Pebble vs. Garmin: Why would a runner want a Pebble?

Chas Reviews 9 Comments

“I already have a Garmin watch,” my fellow runner said. “Why would I want a Pebble, too?”

Many runners may be wondering why Pebble, a smartwatch, is an official sponsor of The San Francisco Marathon. Many runners already own other fitness related devices, such as a Garmin (my favorite), Suunto, Timex, or Mio. Why would they need another fitness watch?

As it turns out, there are many reasons to have a Pebble as a runner. When I first received my Pebble, thanks to their sponsorship with the SF Marathon, I was a bit dubious. Sure, the Pebble is a proprietary ecosystem with its own OS and charger (another cable to lose!), but after wearing the Pebble through a few runs, bikes, and even a swim, I’ve discovered some really nifty features that help runners more than you might not expect.

  • First, the Pebble is a smart watch, not a fitness device. Sure, it has a few functions available, but that’s not its intent. It is first and foremost a customizable watch face, letting you choose an infinite number of ways of telling the time during all those moments you’re not running. There is also the cool factor of making a watch face to your desires, not what someone else tells you is “cool” (like, turning it into a PipBoy from the Fallout Series – awesome).
  • Second, you can control your phone from the watch. For years now, I’ve used my phone to play music while I run or bike. And if a song I don’t like starts playing from Pandora or even my own music on Google Play, well, I’ve just had to suffer through it. Now, with the Pebble Watch, I can skip forward (or back) without ever breaking stride or stopping the bike. Update with version 2.2… I can even control music volume! I can start or stop music or music playlists. Sure, some high end headphones will do that, too, but I lose or destroy earplugs so often I’m generally not allowed to use anything but the cheapest earplugs. Now, with Pebble, I can skip “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” when I’m not in the mood.
  • Pebble has notifications. If you own one of the latest Garmin watches, you might also get those (if they are in BT mode), but for the rest of us using high-end triathlon watches like the 910xt, we have no idea when the phone rings just who is calling. With the Pebble, a quick flick of the wrist and I know who it is – and whether I should stop to answer or just keeping on jogging.
    • I can quick scan new emails and texts without stopping to pull out my phone. I can’t tell you the number of times my phone has beeped during a run or a bike when I’ve been waiting for a potentially important email, only to stop, open my phone, and check and see it was an unimportant email from work (who wants to read work emails when out running?). I would, however, like to know if my most recent Honey Stinger shipment has been sent. Pebble prevents needless wonderment about emails – or missing a critical one.
  • Instant Backup if you forget the Garmin. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten to a location only to realize A) I forgot the Garmin, or B) The battery on the Garmin is dead. Oh, sure, I can turn on Strava or Runkeeper as a backup, but then I have to keep looking down at the phone to see my pace, distance, or time. With the Pebble, I can instantly see that information displayed without any additional effort as it effortlessly works with those apps to display information I might want to see.
  • Captain-Chas-Triathlon-NerdThe New Pebble Steel is Stylish. Okay, I’m a bit of a nerd.I dress in spandex, I wear Google Glass, and I used to wear the Fenix 2 as my day-to-day watch. However, my wife cringes every time. As the new trend is toward style and function, users of Garmin or Mio or Timex can’t walk around with their 910xt on their wrists all day (even I don’t do that). The Pebble, however, sits quite nicely on the wrist doing all the non-fitness stuff all day.
  • Pebble is easy to see underwater. Okay, this depends on the watchface, but if you have a great big time display, I can see it quicker and easier than I can on the 910xt.
  • Pebble is cheaper than a Garmin 620. The new Garmin 620 can do much that the Pebble can do, but the Pebble can be found under $100… Whereas the 620 is … well, a bit more. If you already own an earlier Garmin watch (or Timex, Suunto, etc), it would be cheaper to buy the Pebble to receive phone notifications than upgrading to the latest Garmin Forerunner and sticking with what you already have. Additional 620 running features are so new nobody knows what to do with the data just yet. It might be better to wait, buy a Pebble, and then once they know what that new data is worth..  Buy a used 620 then.

I’m sure there a few other benefits for runners that I’ve missed. If you can think of a few more, let me know in the comments!

Happy Running!

Comments 9

  1. This is great feedback. I’ve been wearing my Pebble for a year now and also own a Garmin and I’d stick to my Pebble any day.

  2. I am new to the idea of a fittness watch. I am researching the many options out there. So this may be a silly question….do you still need to have your phone with you on runs/rides in order to get emails, texts, etc? Or is that something you can do from this watch?

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      That’s a great question. Actually, *most* watches need your phone to function – including the new Apple Watch. The only watch that I’m aware of that doesn’t need the phone is the new Timex watch, but otherwise all the “smart” watches are quite dumb without the phone’s brain.

  3. Thanks for the post.
    So, the Pebble Steel comes with a leather band, right? Did you have to get a silicon band to use as you exercise? I am guessing the leather band doesn’t do well after sweating a few times.

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  4. Great post, thanks!

    How do you do interval training with the Pebble? On my Garmin I have saved my most common programs and it will keep track of lap times, lap pace etc. Is something like this possible on the Pebble?

  5. Someone concern about battery life when you use pebble watch with a running on the iPhone. What is your experience?

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