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Samsung Gear 2 vs Pebble Steel

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Samsung Gear 2 vs Pebble Steel

2014 is shaping up to be the year of the smartwatch. Samsung has released its Gear 2, while the Pebble Steel was unveiled at CES in January.

Google also lifted the curtain on Android Wear, which will power smartwatches from LG and Motorola.

But that’s all in the future. We’re all about the here and now.

The Gear 2 and Pebble Steel are the most advanced smartwatches around. But which should you been seen with? Let’s find out.

First impressions

samsung gear 2 review 1

The Gear 2 arrived surfing a wave of hype, but may have been overshadowed by the Galaxy S5.

It’s Samsung’s second stab at a smartwatch, and improves on its predecessor, the Galaxy Gear, in every way.

It works with more devices at launch (17 of them, though they’re all Samsung kits), has new features like a heart rate monitor, and is water- and dust-resistant, so you can wear it in the shower. Or in the desert.

Samsung has ditched Android for the Gear 2, instead opting for Tizen.

Having said that, the specs have been boosted only very slightly, with the same screen, same camera, and only a mildly faster processor.

pebble steel

The Pebble Steel is a gorgeous device, and shows the direction wearable tech needs to take if it’s ever going to become mainstream.

But then Pebble knows a thing or two about making popular devices – the Steel’s predecessor broke the record for the most money raised on crowdfunding site Kickstarter.

The changes on the Steel are mostly cosmetic – it’s just last year’s Pebble in a new casing.

Although with plenty of cool features and a ton of apps available, we’re not complaining.

Samsung Gear 2: 8/10

Pebble Steel: 9/10

Design

samsung galaxy gear 2 review 3

Samsung has upped its design efforts for the Gear 2.

It’s slimmer than the original Galaxy Gear, and thankfully the camera no longer sticks out, ready to be caught on handbag straps, pockets, and anything else it comes near.

While it looks better than its predecessor, it’s still no match design-wise for a standard watch around this price (£250).

The strap is plasticky and feels a bit cheap, though you can swap it for another if you like. The device itself feels solid and well-built.

pebble steel wrist

The Pebble Steel is a lot more discreet. It comes with either a metal silver or black leather strap, making it look a lot more like a watch.

And we think it makes a lot of sense – wearable tech has to integrate into our lives and be something we want to wear, rather than marking us out as geeks.

The screen is curved Gorilla Glass, so it’ll withstand plenty of knocks. And the device is waterproof, so you can go out in the rain with impunity.

Samsung Gear 2: 7/10

Pebble Steel: 9/10

Features

samsung galaxy gear 2 review 6

Like the Galaxy Gear, the Gear 2 lets you read and reply to messages, make and take calls, listen to music, and take photos.

It has the health features of the original Galaxy Gear (pedometer, calorie counter), plus there’s a heart rate monitor on the back, so you can check you’re still alive.

You flick your wrist to wake up the device so you can check the time, or you can press the home button below the screen.

Battery life is also much improved over the original Galaxy Gear.

pebble steel mercedes app

The Pebble Steel is more of a gateway device than a feature-laden one like the Gear 2. There’s no camera, and it doesn’t even have a touchscreen.

You only really open up its potential once you start downloading apps. Then you can check bus times, see the weather, check in to places on Foursquare, and even play games.

Some apps are better than others, of course, so you’ll have to do some exploring to get the most from the Steel.

Sadly, it can only hold eight apps at once, which really clips its wings.

Samsung Gear 2: 9/10

Pebble Steel: 8/10

Software

samsung gear 2 apps

Samsung dropped the ‘Galaxy’ moniker for the Gear 2, as it kicked Android to the curb in favour of the Tizen operating system.

The changes aren’t very noticeable compared to the Galaxy Gear. It still has four icons on each menu screen, for example.

The one letdown is the lack of apps. Tizen is still quite a new OS, and smartwatches a new category of device.

As such, the Gear 2 is sorely lacking options.

pebble steel detail

Like its predecessor, the Pebble Steel runs its own operating system. It has its own app store, which is stocked with about 1,000 apps, but many of these are exclusive to iOS or Android.

Again, it’s early days for this kind of device, so we’d expect the Pebble’s options to burgeon before long.

Samsung Gear 2: 7/10

Pebble Steel: 8/10

Ease of use

samsung galaxy gear 2 review 4

The Gear 2 is a doddle to pair with your device, though it does only play nice with specific Samsung phones and tablets.

It’s a breeze to use, too – swipe left and right to go through screens, and down to go back a screen.

Double tapping the home button will launch an app of your choosing.

In our test, we found turning our wrist to wake the device didn’t always work, so we had to resort to pressing the home button to check the time, which isn’t ideal.

pebble steel colours

As already mentioned, the Steel works with iOS and Android devices, which makes it a much better investment.

It’s not as powerful as the Gear 2, so the menu lags a little. You operate it with three buttons, which isn’t as intuitive as a touchscreen.

But the trade off is battery life. The Steel’s e-ink screen will last four or five days before giving up the ghost.

The Gear 2’s lasts just over a day. The Gear 2 also has an annoying charging cradle, though the Steel doesn’t excel in this area either – it has a proprietary cable, rather than the same micro-USB almost every smartphone in the world uses.

Samsung Gear 2: 8/10

Pebble Steel: 9/10

Specifications

Samsung Gear 2

  • 1.63-inch Super AMOLED 320x320-pixel screen
  • 2-megapixel camera
  • Metal body
  • IP 67 certified dust- and water-resistant
  • Accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate sensor
  • 1GHz dual-core processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • 4GB internal storage
  • Bluetooth 4.0

Pebble Steel

  • 1.26-inch, 144x168-pixel LCD screen with Gorilla Glass
  • 80MHz processor
  • 8MB RAM
  • 1,024kb storage
  • Bluetooth 4.0

Samsung Gear 2 overall mark: 7/10

Pebble Steel overall mark: 9/10

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