Pebble updated its website this morning to tease a new model of its popular smartwatch. The announcement is scheduled for 10 AM on Tuesday next week, but Pebble has not specified what exactly is launching. However, multiple sources tell us that a major update to both the Pebble’s hardware and software have been in the works and that these changes could be ready to debut next week.
I like competition, and I’m glad Pebble is still in the game. And for some people, for whom price and battery life are essential, the Pebble will likely better serve them for some time to come. But, there are two key areas where I can’t imagine Pebble ever being able to compete with Apple Watch.
One, notifications on Pebble are crude. They are simply a firehouse of all notifications that your phone receives. But your wrist isn’t your pocket or purse, and most people will want to ensure that only their most important or critical notifications come through to a device attached to their wrist. For instance, you may want alerts from the NYTimes or Twitter on your iPhone, but not on your watch. Apple Watch will let you set notifications with this kind of granularity. As I understand things, Pebble simply can’t do this because they don’t have access to the same system level controls that Apple does. With Pebble it’s all or nothing, and I just don’t think most people want all.
Two, I think NFC and Apple Pay are going to be the breakout features of Apple Watch. Perhaps not right away, and maybe not even in the first generation of Apple Watch, but NFC and Apple Pay will fundamentally change the way you go about your daily life. Beyond payments, NFC will be used for boarding mass transit and planes, getting into movies and concerts and opening your car or home doors.
It’s possible that Pebble will gain NFC down the road, but even if it does it won’t have Apple Pay. It’s still unclear if Apple will ever let third parties have direct access to the NFC chip or if they will first need to be registered Apple Pay partners, but my bet is on the latter. This means that beyond credit cards, Apple Pay will control an enormous swath of NFC interactions, making it nearly impossible for small competitors to gain the same ubiquity.