The biggest thing that immediately jumped out at me was that I missed how the watch face on my Pebble always stayed on. If I was sitting in church and wanted to slyly look down and see how close to lunch time it was, I could do the casual cross my arms and dart my eyes down at my wrist so the pastor didn't see. Or sitting at my desk with my fingers on the keyboard, I could glance at my watch and instantly see what the temperature was outside. With my Apple Watch, if it's already kind of pointed my way, I have to do an unnatural twist of my wrist. After a couple of weeks though, I got used to it, and now it doesn't bother me so much. And for someone who's never had a Pebble, it will be even less of an issue.
And if you spend a lot of time outdoors, this is really where the Pebble shines. The brighter the sunlight the more clear the text was. Every day when I would go for my afternoon walk outdoors, I never had any issues with reading my incoming notifications. The Apple Watch in the bright afternoon sunlight can make text difficult to read. It's ok with white text, but glare fades other colors. Driving with the sun is coming in through the window can create similar issues. That is one area I’m sure they will strive to improve.
At this point you might expect me to bring up the Pebble's battery advantage, but that doesn't factor in the equation at all for me. For starters, I typically got three days out of my Pebble, not the five to seven some others get, mainly because I would leave on the feature that triggers the backlight with movement. The same screen that was glorious in bright sunlight was kind of hard to read in dim light. If you haven't seen a Pebble in dim light, just think back to the earlier Kindle readers before the Paperwhite. Yeah, not pretty. After running out of juice a couple of times because I missed my every third night charging appointment, I ended up getting into the habit of just charging it every night. So I'm not giving the Pebble any extra points for battery life.
So, did I come around? As I slowly started to figure out how my new Apple Watch works, it became clear that that even though somebody had moved my cheese, it wasn't necessarily in a more inconvenient spot. And with each day that went by I was thinking I could go back to my Pebble less and less. No, I couldn't program a physical button for my beloved timer but Apple allowed me to add "buttons", called complications, directly to my watch face so that a timer was always a tap away. The reason I had to program one of my physical buttons on the Pebble was due to the fact that you couldn't program interactive touch targets on the watch face. I like Apple's approach, and it really makes you feel like you created that watch face.
This next issue may or may not be fair since iOS stiff-armed the Pebble Watch like a championship running back, but the Apple Watch and iPhone have such a solid connection that you never really need to worry about it. Whereas on the Pebble, I literally preferred watch faces which included bluetooth icons to tell me if the connection was active. It wasn't too uncommon to look down at my watch and see this morning's temperature or yesterday's forecast due to the bluetooth connection getting lost and never reconnecting. On the other hand, the Apple Watch and Apple Phone, er iPhone, are always in sync. I never have to worry about their connection, and the only thing that ever seems to break the connection is wandering too far away from my iPhone. But even then, the Apple Watch snaps right back into sync as soon as it's back in range. Getting the Pebble to reconnect can be kind of like trying to play a game of fetch with a cat. The one advantage I'd give Pebble in this regard is that the watch will notify you if the connection is lost. This came in real handy if you left your phone sitting on your dresser when you left the house. I'm kind of amazed that Apple hasn't included this feature yet.
One feature that gets me going is using Siri to send texts or answer phone calls. I do this while out running, and it is outright magical. I keep my iPhone 6 in a waistband belt so it's not exactly convenient to reach for it. Sure you can do this with bluetooth headphones as well, but the success rate with a headphone microphone is fairly low when you're breathing hard and the microphone isn't close to your mouth. The Apple Watch can easily be brought quickly to my mouth and has an uncanny ability to translate what I'm saying. I find myself texting while out on a run quite a bit more. Technically, this has been possible ever since 2011 when Siri was introduced. But until the watch came along, it was always was hit and miss because of microphone issues for me. Now that the Apple Watch upgraded to 1.0.1, Siri functionality is so good I never worry about it. The Apple Watch as a communication device is probably the single biggest reason I’d have a difficult time going back to my Pebble.
The second biggest reason I'd have a hard time going back to Pebble would be the retina screen of the Apple Watch. The Pebble watches, even the yet to be released Time, have screen resolutions that make a Gameboy Advance from 2003 look pretty good. The pixels are that big. Getting my Apple Watch was an experience similar to when I first laid eyes on my Retina iPhone 4 or MacBook Pro. Once you get used to that sharp detail, it’s so hard to go back. Even if the Apple Watch shipped with the exact same functions as a Pebble, I’d want to stick with the Apple Watch just because the screen is so much nicer.
This brings me to where the Apple Watch absolutely blows the iPhone out of the water. From a hardware perspective, it's a much better iPod. The iPhone 6 was already getting arguably too big to use as an MP3 player, never mind the 6 Plus. The new iPhone 6 feels a little large on your arm, and it's unwieldy in gym-short pockets. The Apple Watch even has advantages over the iPod Nano 7th Generation. Apple did away with the body clip from the sixth generation, so I would put that little device in my pocket. Well, it's so small and light that I destroyed my first one by forgetting it was in my pocket and running it through the wash. I no longer have to worry about that since my "iPod" is now strapped to my wrist. This is the iPod Nano I've dreamed about ever since I laid eyes on those sixth gens that people started attaching to watch bands. Except this one has bluetooth connectivity, will relay notifications, is Siri enabled, monitors heart rate, and can channel RunKeeper's interface! This thing is a dream come true at the gym. I can leave my iPhone in my gym bag and not worry about getting important notifications. In a pinch you could still take an important call. And the whole time I'm working out, I'm monitoring my heart rate, controlling my music, and timing my rest period between sets.
If I was in charge of Apple, I would have simply announced the Apple Watch as the new iPod Nano. If Apple had made this the eighth generation of the iPod Nano, the focus would have been on all the added functionality and there wouldn't have been so much hand-wringing on what its purpose was going to be. Everybody would have understood it was the little music player that you work out with but now it's greatly improved with new features.
The last reason I couldn't go back to the Pebble watch is how nice the haptic feedback is. I spend my days in a quiet office environment, and one thing I hated about my Pebble was how loud it was. The vibration with my black metal link band was downright violent, and anyone within a ten foot radius could hear it. It was like the characters from the Lego Movie were trying to jack hammer through the table. And if that wasn't bad enough, whatever text I received immediately takes over the entire screen whether I'm ready to read it or not. So, if I'm sitting next to someone at a conference table, that person may be bored enough to read my text messages. Apple did an excellent job here. The taptic engine is a subtle way of getting my attention without alerting the whole conference room. And better yet, the screen doesn't explode with a light and color show attracting other people’s eyes. So you get a subtle tap alerting you that you have a message, and if you're not ready to read it at that time, no one else would ever know.
The Apple Watch will convert a whole lot more people into thinking the tradeoff for constantly wearing a gadget on their wrist is worth it. But it still boils down to how much you value easy access to data. And for some people, the data is still not worth wearing a heavy object on their arm that will make them sweat and rub against tables. For the rest of us, it just keeps getting better.