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Pebble review

Gordon Kelly

By

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • Tasteful design
  • Attractive, intuitive UI
  • Simple setup
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • Battery life reasonable, but below claims
  • Reduced iOS functionality

Key Features

  • 1.26-inch, 144 x 168 pixel display
  • Android & iOS compatible
  • 3-axis accelerometer
  • Up to 7 days battery life
  • Vibrating motor
  • Bluetooth 4.0 & 2.1 + EDR
  • 50 x 32 x 8.4 mm, 38g
  • Manufacturer: Pebble
  • Review Price: £99.99

What is the Pebble watch?

This is the smartwatch that first got the world interested in smartwatches. Pebble is an Android and iOS compatible smartwatch with open source operating system that retails for just $150 (£99). It arrives 12 months after a record breaking KickStarter campaign that raised over $10m (100 times its funding target) in just five weeks. So... no pressure.

Pebble watch - Design

For all its hype, the first thing you notice about the Pebble smartwatch is how understated it is. No bulky, bulging curves, no myriad of buttons and no thoughts it might look better on the arm of Optimus Prime. The Pebble watch looks like a normal watch and - at just 50 x 32 x 11 mm and 38g - it feels like a normal watch. This is a very good thing.

Then again it is also possible to say Pebble smartwatch feels like a normal, cheap watch. Its casing is made entirely from plastic as are its buttons and the screen is a fingerprint magnet.

Despite this, though, the Pebble watch isn’t fragile. It is durably constructed and has a water resistance rating of 5ATM. This means it can be submerged up to 160 feet in both fresh and salt water and will happily allow you to swim or shower wearing it.

Explorers shouldn’t be scared off, either. The Pebble smartwatch works in temperatures ranging from -10 to 60 degrees centigrade. Meanwhile we found the 22mm rubber strap to be comfortable and it resists bumps and scrapes. The standard strap fits wrists with a circumference between 14cm and 21cm while for an extra $3 (£2) an extended strap will fit wrists up to 24cm.

Pebble smartwatch - Features

Subtle as its looks may be, they aren’t what has gained the Pebble watch such attention. Pebble’s appeal lies in its functionality and, more specifically, the simplicity of its functionality.

Like the MetaWatch Strata, Pebble’s approach is not to be a mini-smartphone but a 'thin client' receiving handset notifications over Bluetooth. What it can receive varies significantly between iOS and Android (more of later) but includes email, SMS and social media alerts along with calendar reminders. It can also control music playback and accept or reject incoming calls.

The Pebble watch has a number of unofficial apps too made using its open SDK, which brings additional third party functionality from customisable watch faces to basic games like Chess and Space Invaders.

Getting back to the watch itself, all this is displayed by an e-paper 1.26-inch, 144 x 168 pixel monochrome screen and controlled by just four buttons. A back button on the left side and select and up/down buttons on the right side. The screen also has a backlight that can switch on automatically depending on the lighting level or be set to activate with a flick of the wrist. A nice touch.

Pebble charger

On the left side of the watch are four metal contact charge points. The lack of microUSB is to keep it water tight, and while it means carrying a proprietary connector it is much lighter than the bulky charger for the MetaWatch and is neatly held in place with magnets. Despite this microUSB and a simple rubber stopper may have proved more convenient.

As for setup, it merely involves pairing Pebble with your handset via Bluetooth and installing the official app which lets you toggle which notifications you want. Once your choices are made these are wirelessly synced automatically with the watch and you’re ready to go.

chaosdefinesorder

July 1, 2013, 9:47 am

If you still have this in your possession, could you please try something for me? If you have any bluetooth headphones (A2DP), does the Pebble support simultaneous music controls/push updates AND bluetooth music playback?

I know most A2DP headsets have playback controls of their own, but the whole Pebble package of updates etc. as well as playback requires both to be connected at the same time.......

Hamish Campbell

July 1, 2013, 10:42 am

Is it only me who thinks this is a particularly ugly watch?

Woogly

July 1, 2013, 12:52 pm

I no longer trust this site....

If you think this is tatesfull design you must shop at ASDA!

Jordan

July 1, 2013, 2:02 pm

It's not often a gadget comes along that makes me want to be an early adopter, but this ticks that box.

I was surprised to see no wireless charging, at least as an option. Just sitting it down on a wireless charging pad with my phone every night would be really convenient.

My main concern would be scratches, though not really a design fault. I've scratched my watch a few times, albeit quite lightly, and its face is a lot less exposed.

RoboJ1M

July 1, 2013, 3:18 pm

Wear the face on the inside of your wrist?
That's what I do, works well.

RoboJ1M

July 1, 2013, 3:21 pm

Just out of interest, which phone did you try it with and did it's hardware/firmware correctly support Bluetooth 4.0 LE? Because that might have something to do with the battery life. Maybe it's running on 2.1. In fact I'm pretty sure only Android 4.3 supports BT 4.0 LE so maybe you could re-test with a suitable phone (Nexus4?) + Android 4.3? Not that it's going to stop my getting one. I was waiting for a smart watch that used ePaper as it's the obvious display tech to use.

Jordan

July 1, 2013, 3:42 pm

Is that precisely why you do it? I had a PE teacher in school who wore it that way and I always wondered why! It was very obvious as PE teachers, of course, always having to check their watch.

I'm wondering if I'd actually pick up more scratches that way from it hitting my desk when typing...

RoboJ1M

July 1, 2013, 4:49 pm

That is precisely why I do it.

My dad suggested is many years ago.

Apparently it's a military thing? He was in the Navy so it makes sense.

Maybe your PE teacher was actually an ex-club-swinger.
http://ow.ly/myiDO

Never considered the desk thing. Just haven't owned a watch for so long. I guess I'll have to keep moving it. And buy watch-screen-protectors!

T.J. Kenny

July 1, 2013, 10:48 pm

The writing has been on the wall form sometime now but it is becoming obvious that apple are doomed. Their closed practices are getting the better of them and that latest Jonny Ive "designed in California ad" has really driven it home. Good riddance.

NotOverlyConvinced

July 2, 2013, 2:24 pm

de gustibus non est disputandum

Gordon Kelly

July 3, 2013, 1:21 am

For smartwatches the picture will certainly change with iOS7, but I think Apple has long accepted the pros and cons of its walled garden approach. It will be interesting to see how skilfully it can continue to manoeuvre from here on.

Gordon Kelly

July 3, 2013, 1:22 am

I used it with a Nexus 4. That said Pebble has been steadily improving the battery life with each firmware update and I don't think even 3 days with intense use is a great inconvenience for a device that charges in 2 hours.

Gordon Kelly

July 3, 2013, 1:24 am

If you're on Android then yes I'd sign straight up, but from an iPhone wait for iOS7 and see how that pans out.

Wireless charging is an interesting idea and I'd also like to see the simplicity of a capped microUSB port on the watch itself. That would make it far simpler. That said when you're dealing with a multi-day battery life it isn't a problem when no charger is to hand.

I didn't have any problems with scratches - that said I didn't accidentally hit it anywhere hard and with such limited samples I wouldn't be inclined to! I doesn't seem a scratch prone finish, but even metal watches pick up scuffs over time.

Gordon Kelly

July 3, 2013, 1:28 am

Good to see a modest and vital reaction. If you have taken the time to see the bulk of other smartwatches on the market then you may change your opinion. Not that this is the biggest factor.

Gordon Kelly

July 3, 2013, 1:29 am

I can see why people would think it is ugly, but for the tech it packs in I think the most impressive fact is it looks like a normal watch. Most smartwatches so far have been huge with terrible battery life.

Gordon Kelly

July 3, 2013, 1:29 am

I don't, but I believe Bluetooth only pairs to one source at a time so this is an interesting point to make. During the review I noticed if I output music to a Bluetooth dock it cut the connection to the watch so I'd say no.

That said this is a limitation of Bluetooth rather than the watch itself.

RoboJ1M

July 3, 2013, 8:48 am

Grapevine says that 4.3 is coming July 2013 for the N4 and that one of the features is BT 4.0LE support. Could you do us an update then please?

Hamish Campbell

July 3, 2013, 8:50 am

A good point, there is a distinction between comparing looks of a smartwarch with other smartwatches, and a smartwatch with watches in general.

Watches have generally moved from a functional device to be a piece of jewellery as far as I can see. So it will be interesting to see how the 'functional' niche works again.

There may be a very real difference between those who want to buy a smartwatch (functional phone connectivity a priority) to those who want to buy a watch (asthetics priority).

A little difficult to blend as well, as a really nice watch might cost you a couple of hundred pounds and up (this is a watch as jewellery) and it is likely to be a pretty timeless (ha ha) design that can be used for a lifetime (or decade or whatever). But the functional phone connectivity is going to be fast changing, so you'll want to upgrade regularly (almost as often as your phone?) which will make it unlikely you'll want to splash out so much for the smartwatch.

Now I've blabbed on too long, I apologies.

RoboJ1M

July 3, 2013, 8:55 am

Nope, not a limitation of Bluetooth, you can have up to 7 devices in a Bluetooth PAN (piconet, 1 master + 6 slaves, including another 255 "parked" slave devices which can be swapped out for an active slave)
Must be a limitation of Android at the moment.
Which is irritating, because how frickin' cool would it be to be in the car with a master phone, slave car stereo playing music/doing hands free and slave pebble to control the volume/track/see what's currently playing/answer the phone.

go go gadget Android 5.0 perhaps?

Gordon Kelly

July 3, 2013, 11:47 am

Sadly we won't have the sample then, but we'll see what v4.3 brings as it will likely have a knock on effect for just about every Bluetooth peripheral.

Gordon Kelly

July 3, 2013, 11:48 am

You're spot on. Of course people said the same thing about smartphones - not everyone wants their phone to be a personal computer, but that changed quickly for the vast majority.

Be interesting to see how the fashion brands like Rolex respond if they are seen to be little more than exorbitant jewellery over time..

Gordon Kelly

July 3, 2013, 12:05 pm

Ah I see what your, but the master + slave arrangement would work poorly for two devices needing constant connect, especially a high bandwidth pairing with headphones.

I believe the AptX codec is looking to address this later in the year. If so I think it's already solid takeup should skyrocket.

gary

July 4, 2013, 1:39 am

the company which made the watch treated the backers like cr-p

WNJ85

July 11, 2013, 12:37 pm

Bluetooth 4.0 LE is not currently activated in the Pebble firmware. THey have posted previously that it will be activated in a later firmware update, so your test will be running on BT 2.3

Memo Garcia

July 12, 2013, 11:06 pm

Is it possible to use the a bluetooth headset like the jaybirds while paired with this watch?

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