This year there’s been a lot of things happening in the smartwatch niche … at least in theory. As we have changed the calendar to September, however, things aren’t looking as bright as they did a few months ago.
The Pebble has no doubt been the biggest smartwatch name in media. It set Kickstarter records by collection over $10 million in pledges, and I was close to pledging myself when that was still possible. I didn’t do so, because I thought I would just get one when it shipped, but now I’m glad I didn’t – because no one knows when it will ship. The September estimated ship date is here, and the only thing we know for certain is that the watch has been delayed and won’t ship in September. In fact, the September 30 deadline for backers to submit shipping info pretty much guarantees that it will be a while until the watch goes out. When that’s over, production will start on the watches that that non-backers will get to buy. I honestly wouldn’t hold my breath for non-backers to be able to buy a Pebble in 2012, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we write 2013 by the time the last backers get theirs either.
The Pebble isn’t the only contestant though. The MetaWatch has been on the market for a while, though in a developer form, and has finally taken the plunge into the consumer world with the MetaWatch STRATA on Kickstarter. It’s essentially an iOS-compatible, upgraded version of the current MetaWatch, and while the functionality could be compared with that of the Pebble, it didn’t collect as much on Kickstarter – though it got funded three times over. Perhaps the biggest difference between these two at this point is that the STRATA aims to ship out to backers at the end of September, with non-backer shipments going out about a month later.
This difference obviously has to do with the popularity of the products, as the overwhelming response to the Pebble has totally destroyed the project creators’ production plans. Not being able to produce enough of a product fast enough is a nice problem to have for a small company, though the inevitable result is that people will take their money elsewhere because they get tired of waiting.
As for other smartwatches, the i’m watch is available for those who want to go all the way and get full Android (albeit 1.6). The slightly older MOTOACTV is another option for running Android on the watch itself, but you need to root it to get that functionality from it. Both of these watches have battery life issues compared to the former two though, as simplicity easily wins the battery life war when the final product has to be the size of a watch. Finally you have the Sony SmartWatch, which – if reviews are to be trusted – isn’t really much of an improvement over the horrible LiveView in the ways that matter. Battery life also suffers due to the color touchscreen, without it gaining the advantages of full OS like the i’m watch and MOTOACTV.
It seems to me as though most people are more interested in a simpler watch that lasts for longer on a charge, which pretty much makes it the MetaWatch versus the Pebble. In six months or so, I’m sure that you can just go online and order either of these right away, but if you want a smartwatch as soon as possible, the MetaWatch definitely has the advantage. Backers will get the STRATA in about a month, non-backers in about two, and if you’re on Android, the older MetaWatch that is available right now to anyone isn’t really much different from the STRATA.