Galaxy Gear vs. Pebble vs. Sony Smartwatch

by: Nate SwannerSeptember 4, 2013
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samsung galaxy gear aa 5

With the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, Samsung has made their foray into the wearable tech sector. With competition looming on the horizon, Samsung also has a pretty strong contingency of incumbent watches to deal with. The Pebble and Sony offerings are far and away the clear competition right now, as Motorola has all but abandoned the MotoACTV.

We’ll compare the three — Galaxy Gear, Pebble, and Sony Smartwatch — in a few key areas. At first glance, they all seem pretty much the same, but once you dive into the nuance, they become three very distinct choices.

samsung galaxy gear aa 11


The Galaxy Gear has a gorgeous display, and is the largest of the three. The 1.63-inch Super AMOLED is easily the most vibrant, as well. With 278 PPI packed into the 320 x 320 resolution watch, the screen here is far and away the best.

Pebble has their very curious e-paper display, which is a polarizing decision. Though it does mitigate battery drain, it’s not as pretty to look at when compared to the other two we’re discussing. At 144 x 168, it has an elongated design as well. Though it does look the best of the three when off, that’s really not what you want from a smartwatch screen.

Sony is maybe best known for their displays, and their Smartwatch doesn’t disappoint. While not quite as vibrant or large as the Samsung Gear, the 1.6-inch, 220 x 176 display leaves almost nothing to be desired.

Pebble Smartwatch


Though the size of the battery is probably a moot argument for smartwatches, the life extracted from them isn’t. Perhaps more than a smartphone, you want your watch to last all day. Trying to find an outlet for your phone is headache enough, but doing so for your smartwatch? No — just, no.

Samsung tells us the Gear will get a full 24 hours under “normal use”, but they also note that testing is ongoing. They did let it slip that with more rigorous use, the battery life would be compromised. For the sake of argument, we’ll say somewhere around 20 hours is fair for the average consumer.

Battery life is where the Pebble comes in strong, as that e-paper display starts to prove its merit. The Pebble homepage notes a full week of charge, and that’s no exaggeration.

The Sony Smartwatch clocks in at around 4 days of life with normal use, which isn’t bad at all. While the full week of the Pebble is ideal, the single day (at best) of the Gear is unacceptable for many. Sony, once again, sits right in the middle of the frey.



This is where it gets really interesting. The Gear is very much a Samsung device, and remains hamstrung by the limitations placed on it. It only works with the Note 3 (for now), and seems to be closely tied into their ecosystem. We doubt it will ever work with anything but a Samsung device, and though it has 70 apps available at launch, you’re still tethered to one device for everything you need.

Sony has a more generous spirit here, as their Smartwatch will work on any Android device, and has about 200 apps available. Sony has updated the software for the watch a few times, giving us confidence they haven’t abandoned the concept like Motorola has.

Pebble, however, wins big points in a small way with their ecosystem. In a strange way, an argument can be made that they don’t have one. It uses the cult hit iftt, but can also be modified by tinkering with the code. It’s open source in an extreme way, which is nice — but not for everyone. The average consumer won’t have a clue how to do any of that, so Pebble will have to rely on their app to do the work for many of us. It’s a nice enough app, and the welcoming open source nature means the possibilities are nearly endless.


So, which is the best?

If we’re comparing the three on specs alone, the Galaxy Gear would have a strong showing for it’s gorgeous design and display. The poor battery life really makes us think twice, as does the very restrictive nature of the ecosystem. For all intents, the Gear is just a notification system for the Note 3. It has things like a camera, but that’s gimmicky.

The Pebble is probably the most confused — and confusing — of the three. It has a terrible display, comparatively, but is a dream come true for tinkerers. It’s probably adequate for the average consumer, but if someone were to get serious about smartwatches, this may not be their choice. While Pebble has a lot going for it, they’re just being outclassed by everyone else.

The Sony falls into the middle of the road just about every time, which is probably why it is discussed so little. Of the three, the Sony Smartwatch is the best all-around choice. It can be used with any Android device, has a pretty robust ecosystem, and will last a few days on a charge. You’ll get more from one or two areas with other smartwatches, but the Sony ties it all in very nicely.

  • willie013

    Sony is d best

  • End in sight

    Sony comes up #1 in watches. Not surprising. I hope one day they top the phones and eventually tabs too.

  • Deondrae

    Can the new samsung Galaxy Gear:

    Can it receive and send texts ?
    Use Viber, WhatsApp or Other messaging services to send messages?
    Send a Tweet?

    • Skander


    • Mark

      why do you care about being able to SEND texts FROM your smart watch? lol the phone is just a couple inches away. they all receive notifications.

    • Afnan Muhammad

      Typing using small display will be very hard. No one gonna use it

      • John

        That is why a SmartWatch should use voice. I personally would love to be able to send a quick reply with my smartwatch. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t write a book or even leave a message as long as this post with a smartwatch, but to be able to answer little things back, that would be great.

    • slut

      Before you ask, no it doesn’t bake bread either, sorry.

  • Dick MacInnis

    The much touted amoled screen that Samsung uses is impossible to see in strong daylight, unlike a traditional watch. I expect the pebble to best perform AS A WATCH!

    • Bone

      AS A WATCH, why not do for the regular thing?

      As a SMART WATCH Samsung is on the right path, but it’s quite rocky so far, 2nd generation will be much more refined. Technology is simply not ready for a smartwatch, and as always, early adopters will help refine it while tech catches up.

      • fritzed

        The very name “SmartWatch” indicates that it is a watch that has other capabilities. The Samsung device is not a watch. It is a miscellaneous gadget that can go on your wrist and has the ability to tell time. It clearly was not designed around this feature in any way, so it’s not a watch.

      • Mort74

        A “smart watch” should imply both: a WATCH, so I can just glance at my wrist and know how late it is, and something “SMART”.
        Pebble surely does best in the first part. It’s always on, has a long standby, and is perfectly readable in almost every situation. The backlight doesn’t blind you when it’s dark, and the display even looks better the brighter the sunlight. And there are loads of nice watchfaces.
        With the “smart” things, it becomes a bit difficult. Pebble surely is the “dumbest” of the smartwatches so far, but then again, what do you want to use the watch for? It’s no fun at all to write long texts on your other wrist, or use a touch screen your finger tip covers about a quarter of. So what’s left for really useful usage is acting as additional display for the phone, so you don’t have to pull it out for each and every message, call, appointment, … (except those you want to reply to) or maybe navigation (then again, a tiny display on the wrist really isn’t the best place to look at in car or on bike…), and motion input for apps like runtastic. Both also done quite well by the Pebble. Maybe having a microphone for voice control (like Siri or Google Now) might be a nice addition at times, but I for one don’t like to publicy talk to my wrist…
        Of course the Pebble isn’t perfect. Touch input could be nice at times, and a fast color ePaper would be really great – but it doesn’t look like there’s a good solution available so far. Newer hardware probably could be faster with longer standby time. The memory for apps/watchfaces is too limited (2MB iirc). And so on.
        But imho, the current “smart watch” trend is too much “small, almost unusable PDA on the wrist” and not enough smart *watch*.

  • IulianPeride

    1 important thing noone mentioned yet:
    Is galaxy gear able to show the time/date and does it have a timer, it allows you to set an alarm or something like that? Does it have any sleep tracking options?
    No comment on battery life, a big “LoL” there.

  • Ryan Castle

    Sony is the best all-around smartwatch for now.

  • brendan soliwoda

    I definitely want a smart watch and I’m def going for the Sony Smartwatch 2. Hope it has GPS though, cause it would be amazing to use maps on a screen that small instead of my phone.

  • Arvind Ramani

    sony watch is a ver good SMART watch but pebble has got to be the best contender for best accessory and cheap too

  • Albin

    Pretty good review. It’s really early days for these things. I have the impression Samsung rushed release to beat Apple to market, and limited functionality to make everything work.

    My experience with sealed batteries has not been good after a year or so. I’d be unwilling to buy another $300 gadget on that basis, regardless of “day 1” performance claims.

  • Thanks for covering this but that’s a serious loss of features just for the sake of battery life.

  • fritzed

    You fail to mention one very important point. The pebble actually displays the time for that full week. The Sony and Samsung watches must be “woken up” just to view the time. This kind of undermines the whole “watch” aspect of them as smartwatches.

    • Easy

      Read somewhere that it shows the time when you lift your arm or something like that. I agree with you, it should be showing time without pressing a button. Say I am walking with coffee or a laptop in one hand, I should be able to see the time without the use of my other hand. I can do that with my phone :) Anyway I feel Gear is costly, has poor battery life and has unnecessary camera (and may be 4GB because of that).

      • fritzed

        A sensor like this is nice in concept, but it’s fairly hard to guess when the user is looking at the watch based off of an accelerometer. Pebble actually uses this concept (optionally) to turn on the light. In reality, it seems to turn on if I swing my arm too hard and not turn on reliably when I actually lift my wrist. :P

    • Afnan Muhammad

      I doubt anyone will buy this just to view time

      • abazigal

        I would expect any similar device I wear on my wrist to tell time properly, in addition to the other features I buy it for.

    • dmagicp

      Not true at all. The Sony SW2 shows the time constantly while being worn. It has a smart feature that when you take it off and it senses zero movement, it puts the watch in deep sleep. As soon as you pick it up, the screen wakes and starts showing the time again all without you having to touch anything or press any buttons. Since you don’t own this watch, or know how it works, you probably shouldn’t make bold claims such as these as if they are fact.

  • A friend has the Sony. Rarely wears it anymore. The limitations of the screen were most of the complaint. I’ve got a Pebble. That “terrible” display is, to me, one of its greatest strengths. It’s visible in any lighting, and visible ALWAYS.

    • slut

      The Sony sm2 isn’t available yet, you are talking about the old model, and yes it’s not great, has a bad amoled display also, not suitable for daylight. SM2 is very different.

      • Well, that will possibly resolve or reduce one small part of my complaint, so that’s nice.

  • Easy

    “Though it does look the best of the three when off, that’s really not what you want from a smartwatch screen.” – Don’t agree. It should look good when off and when on since it is a fashion accessory for many.

    “While not quite as vibrant or large as the Samsung Gear” – you got to be kidding. 1.63 vs 1.6, I would call both screens are of the same size. Screen resolution – yes, Gear is better. Screen size – they are the same. Watch size – my vote is for Sony.

  • Obor Berryhitam

    how about that Qualcom Toq ?

  • Afnan Muhammad

    Sony is the best so far

  • Confuse-ious

    The writer is the only one confused about Pebble.
    And the display is terrible? Duh! I have my own personal facewatch that even in black and white is amazingly beautiful.

    And mine, the battery lasts 10 days.

  • Confuse-ious

    Thanks for deleting my post. Very professional.

    You should work in a tabloid.

  • john

    Let the watch makers make the damn watches. Really, make the display and SoC module and sell them to OEM watchmakers. Well designed proper watch body with Mirasol or other reflective displays-for outdoor visibility and battery life- will be an ideal smartwatch.

  • Bryan Z

    -Retail price should not be more than $149

    -Samsung should not use the word innovate in their commercials or marketing efforts any more

    -This watch looks pathetic

    -Only compatible with the Note 3?? not only should samsung have made this compatible with their other devices but also other Android Devices… Cmon Samsung without Android you’d be nothing (Tizen sucks) how about you give back a little.

    -Samsung please stop trying to be Apple (again)

    I am happy with my nexus 4 and I look forward to the next one.

  • Cao Meo

    Gear is the best imo, looks good and has a camera

  • Jarl

    apart from the nice screen
    -ugly as hell
    -too expensive
    -only pairs with Samsung phones? really??
    -24 hours battery life, MAX?
    -did I mention ugly?
    really expected more from Samsung, this is one epic fail

  • devonk

    Sony did decently with all the specs aside from how ugly the watch itself is. I could never wear one.

  • Flash custom roms on Sony smartwatch:

    Maybe one day, we will have CM 11 on Smartwatch.

  • Harry Woo

    Dame it, if not for the battery life I would pick the Samsung.

    • simpleas


  • abazigal

    When Samsung claims 24 hours battery life, expect 8-12 hours max under “normal usage”.

  • Roberto Tomás

    the problem with all of the smart watches that I have seen is that the screen uses a thick glass instead of a nice thin film display. I want to see 0.2-0.5mm displays on a smartwatch, so it doesn’t look like I’m looking into a fishbowl when I look at it.

  • Diorama

    “It has things like a camera, but that’s gimmicky.”
    You seem pretty quick to write off the camera as a ‘gimmick’, for me it is one of the big selling points. I take tens of photographs a day as a quick-note system, for remembering things, e.g. the opening hours of a bank, the floor layout at a department store, the name of a new restaurant I want to check out later, posters for club events in London, even just interesting ads on the subway. At the moment I use my phone for this, but if I could leave it in my pocket and just point my watch at whatever I need, that would be great (especially if my phone is the size of the Note 3).

  • qwer

    where is Sony Smartwatch 2?!!

  • justin ┬──┬ ¯_(ツ)

    I have absolutely no need for a Smartwatch. None. With my Note 2, I already dedicated myself to a device I know I’m never too lazy/busy to pull out of my pocket and use. I enjoy doing so.

    I want a watch with the customization capability to build and display a watch face i design, with the information I want to see at a glance. I want to use a strap of my choosing. I simply can’t tear myself away from the desire of form over function when it comes to a watch, so Pebble is the one for me.

    Until the higher end offerings from Samsung and Sony et al stop looking like an old Casio with a nice display, I’ll skip them for now. But that’s just me.

  • Bob

    im waiting for the qualcomm toq- combines pebble and sony- best smartwatch on the market