Pebble Time – Product Review

Pebble Time Wrist

About a year ago I decided to take my first leap in to the world of wearable technology by purchasing a Pebble Classic smartwatch. The hardest part was getting used to wearing a watch again. I loved everything the “smartwatch” had to offer: checking text messages, seeing incoming call information, getting other meaningful notifications, all without having to pull my phone out of my pocket. So when the time came to upgrade my watch experience, Pebble Time was certainly at the top of my list. I already knew what the Pebble’s were capable of, so it seemed like an easy choice. Still, I wanted to compare to what was out there and make the best choice for my daily life and my budget.

I looked at several options, but most were still too bulky for my taste. In the end, I stuck to my initial thought and bought a Pebble Time. Having used it for a good week now, I’m ready to give my initial review on this amazing little device. Let’s start with the basics, the technical specifications:

  • Dimensions – 40.5mm x 37.5mm x 9.5mm
  • Band – 22mm wide, compatible with all 22mm watch bands
  • Weight – 42.5g / 1.5oz (with band)
  • Battery Life up to 7 days
  • 30M water resistance
  • 1.25″ Always on, color e-paper display with LED backlight, 64 colors
  • Compatible with both iOS (iOS 8 and up) and Android devices (4.0 and up)
  • Additional internals include: Microphone, 3-axis accelerometer, Magnetometer, Ambient light sensor, Compass, Gyroscope

Physical Build

Pebble Full

My big draws to Pebble in the beginning was the battery life, always on displays, and water resistance. Pebble Time meets all these requirements as well, which certainly was a factor in purchasing another Pebble product. Pebble Time is slightly smaller than Pebble Classic, and definitely has a smoother, more refined look to it. One of my biggest complaints with current smartwatches are their size. It still feels like most of them are just too big to be comfortable through daily use (thought this is getting better). Pebble has already gotten this part right, and Pebble Time is the perfect size. It can easily be mistaken for a standard watch due to it’s smaller form factor.

The buttons are laid out similarly to the Pebble Classic: back button on the left side with the select and navigation buttons on the right. The buttons are set in a little more, which makes accidental button pushes nonexistent. I would generally change my watchface accidentally several times a day with my Pebble Classic, but haven’t had any issues like that with this watch.

Pebble Buttons LeftPebble Right Buttons

The screen is bright and easy to read, though it’s not quite as easy as the black and white display on the Classic. I’ve found much of this depends on the watchface you are using. Some stand out more than others, and are thus, easier to read in sunlight or brightly lit areas. That being said, there wasn’t any that were terribly difficult to read, made even easier when the LED back light kicked on.

The included band for the Time is a soft silicone material. Initially I really liked the look and feel of this band, but after using it for a week now, I miss the more solid, rubber band on the Classic. The silicone band seems to be a little slicker, so it slides around on my wrist more. This meant I was always having to adjust the watch so I could see it. Some people may like the additional movement, however. The other negative for me was that the silicone seemed to attract fuzz and lint. It was a minor issue, but with kids and dogs that shed, it tends to collect more than I’d like. These are minor issues and nothing I can’t live with. The band does come with quick release levers which makes swapping out the band quick and easy.

Speaking of swapping out bands, one of the key selling features when the Pebble Time was released, was that third party developers could create watchbands that could add functionality, also known as Smartstraps. While I haven’t seen many come into reality just yet, there is one making it’s way through the crowdsourcing ranks right now that looks very interesting. FitPay is developing a smartstrap that will add contactless payment functionality to the Pebble watches. The crowdsourcing campaign on Kickstarter just started in January and has nearly reached it’s goal of $120,000 with 25 days yet to go. It should be interesting to see what other functionality gets added via these Smarstraps.

The battery has been what I’ve come to expect from a Pebble device. I’ve gone a full 7 days and still have 10% left, which can usually get me through another full day. As with all things, mileage will vary depending on what you do with your device. I got plenty of alerts but didn’t do anything very intensive such as playing games. 

The watch has a single magnetic port for charging. The charger cable snaps on easily and has plenty of length in the cable to use it just about anywhere. Unfortunately, it’s slightly different than the Classic charger, so I won’t be able to use the extras I bought and will have to purchase additional ones if I need them.

OS/Software

As one would expect, there is quite a difference in the software between the Classic and Time versions, but still very similar elements throughout. The most notable difference would be the new Timeline feature, which is currently only available on the Time and Time Steel models (available on Classic versions soon). This allows you to see weather, calendar, and fitness information a couple of days past and present. You can also see any notifications that might have shown up, missed calls, etc. I haven’t had much time to customize this feature yet, but it seems very useful just out of the box.

There are a plethora of watchfaces available to choose from, both color and B&W, depending on your preference. As I mentioned before, some are easier to see than others. I’ve found it’s a difference of function over fancy. Most watchfaces either provide a clear face with easy to ready information, or it’s colorful, filled with animations, and the “information” a little more off to the side. There are plenty that fall in between those extremes and it shouldn’t be difficult to find something that everyone likes. The big advantage over Classic is that you are no longer limited in the number of watchfaces you can load.

While perhaps not as robust as Android’s or Apple’s app stores, you do have hundreds of apps to choose from that can enhance your Pebble usability. There are apps for fitness, news, games, weather, tools, and much more. As with any apps, some are more well done than others, but most that I tried were well done and performed as designed.

Notifications are plentiful and generally have a few different options for responding, depending on the type. As per usual, notifications are announced via some type of on-screen message and vibrations. New to Time is a microphone so you can respond to texts and missed calls via voice dictation. It took me a few tries to get this to work right, but it’s now my go-to option to respond whenever possible. Additionally, you can setup canned responses that you can choose from if you are in an environment where you can’t talk.

The Pebble Time companion app for Android works much the same as the version for Classic. You’re able to manage your notifications, manage apps, watchfaces, and notifications, as well as search for new ones of each. You also have the ability to change several generic settings for the Pebble itself. Nothing out of the ordinary, but it gets the job done.

Summary

Overall, the Pebble Time smartwatch is a great device, one that goes more for function over features, but that’s always been what Pebble has been about. You sacrifice touchscreens and answering your phone for 7 day battery life and always on screens, but it’s done so well it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice at all. This size is smaller than most smartwaches today, which for most people is a big plus. Water resistant, long lasting battery, easily visible screen even in sunlight, and works with the big two (Android and iOS). The Pebble Time does everything I need a smartwatch to do and does it in a compact, sleek package. It’s a perfect watch to get you into the wearables world without breaking the bank. I have no problems recommending this device to anyone who might be looking to get a smartwatch.

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