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2015 is, undoubtedly, the year of the smartwatch. All eyes turned to Apple when they announced the release of their own offering – the ‘creatively named’ Apple Watch, which will retail from $349 for their entry-level Sport model all the way up to an astounding $17,000 for the luxurious 18-karat gold ‘Edition’ model.

However, the tech giants will be facing off against some well-established competitors in the field such as Pebble and Samsung. Not only that, the last six months have seen a slew of competition joining the battle, such as Motorola’s Moto 360. With little more than its price tag to put us in awe, Apple will, no doubt, take some casualties. But will any competitors slay the chic giant? We weigh in on Apple’s stiffest competition of the year.

Pebble Time / Pebble Time Steel

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Pebble has been in the game for a while now, with their original smartwatch launching in 2013. The company’s third-generation offering, the Pebble Time, along with the Pebble Time Steel (premium edition) – raised over $20 million in March 2015, annihilating the original $500,000 goal. While the cheapest among the competition, retailing at $199 and $299 respectively, Pebble has proven to be a stone in Apple’s shoe, and for good reason.

Here are some of the key reasons the Pebble Time is a major contender:

  • More accessible – The Pebble Time uses an Android and iOS compatible operating system, while Apple is exclusive to iPhone 5 users and above.
  • More usable – Holds a 7-10 day charge thanks to a daylight-readable, e-paper display, while Apple’s offering is limited to 12-18 hours. The Pebble Time is also water and dust-resistant, making it a more functional, durable smartwatch.

More choice and potential for development

With the Pebble Time, you can use any 22mm watch strap, whereas with Apple you’re limited to their luxurious yet pricy selection. The new ‘smartstraps’ hardware will also allow developers to add impressive features to the watch’s strap without increasing the watch’s size. These include a longer battery life, GPS, a thermometer and more.

It’s true – the Apple Watch is arguably more feature-rich. However, this comes at the price of its abysmal battery life and premium price. With its multi-OS compatibility, substantial battery life, and accessible price tag, could the Pebble Time prove to be the ‘everyman’ victors of the smartwatch war? You could say that only time will tell.

Motorola Moto 360

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Motorola’s ‘Moto 360’ is, at first glance, an elegant, striking watch, with a standard circular display and watch hands, quite unlike the Apple’s boxy, futuristic shape. There’s no doubt about it, the Moto 360 is a looker, and its beauty almost skews my judgement – almost! Late to the game, Motorola’s smartwatch offering takes advantage of Google’s ‘Android Wear’ operating system.

However, Motorola has favoured style over substance with a bulky size, poor battery performance, and outdated processor. The sacrifices we make for fashion, right? In comparison, the Apple Watch is more powerful, smaller, and slightly longer-lasting. There are still some reasons to favor the 360 over the Apple, however:

  • Sleek, elegant design – For some, this will be reason enough to grab the Moto 360 over the Apple Watch. The circular display alone ensures that the watch is possibly the more wearable device, as it looks less like a ‘tech gadget’ and more like a stylish wristwatch (albeit, a rather large one).
  • Durability – with excellent build quality coupled with both water and dust resistance – neither of which Apple’s watch have – the Moto 360 is certainly tougher.

While the Moto 360 is unlikely to defeat Apple on the battlefield outright, its stylishness combined with its modest retail price starting at $250 may win over the fashion and budget-conscious, along with Android die-hards.

Samsung Gear S

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Samsung was one of the first ‘unto the breach’ of smartwatch production. The highest spec offering from their recent batch of releases – the Samsung Gear S – is certainly an interesting one. With its curved, rectangular display, bulky size, and Samsung’s eccentric ‘Tizen’ operating system, users may, instead, favor the competition for familiarity and style.

Samsung more than makes up for its eccentricity and bulk with its host of impressive, exclusive features:

  • Built in 3G connectivity & SIM card – For all intents and purposes, the Gear S can function as a standalone smartphone. Unlike the Apple Watch, which relies on an iPhone for connectivity, you can browse and take calls with the Gear S. For those of us who don’t feel too silly speaking to our wrists, this could be fairly useful.
  • Curved, AMOLED display – the Samsung Gear S has a 2-inch, AMOLED display with a 360 x 480 pixel resolution. While it is rather large, the display is high-quality, and a pleasure to use.
  • UV and Brightness Sensors – The Gear S can detect if UV light reaches dangerous levels, as well as adjusting its brightness to the environment – two brag-worthy, if not particularly necessary features.

Retailing at $299, the Samsung Gear S is far from cheap, and the dearest out of Apple’s competition. Despite that, it’s probably the best smartwatch on the market with its functionality, 2-day battery, and lovely screen functions. However, its bulky size renders it both uncomfortable and unfashionable.

When smartwatches like the Moto 360 or Apple Watch are being geared towards aesthetics, this might just lose the battle for Samsung. However, they have not lost the war. Samsung has a circular-display smartwatch in the making. With the same features as the Gear S, this may be the kingmaker that Samsung needs.

Conclusion

It’s clear that Apple has some fairly stiff competition. While Android offerings such as Motorola’s ‘Moto 360’ or even Samsung’s ‘Gear S’ are unlikely to take the lion’s share of the market, it is Pebble – the unlikely underdog of this story – who poses the greatest threat to Apple. Despite the Pebble Time’s low cost, the watch manages to stay competitive with the Apple Watch’s features, boasting a far better battery life in the process. Join us as we face the two against one another as they struggle for supremacy over the rapidly growing smartwatch market.

 

 

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