Two things come to mind whenever I look at the Pebble Time smartwatch: first, contrary to what many so-called gurus had predicted, it’s not an Apple Watch competitor, rather its ambitions are much smaller; second, it’s a huge improvement over the original Pebble, in almost every respect. It’s better looking, it has a color screen, it’s sleeker, it’s slimmer, it has better buttons, and it’s more comfortable on the wrist.
Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky is adamant that people care more about functionality than the looks. While some people might fall in this category, but there’s plenty to say Eric is exactly wrong. Despite all its benefits, it’s pretty hard to convince anybody who has even heard the word “style” to put this plastic brick on their wrist.
The Pebble Time Steel is expected to be launched soon, which should be better looking, but more expensive.
One more thing before we plunge into the detailed review, Pebble Time is much more useful when used with an Android smartphone. On iPhone it’s totally crippled: You have far less control on the device, you can’t interact with most notifications, you can’t pick and choose which apps should show notifications (it’s all or nothing), and you can’t control your phone from the watch. Even the newly added mic is nearly useless for iPhone users, since you can only send voice replies to Gmail notifications. Recently, Pebble and Apple had a standoff at Apple taking their sweet time to approve the Pebble app. It’s apparent the Cupertino-based tech giant wants to sell Watches, not Pebbles.
- Price : $199 (£130)
- Display : 144×168, 1.25 inch color e-paper LCD
- Compatible with : iPhone 4S and above (iOS 8), Android devices running Ice Cream sandwich 4.0 and above
- Battery: Lithium-ion Polymer, 150 mAh
- Operating system : Pebble OS 3
- Processor : ARM Cortex M4
In-depth Pebble Time Review
Let’s dig a little deeper into the features and pros and cons of the Pebble Time.
There’s nothing to boast about the Pebble Time interface. While others have a touchscreen, a digital crown, a digital assistant, a Force Touch… Pebble Time comes with four buttons. They actually form a D-pad: you can go up, down, left and right through the interface. Yeah, the watch has a built-in water-resistant Knowles microphone that works fairly well for dictation, but the absence of voice recognition kills half the purpose.
The entire interface is based around a single metaphor: the Pebble Time Timeline. It’s essentially a peek into your past and future, based on your calendar events. Scrolling down takes you into the future, while scrolling up takes you back in time. The recent call records, time of sunrise and sunset, score of the last night’s game, to-do items, pretty much everything is there on the timeline. It also introduces a more efficient way to juggle apps. This is a neat concept, and shortcuts make it even niftier. It can, however, become cluttered if you’ve too many events, and inbound calls. What makes the matters even worse is that you just can’t search or sort the items.
The overall interface looks rough and undercooked. The more things you try to do on your Time, the harder it gets.
Display and design
As far as the design is concerned, Pebble Time is a whole lot better than the original Pebble. Available in black, white, and red, and compatible with any 22mm watchband, it’s sturdy, it looks better and it has Gorilla Glass covering the screen. Also, it slims down by 20% to just 9.5mm with a more wrist-friendly, curved ergonomic frame. But all in all, it pretty much looks like a plastic brick when compared to the likes of Apple Watch, Moto 360, LG G Watch R or Urbane.
The display is also an improvement when compared with the first-gen Pebble, but feels like a huge downgrade when compared with other smartwatches. The timepiece comes with a 1.25 inch color e-paper LCD, which is sunlight readable and obviously much better than the black and white display of the Pebble. But still it’s low-res, dim and full of ratty text.
Charging and battery life
The biggest (or probably the only) selling point of the Pebble Time is its almost seven-day battery life. Even with a color display, it’s nearly on a par with the black and white Pebble. Going for five to seven days, without having to charge your watch surely feels like a godsend, while Apple Watch and Android Wear users have to charger their wrist-gizmos every night. The decent battery life actually makes the awkward, hard-to-connect contact charger a rather forgivable annoyance.
And in case you’re waiting for the Pebble Time Steel, here’s a good news for you: Pebble Time Steel includes a battery with twice the capacity of the standard Pebble Time, which will last up to 10 days between charges.
Dust and water resistance
Another great thing about the Pebble Time is that it suits the lifestyle of outdoor folks. Being dustproof and water resistant up to 5ATM (or under 30m), it’s an ideal sportswear.
Features and apps
The Pebble Time is backward compatible i.e. all the apps designed for the original Pebble will run on the Time without a glitch. So, you already have a wide pool of apps at your disposal. However, the Time comes with more powerful features as compared to the older model.
The biggest improvement and most notable feature is the timeline, which we’ve already discussed. Then there are watchfaces, and there is a wide variety of them. You’ll find a suitable watchface on the Pebble App Store, no matter you like a digital or analog, plain or colorful, simple or info packed one.
The Time can also double up as your music controller, and can even control the playback on Google Music, Pandora, Spotify, and any other app that implements the default music control on iOS, in addition to the default music app on your smartphone.
The new Pebble also alerts you of incoming calls, and will display the names for the saved contacts. You can’t, however, talk to the callers using the watch, since the watch doesn’t feature a speaker.
The notifications work smoothly on the watch and most of them are actionable i.e. you can reply to, open on phone, dismiss etc. Currently, on Android, Pebble only supports native sms, Google Voice sms and Google Talk notifications.
Pebble can also sync with you calendars: your calendar events from the past 24 hours and the next 24 hours will appear on the timeline. Then there are other apps like the Weather, Alarms and so on.
The Pebble Time is one of the better working smartwatches available, but again, I wonder how many people will proudly show it off from under their sleeves. In fact, you can call it the Casio of smartwatches: smart, light, discreet and easy. But is it a must-have gadget? Nope! Are there better options available?
Yup! Fair enough, you’ll have to shell out around $180, but most people will rather pay a little more (or even less in case of some Wear-based watches) for a better looking watch.
DESIGN & DISPLAY5/10
COMPATIBILITY AND CONNECTIVITY7/10
FEATURES AND APPS7/10
- Always-readable e-paper screen
- Long battery life
- Waterproof to 30m
- Comfortable to wear
- Poor design
- Lame iPhone compatibility
- Uninteractable notifications
- Annoying charging dock
- Old-fashioned buttoned interface