone else mentioned it looks kind of like a gigapet or maybe one of those old Palm devices from 10-15 years ago. The display on the Moto 360 is bad enough as it is, but this looks worse.
  • The original and Pebble time are 144x168 pixels. My Pebble time is about 21 mm x 24 mm of screen. The smallest font I use is 18 and it is very readable. The best music app added album art and the picture looks fine even though it is a little washed out compared to an lcd. Posted via the Android Central App
  • the other one...
  • My original Pebble when I know I won't be able to charge for a while and heavy activity. Moto 360 for workdays and casual days around the city.
    Pebble Time just doesn't interest me.
    One other plus for Pebble is I use both Android and ios, simple to use on either platform. There's a workaround for the 360 on iOS, but I'm not really interested in doing that.