Apple’s grand ambitions for the Apple Watch are suddenly clearer

The new Pebble Time smartwatch.
The new Pebble Time smartwatch.
Image: Pebble
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The new Pebble Time smartwatch launched on Kickstarter today and has already received 30,000 pre-orders, totaling more than $6 million.

What stands out about the $200 watch—besides its color screen and famously long battery life—is its new, simple “Timeline” interface, which seems impressively easy to use.

How it works: On the right-hand side of the Pebble Time, there are three buttons. Each moves the watch timeline—the way it organizes events—in a different direction. The top button takes you back in time. The center button moves you through “present” tasks. The bottom button shows future events.

Contrast this to Apple’s upcoming Apple Watch, due to ship in April at a starting price of $349. It has a crown you use to scroll through a series of app icons, and a display that’s touch sensitive. Unlike normal touch screens, Apple’s watch can also sense how hard you’re tapping the screen, adding further sophistication. It also has a “taptic” feedback feature that simulates tapping someone on the wrist.

Apple, too, is keeping initial watch apps simple. But not this simple. Instead, it seems to be setting the groundwork to make a miniature iPhone that you can wear around town—one that is sure to get more capable in future editions. Next to today’s minimalistic new Pebble, Apple isn’t building a “smartwatch” at all—it’s building a computer for your wrist.