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Pebble watch - Performance

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

Pebble watch - Android vs. iPhone

So how does it all work in practice? At the time of writing the answer depends on which smartphone you own. If it uses Android, the answer is ‘brilliantly’. If you answer ‘iPhone’, the answer is: wait for iOS7.

Let’s be clear, the latter isn’t Pebble’s fault. Pebble requires iOS6 to run, but it offers little by way of third party support. Officially this means the Pebble can only consistently receive notifications from SMS and iMessage, control music playback and accept/reject calls. An iOS6 bug currently means switching other notifications to be viewable in the lock screen (settings > notifications > *app* > view in lock screen) will send more notifications through to Pebble, but they aren’t always reliable.

The good news is smartwatch support in iOS7 appears to be greatly improved, but we’d hold fire for now until Apple makes this official.

iOS and Android apps

As for Android, the experience couldn’t be more different. Pebble revels in Android’s more open architecture and whereas the iOS app is extremely limited, the Android app offers a wealth of options (see above for the contrast) and will send notifications from just about any third party app installed. In fact there is a ‘send 3rd party notifications’ option which works superbly.

Similarly there is native support for Facebook, WhatsApp, Google Talk and Google Hangout messages, calendar alerts and Gmail or the specified ‘default email app’. Music control is a similar story with native support for Google Play Music or whichever third party music and video players you have installed. This means Spotify, TuneIn Radio, VLC, MX Player, BeyondPod, Audible, anything.

One curious limitation which iOS does offer, however, is calls can only be rejected not accepted. A restriction we’d hope to see fixed soon with Android 4.3 imminent and Pebble app updates coming every two to three weeks.

As for the experience using Pebble, it is very good. Notifications come through quickly (particularly on Android) and the vibration, while strange at first, becomes quite reassuring. You know you aren’t missing anything on your phone if Pebble doesn’t alert you. The Bluetooth connection stays paired up to 30 feet or one wall away too so if your phone is in another room Pebble will still react to things. In fact, it feels second nature within days to look at Pebble rather than your phone.

Looking at the Pebble screen is a pleasure as well. It is easily readable in daylight and the backlight kicks in seamlessly in darker conditions. Alerts are easy to navigate with the up and down buttons and with up to 500 characters displayed you get the gist of even long emails. If you need to read further you’d want to pull out your phone in any case.

Interestingly, multiple alerts will queue up on Pebble’s screen and can be scrolled between, but once they are dismissed (hitting the ‘back key’) you won’t be able to get see them again. This can be frustrating if done by accident, but it also keeps the system simple. Neither Android nor iOS syncs notifications as read once they are checked on Pebble (and there is no way to delete content from the watch), but again this additional functionality should come with the wider privileges both platforms are expected to grant in their new versions.

Pebble watch - Battery Life

Lastly, battery life. It is claimed the Pebble smartwatch will last up to 7 days with light usage and 5 days with heavy usage. We found we got less than that - five days and three days with light and heavy use respectively - but both figures are enough to mean charging isn’t a daily chore or something to be feared if missed. Pebble also fully recharges in just two hours.

An oddity is the lack of a battery indicator, but Pebble claims the tiny 140mAh battery inside couldn’t be read accurately given it discharges so slowly. Regardless, we’d expect a battery indicator to come in a software update before too long.

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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