Pebbles Gets Round

I have been using a smartwatch for almost two years now and after trying a couple my favorite has always been Pebble. One of the complaints of many about smartwatches is their geekness. However for me this has never really been a problem for me because… well you can probably guess why.

It now appears Pebble is trying to appeal to those who may want to tryout a smartwatch… subtly.

The latest Pebble looks different from previous models of the smartwatch. Instead of a square screen with rounded edges, it bears a circular watch face.

The Pebble Time Round also is thinner and lighter than its siblings, but it’s not as water-resistant. Also the battery does not last as long, lasting a couple of days rather than a week. That earns it a black mark for me, as long battery life is critical for an effective smartwatch in my book. My Pebble Time lasts about a week without a charge!

It does looks to be a little classier than Pebble Time and Pebble Time Steel as well as most other smartwatches. There is of course, a new set of watch faces to reflect the new design. Pebble also has a new software development kit that aims to make it easy for developers to switch their apps from square to circular displays.

The watch starts shipping in November for $249.

As I have reported here a couple of times I am already an admirer of Pebble Time but I will probably not be switching to the new Pebble Time Round however I have a feeling it will be very popular.

You can learn more about Pebble here.

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Pebble Time Review

The Pebble Time is a very important product. Why do I say such a thing about a little smartwatch?  Well the biggest reason I would suggest this is that it is the only serious contender for the space on your wrist besides Android Wear and Apple Watch. It is also one of the less expensive options out there and powers itself quite well with all of the basic functionality of a good smartwatch.

I have been using my Pebble Time for about three weeks now so here are my thought so far.

A Fun User Interface

Designing a fun to use, beautiful user interface is incredible difficult, but I think Pebble did a great job with this. Text and icons fly on and off the screen, watch faces smoothly animate, and while the colors are limited, they feel native to the device. In short, the user interface feels delightful to use.

The Timeline

IMG_2485The new timeline interface is awesome, particularly if you schedule a lot of your life. With a simply press of the bottom button I can see what’s coming up next in my schedule, when and where. I can press the middle button when an event is at the top to see even more detail and with a press or two of the left button I’m back at right now with my watch face. I think that mental model works really well. Even if you are not a big scheduler you can use timeline to see upcoming weather ans sporting events.

Not Scared Of Water

This may not be the most important feature to everyone, but I think it really cool to have a smartwatch that you don’t have to worry about taking off when washing your hands. Also being able to just jump in the pool or rinse off after a workout is pretty liberating.

A 7 Day Battery? Maybe Not But Its Pretty Darn Close

Pebble promises up to seven days of usage with the Time. My original Pebble never lasted for seven days and the Time still doesn’t either, but I do get 4 or 5 days out of it, which is better then any other smartwatch today. With normal usage I think it’s safe to expect three to four days of battery life. You are luck to get 24 hours out of the Apple Watch.

The Band

The band on the Pebble Time is great. Especially for me because I am one of those persons who can never get a watch band to fit just right. This band is always comfortable. The other great thing about the band is how easy it is to remove. Pebble added quick release pins, which means you can very easily slide the pins out and replace the band with something else. Normally you need a removal tool to swap these out and you will probably want one if you’re going to put a normal watch band on your Pebble Time, but at least the stock one removes easily.

The Display

One of my biggest problems with the earlier Pebble and Pebble Steel was that the display had very low resolution. To make up for this Pebble always uses a good font so everything is legible, but you never get the sense that this is something that is designed to look good, which brings me to the rest of the hardware.

Pebble – We Got Color!

IMG_2484

Pebble Time features a colored e-paper display (64 colors to be exact). This is a big improvement over the previous displays in the right lighting, but its also a detriment in the wrong lighting. Because lighting is such a huge factor with e-paper displays, there are times when colors work against legibility on the Time. With the backlight on in the right lighting it makes watch faces look much more appealing and adds to the experience by allowing users to more easily differentiate different parts of the watch faces when allowed by the face designer. There are hundreds of customizations available which is great, especially with colors.

Pebble Hardware

The Pebble hardware is well,,, ok. But that’s alright if you ask me.  This is all about functionality and long battery life. Which Pebble succeeds at here.

Pebble Time App

The Pebble Time app for iOS is useful for finding watch faces and app and it is very easy to use. Again really no bells and whistles here. If I wanted that I could buy and Apple Watch.

Pebble Apps

Pebble has a small but expanding ecosystem of apps that allow you to use your watch instead of your phone, but like most things on the Pebble the functionality is often basic. This is not really Pebble’s fault, but is a limitation of what you can really do on a device this size. The best apps, not surprisingly, are fitness related, although I really like their Disney Experience app!

Voice Replies

To use voice replies you must have an Android. Today this functionality is not available on iPhones. To use voice replies you just press the middle button on a notification, select Reply, and select Voice. Pebble will then say that it is listening and you can dictate your response. After dictating, the Pebble will transcribe the response and display it to you before sending. If you’re good with the response you can press send. I love the send animation (a paper airplane flying away). I have not been able to really use this because I have an iPhone. I hope iPhone compatibility with this arrives soon.

Brightness of the Display

While the display can struggle a bit in normal lighting it is very easy to look at outside, in the sun.

While the display can struggle a bit in normal lighting it is very easy to look at outside, in the sun.

The display brightness on the Pebble Time is my least favorite feature. It simply is not that good, in normal lighting. You can shake your wrist, to turn the back light on but this only lasts for about a second. Outside, in the sun this display is fine and if you are in a bright room its OK as well but in darker environments it can be a challenge to read the screen. I also hope that in firmware update we will get the ability the change the amount of time before the backlight goes dark.

Pebble Glass

Another challenge here is that glass is a smudge and fingerprint magnet. I’m constantly swiping the screen to improve its often poor legibility. Second, the glass is super reflective, which again, makes legibility difficult in certain environments. This is a common problem with all smartwatches.

Final Thoughts

Maybe its me but I just do not want that much from my smartwatch. Email and Text notifications, weather and sports alerts and a fun watch display. Throw in some simple apps like ESPN and My Disney Experience and a comfortable watch band and I am a happy camper. If these are the things you want out of a smartwatch the Pebble Time is for you. However if you want to be a fashion statement and you are looking for glitch bells and whistles check out the Apple Watch.

Also the Pebble Time is about half the cost of the lowest model Apple Watch. For most people the Pebble Time is enough smartwatch and it will not break the bank.

You can learn more about Pebble here.

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