Apple Watch vs. Pebble Time Steel: What Should You Wear?

Apple is finally entering the smartwatch arena with a device that comes in two sizes, has a color touchscreen, and includes features such as Siri, a heart rate monitor and Apple Pay. Available beginning April 24 and starting at $349, the Apple Watch is easily the most eagerly anticipated device in this category. But how does it compare to Pebble's newest smartwatch, the Time Steel, available starting in July for $299?

We examined both wearables using seven criteria to see which device holds the early advantage in the battle for your wrist.

Editors' note: This comparison is based on our Apple Watch hands-on time at the launch event as well as our hands-on with the Pebble Time Steel at Mobile World Congress. We'll update our face-off with a definitive verdict once both watches are released.

Design

Both the Apple Watch and the Pebble Time Steel have squarish displays, but the similarities end there. The Pebble Time Steel is 0.37 inches thick--20 percent thinner than the original Pebble--and slightly thinner than the Apple Watch (0.41 inches). The Apple Watch will come in two sizes: 1.5 x 1.3 inches, and 1.7 x 1.4 inches.

MORE: Best Smartwatches 2014

The Time Steel will be offered in three colors (silver, gunmetal black and silver), and each comes with a matching metal band and a leather strap. The $199 Pebble Time, which has a plastic body, comes in one of three colors—black, white or red—and will have a silicone band.

The Apple Watch will come in four finishes (stainless steel, black stainless steel, anodized aluminum and gold), and will be available with six different straps, which include leather, plastic and stainless steel.

Early winner: Apple Watch. More color options, both in the band and the case—as well as two sizes—make this the more stylish choice.

Display

Unlike the black-and-white Pebble, the Pebble Time Steel has a color e-paper display, but one that's still protected by Corning Gorilla Glass. In comparison, the Apple Watch has a color touch screen that not only responds to swipes, but also can recognize how hard you press on the display. For instance, pressing with two buttons when communicating with a contact lets you share your heartbeat.

Early winner: Apple Watch. Its display is more colorful and vibrant, and it's touch-sensitive.

Interface

Apps on the Apple Watch are displayed as small circles that radiate out from the center of the display. You can use either your finger or the digital crown on the side of the device to navigate and select icons. The digital crown also lets you zoom in on all sorts of content, ranging from maps to photos.

The Time Steel will feature Pebble's new Timeline interface, which lets you see past, current, and future events from each day using the three buttons on the right side of the watch.

Early winner: Pebble Time Steel. The Apple Watch's UI is more engaging and innovative, but the Pebble Steel's is more straightforward and has less of a learning curve.

Apps

Currently, there are more than 6,500 apps and watchfaces available for the Pebble Time Steel, including everything from RunKeeper to ESPN to Yelp. Plus, the Pebble works with both Android and iOS devices, whereas the Apple Watch works only with iPhones.

The Apple Watch won't launch with nearly as many third-party apps, but the quality of what's been announced looks strong. CNN, Instagram, Fandango, MLB.com, OpenTable, Shazam and Twitter will be among the first apps available.

Early winner: Pebble Time Steel. It has more apps—for now.

Features

Unlike earlier Pebble smartwatches, the Pebble Time Steel has a microphone, which will let wearers respond to notifications and make short voice memos (but not make calls). Plus, Pebble will let developers create custom straps that attach to the Time's battery connector, allowing for additional functionality, such as GPS, a heart rate monitor, or an additional battery.

Apple packed its Watch with NFC, which will let you pay for things and check into hotel rooms from your wrist. You also get a heart rate sensor and an accelerometer to measure how far you've moved. Also, the Apple Watch has a microphone and speaker, so you can use it with Siri and make calls.

Early Winner: Apple Watch. It simply has more sensors and functionality.

Battery Life

The Time Steel should last up to 10 days on a charge, according to Pebble. That would make it the best battery life we've seen from any smartwatch. Apple said its watch should last up to 18 hours during a typical day, which would be slightly longer than other smartwatches with color displays, such as the Samsung Gear Live and Moto 360.

Early winner: Pebble Time Steel. It's nice not to have to remember to recharge a watch every night.

Pricing

The Pebble Time Steel costs $299—$50 less than the starting price for the Apple Watch Sport Edition. However, other versions of the Apple Watch will cost much more—up to $17,000 for some limited-edition versions.

Early winner: Pebble Time Steel. The Apple Watch does more, but $349 is a lot to pay for a smartphone accessory.

Outlook

For now, the Pebble Time Steel looks to be the better smartwatch. It’s less expensive, lasts longer on a charge, works with Android and iOS and has more apps. However, the Apple Watch has a snazzier design, a better display, and many more features.

We’ll have to see how many apps the Apple Watch has at launch, which would tip the scales in its favor. Still, this is a preliminary and cursory look at both devices, and a lot could—and will—change between now and when the Time Steel is released.