Pebble Watch Review
Pebble can justifiably claim the distinction of being the company which started the smartwatch revolution. In April of 2012, they launched a kickstarter campaign, which quickly became the most-funded kickstarter campaign in history. They held that title for two years.
The outcome of that wildly successful kickstarter campaign was the Pebble Watch:
|Phone Compatibility:||Android 2.3+, IOS 5+|
|Screen Size (Diagonal):||1.26"|
|Screen Resolution:||144 x 168|
|Screen (crystal) Material:||Scratch-Resistant Polycarbonate, with anti-glare coating|
|Strap Type:||Standard 22mm Watch Strap|
|Sensors:||Accelerometer, Ambient Light Sensor, Magnetometer, E-Compass|
|Water Resistance:||50m (5 atm)|
|Estimated Battery Life:||7 Days|
What's in the Box?
Opening the brown cardboard box reveals the Pebble Watch, the charging cable and a card with a web address to go for further instructions. The charging cable is a simple affair, which connects magnetically with a satisfying “click” to the side of the Pebble. The other end terminates in a regular USB cable. There is no charger included, and the assumption is that you would connect to your computer to charge it. I regularly charge it using the wall-adaptor part of other USB devices I own, and I find this works well.
Design, Look and Feel
The Pebble is available in a choice of colors . I opted for the red with the black strap. Let’s face it, this thing isn’t going to turn heads at a posh dinner party—at least in the right way—so I decided to go for the bold, geeky statement. Other choices are: orange with black strap, all white, grey face with black strap, and all black, which is the least conspicuous choice.
The strap is made from rubber which, combined with the extremely light body (37g), makes for a very comfortable experience. You can easily forget you are wearing a watch. There are a variety of alternate straps available online, so you can mix-and-match to your taste. The advantage to this model over its more expensive variant, the Pebble Steel, is that it uses standard 22mm straps, so you can replace it with many that are available over-the-counter at your local store.
The rather chunky screen surround is made from polycarbonate, and is the only part of the watch that is colored. The rest of the case is all black.
The screen itself is a 1.26” “e-paper” monochromatic display. The e-paper moniker is a bit misleading as it is actually a low-power LCD display with a highly reflective backing. The advantage to this kind of display is that it only uses power when the display is updating, and therefore can be left on permanently and veritably sips power. This makes it extremely easy to see outside in the kind of sunlight that would render other smart watches unreadable, but does mean that it can be difficult to see in dim conditions indoors. Fortunately, a press of the left-side button, or a quick flick of the wrist, turns on a usefully bright backlight for a few seconds.
The face cover is made from a scratch-resistant polycarbonate, with anti-glare coating. I am generally quite gentle with my tech gear, so have had no problems, but I have heard reports that it scratches quite easily, so you may wish to invest in a screen protector if you are hard on your watches, or consider the Pebble Steel, which has Corning Gorilla Glass to protect it.
Overall, I find the display very easy to read, and have no issue with it being black-and-white. This is a device for quick, useful interactions, after all. Anything that requires deeper attention will surely be done on your phone. Also, having reviewed quite a few Android Wear smartwatches, I appreciate how easy it is to steal a glance at the watch without having to make a convoluted gesture on your wrist to get the display to show. Viewing angles are extremely impressive. I find I can easily read the watch face at very steep angles from face-on.
What do you want in a smart watch? I didn’t actually know the answer to this when I got my first one. Indeed, I didn’t even know if it was going to be anything more than a gimmick with little usefulness, but I was prepared to take the chance anyway because… well, I’m a gadget freak. On the other hand, I believe Pebble knew the answer to this very well. Because the Pebble does what it needs to do with the minimum of fuss, and no extra frills, and it does it with an interface that is simplicity itself. And I appreciate that.
The Pebble smartwatch is operated by four hardware buttons: one on the left, and three down the right side. The button on the left serves to operate the backlight and back out of previous operations. Think of it as the “back button”. Of the three buttons on the right side, the top and bottom allow you to scroll through the various menu operations, or change watch faces, and the middle one allows you to select, or initiate an action. It’s as simple as that.
Initially setting up the Pebble watch was simple once I had downloaded the pebble app. Once set up, you can visit the app store where you can download extra watch faces, and choose from the thousands of apps, most of which are free.
Pebble estimates the battery life to be seven days. Personally, I found this a little optimistic if using many apps, or watch faces that update regularly. However, with up to a hundred notifications during the day, and a good deal of playing around, I found five days to be easily achievable. I’m sure that if I tried to, I could achieve the seven days specified, but, after experiencing the struggle to get one good day out of some Android Wear watches I have tried, this kind of longevity is a breath of fresh air!
One great advantage to this battery life was that I was able to use a sleep tracker (Misfit). There is no point in having a sleep tracker app on your watch if you have to have the watch on your beside cabinet to charge every night! The pebble’s good battery life made this possible. When the battery got low, I just charged it while I was taking a shower, or while I was working on the computer, and wore it all night.
There seems to be two camps regarding the looks of the Pebble watch. Some love its geeky, modern look, while some think it looks too much like a toy. Either way, it’s not going to replace your dress watch, but as an everyday wearer that is tough (notwithstanding the screen’s alleged propensity to scratch), waterproof, it’s a great entry into the smartwatch arena that won’t break the bank.
Operationally, I can’t fault it. It does exactly what I want a smart watch to do, and it does it in an efficient, subtle manner that doesn’t demand too much of my attention, or effort to operate it. If you want a more premium look, consider the Pebble Steel, but if you want exactly the same functionality of its more expensive sibling with a cheaper entry point and youthful character, the Pebble watch could be exactly what you’re looking for.