When Pebble announced its very first smartwatch back in 2012, it broke Kickstarter’s record back then, raising US$10.3 million in just over a month. Fast forward to February 2015, the company came back with a brand new smartwatch, the Pebble Time, which features major improvements over the original watch. The campaign also broke Kickstarter’s record, raising over US$10 million in just two days.
But a lot has happened since 2012. There are plenty of Android Wear smartwatches in the market right now, and Apple’s first smartwatch seems to be doing extremely well. Is the Pebble Time good enough to fight with all these devices from more well-known companies like Motorola, Huawei, LG, Samsung and such? Here’s a quick review to find that out.
What is it?
Pebble Time is the latest smartwatch from Pebble. Unlike typical smartwatches like Apple Watch or Android Wear devices, the Pebble Time uses an e-ink colour display, giving it a long battery life of up to seven days. It is similar to the original Pebble watch that was announced about three years ago, but it has a new design, and a colour e-ink display. Besides the design, the Pebble also improved the software used in the watch, making it prettier and more useful than before. The Pebble Time works with an iPhone or an Android smartphone via a new Pebble Time app.
Is it any good?
The Time is a great improvement over the original Pebble watch in terms of design and usability. The watch is much smaller in size and with a slightly curved back, it fits nicely and comfortably even on my very small wrist. The buttons are similar to the original Pebble, with a “back” button on the left of the watch, and three buttons on the right side. The 2.5D glass at the front seems to be more durable too, as I’ve accidentally banged it against the wall a few times, but it’s still flawless…and I hope it remains that way.
The new colour e-ink display looks much better than the original Pebble too, and is visible even under the brightest sunlight. For dark environments or night time, you can activate the LED light simply by moving your wrist a little or pressing the back button.
Software wise, Pebble has introduced a new interface called Timeline on the Pebble Time. Instead of opening apps just to see your next appointment or what happened 2 hours ago, just press the down or up button located on the right side of the watch. Sadly though, I don’t have any appointments of any sort and haven’t actually put that to use. To access the default apps and the apps you’ve installed, just tap the middle select button. The interface is very straightforward and easy to understand.
Pebble has removed the 8 apps limit on the Pebble Time, allowing you to install as may apps and watch faces as you want but of course, the limit is the amount of space you have left. Just last month, Pebble released a software update to bring more controls to the Time.
You can now set the backlight intensity and duration, adjust the font size in notifications, layouts and other areas of the system, as well as control the vibration intensity for alerts, making the Pebble Time more useful than ever. I’ve dimmed the brightness of the light and set the vibration intensity to the lowest because the default for both is definitely too high.
While Pebble Time works on both an iPhone and an Android phone, it has more features with an Android device, no thanks to limitations on iOS. You get notifications on both platforms, but for Android, you can send voice replies to most major Android apps like SMS, Hangouts, Gmail, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and hundreds more. Pebble will transcribe your answers to text before sending the message. For iPhone users, voice replies are limited to Gmail notifications only. Voice replies work well, but only in a quiet environment.
The best part about the Pebble Time is its long battery life. I’ve been getting 6 days of usage for every charge – it’s not 7 days like Pebble claims, but hey, an Android Wear device or an Apple Watch can’t even come close to this number.
Like the original Pebble watch, there are tonnes of apps and watch faces you can install via a Pebble Time app. There are games, fitness apps, transit apps and more.
The bad stuff. Tell me.
The Pebble Time is a great smartwatch, but it isn’t perfect. The biggest flaw during my usage would have to be how inaccurate the sleep and step tracking is. I use the Misfit app on my Pebble Time, and the numbers I get for my sleep and steps seems to be way too optimistic.
I usually wake up several times a night. The Huawei Talkband B2 I’m currently using, the Sony Smartband Talk I used for a few months, and even the Xiaomi Mi Band shows at least half the amount of deep sleep I get each night. The amount of steps I take each day according to the Time is a lot higher, too. I wouldn’t rely on it for an accurate reading, unless I’m trying to feel good about how I live my life.
Another limitation is that while the Time has a microphone now, it still doesn’t have a speaker so you can’t do things like answer a call right from your wrist, or use your virtual assistant like Siri or Google Now.
As for the design, I find the bezels too large; like the original Pebble watch, the bezels on the Time are huge. It already has a big border around the display, and you have another bezel on the inside, so while the watch may measure 40.5mm x 37.5mm, the actual screen size measures at only about 24 x 21mm (display size including bezel measures 1.25” diagonally).
Should I buy it?
While the Pebble Time may not be as fancy as an Android Wear device or an Apple Watch, which feature things like heart rate sensor, sophisticated tracking systems and lots more, the Pebble Time still wins in one of the most important areas – an amazing battery life that none of these smartwatches can come close to. It has all the basic functionalities you find in a smartwatch – receive and respond to notifications, basic fitness and sleep tracking, the ability to install apps. If you don’t fancy paying a premium price, the Pebble Time is a decent smartwatch you can get right now.
The Pebble Time is a solid choice if you’re looking for your first smartwatch, but due to the depressing state of our currency (currently RM4.20 for USD$1), the Pebble Time is anything but affordable. The Pebble Time is available for purchase immediately from Pebble’s website for US$199.99, with free shipping to Malaysia. If the one featured in this review is too childish for your tastes, Pebble also has a steel version, called the Pebble Time Steel, that starts from US$249.99, which is available for pre-order from their website. They are essentially the same watch, but as its name suggests, the Pebble Time Steel is made out of all metal, with some upgraded features.