15th December 2016 Pebble Time Update: Pebble has been acquired by Fitbit and will no longer produce wearable hardware. Pebble Watches will be functional until 2018).
Pebble started as a Kickstarter project a few years back. I still remember the original Pebble I had which I could customise by purchasing overpriced stickers online, and tweak the display with the plasticky buttons. Then came Pebble steel which gave the Pebble Watch a more sophisticated look. This year, Pebble Time (RRP $149.99)broke all grounds by offering coloured e-paper display with an admirable battery life for a smart watch. And just for old time’s sake, a steel version was released as well. I managed to get my hands on a unit about 2 weeks back and here’s what I have to say.
PEBBLE TIME SHORT
- Can track steps, distance, sleep, calories burned.
- Capability dependent on apps installed
- Vibration enabled
- Smart phone notifications and controls
- Always on coloured e-paper with LED backlight
- Timeline interface
- Heavily customisable in terms of watch face, functions and settings
- Long battery life (Up to 7 days on a single charge)
- Water resistant to 30m
- Vibration enabled
- Smart phone notifications and controls
- Built in microphone allows for quick voice notes and quick replies (For compatible Android device only fror now)
- Heavily dependent on app quality and variety
- Needs to be tethered to smart phone
- No audio
LOOK AND FEEL
The Pebble Time is slim and small. I’m Asian with skinny wrist and even I thought “wow, that’s it?” Don’t let looks fool you. The 9.5mm thin chassis with curved, ergonomic profile ensures a comfortable fit throughout the day. An in built vibration motor serves to notifying the wearer on incoming smart notifications or just about anything you’ve configured it to do, within Pebble Time limits of course.Personally I found the colours on the e-paper a tad washed out. While coloured e-paper is a remarkable feat and saves battery for the long haul.It’s just not that attractive a point for me since I’m used to charging electronic devices on a daily basis.The watch strap is removable so that’s another potential avenue of customisation. A single port at the back houses the charging pins. The charging cable is proprietary so try not to lose it.The housing is made of marine grade stainless steel bezel with PVD coating, matte and polished finishes. Paired with a tough 2.5D glass display, it does give the Pebble Time a more polished look that its predecessor, Pebble Steel.
There are a total of 5 buttons on the Pebble Time and the smartwatch is not touch enabled. The controls are simple to understand and I picked it up after some slight fiddling. There’s no audio on the Pebble Time.
FUNCTIONS AND DATA PRESENTATION
Health and Fitness
Being a fitness gadget site, I explored the health and fitness app section and installed a few notable apps to try. Installation was a breeze, almost instantaneous really. Once installed, the apps stay on the watch allowing the user to easily swap watch face, switch between apps right from the Pebble Time.
Misfit Wearables is one of the few companies that allows the Pebble series of smart watches to tap on its activity tracking platform. The app worked liked a charm and allowed the Pebble Time to take on the role of a full fledged activity tracker. The Jawbone UP watch face isn’t an app per se but it takes over the screen of your watch to indicate your physical activity progress; a far cry from the full mobile app experience.Some apps like Runkeeper require that the mobile app be installed on your smart phone devices first so as to enhance the usability experience. In Runkeeper’s case, the Pebble Time serves as a second display while the mobile device can be neatly tucked into an arm band or left in a running belt.
There were also other apps which might sound familar to you; Endomondo, Runtastic, Moepheus sleep app. Basically health and fitness apps which are also available on both Apple and Google Play Store.
There were also other gems such as apps that will allow the Pebble Time to function as a timer, idle alert monitor, pedometer and even pool swim tracker.
Users can control music from the Pebble Time smart watch directly. I was able to carry out basic music playback controls like play, pause, forward, and adjust volumes. But it was necessary to start playback on the smart phone first. Now this feature may come in handy during a run where you want your hands free.
Depending on how the watch is set up, notifications from the connected smart phone device will appear on the Pebble Time. I like how I can set when the notifications should come in on the Pebble Time and when notifications will not appear. After all, everyone needs some quiet time at the end of the day.
Battery life is advertised as up to 7 days of use but it’s again heavily dependent on how the settings are customised. I had mine set to allow all notifications with high levels of vibration and “blinding” backlight display and the Pebble Time lasted about 5-6. Still impressive nonetheless.
The Pebble Time is water resistant to 30m so showers, pool swims or walks in the rain will pose absolutely no problems.
A built in microphone allows for quick voice notes and quick replies but this feature is currently available for connected Android devices only.
PEBBLE TIME IN A NUTSHELL
The Pebble Time smart watch functions as a second screen for the installed apps. It saves you the trouble of whipping out your phones but in the process compromises on display estate; leaving the user with the bare necessities. As a device for basic smart notifications and reminders, it’s a trustworthy device, anything more would be a stretch.
Perhaps 2 years ago, Pebble might have reigned supreme when there were just Samsung and a few Android smart watches. Today? Dime a dozen smart watches on the market; Huawei, LG, Samsung with its Tizen OS smartwatch, Apple Watch, the rumoured Microsoft Band 2, Asus Zenwatch 2 and many more. It really doesn’t help that Android Wear will receive compatibilty with iOS devices in the near future. Consumers are essentially spoilt for choice!
If you’ve seen the latest line of smartwatches from IFA 2015, you’d have known that Pebble Time is on a direct clash with competitively priced smart watches with increasing battery life. While Pebble’s Smartstrap concept may bring about more features, that will take time and probably be in beta form for a while.
While the Pebble Time has its strengths as a smart watch but I wouldn’t put my money on the Pebble Time watch as a comprehensive workout or fitness companion.
The Pebble Time is available in black, red and white at major retailers and is also available as a Pebble Time steel version that boasts up to 10 days worth of battery life. Buy the Pebble Time from Amazon.com where there’s usually a slight discount and free delivery depending on where you reside. In return, your purchase helps to fund the running of this site. Thanks for reading!