Back in March, the Pebble Time smartwatch raised a record-shattering $20 million on Kickstarter. I decided it was finally time to upgrade from my 21-year-old smartwatch (read my Timex Datalink review), so I backed the project in the “early bird” $169 tier.
On June 1st, I received my black Pebble Time. Here are some impressions of the Pebble Time after two weeks of use.
Look and Feel
The Pebble Time is well-built, lightweight, and has a clean, simple aesthetic. It looks good, but doesn’t stand out or grab attention. I’ve yet to have anyone ask me about it unless they specifically see me playing with the apps or notifications.
The color screen is fully readable in bright daylight, and there’s a backlight that turns on when you press any button or shake your wrist, so you can read the screen in the dark. It is worth noting that even when the backlight is on, the screen is nowhere near as bright as a typical smartphone screen. It is more comparable to an LCD watch, which seems… appropriate. The best part about the screen is that it’s always on—no wrist-jiggling or button-pressing is required just to quickly glance at the time.
Before I received my Pebble Time, I was planning to order a nicer band to replace the stock band, but it turns out the rubber strap that comes with the Pebble Time is quite soft and surprisingly comfortable. I also really appreciate the slight concave curve on the underside of the watch, which helps it form fit nicely to my wrist.
Apps and Features
One of Pebble Time’s coolest features is the ability to quickly respond to incoming text messages or chats with voice. I have been surprised how often I’ve used this ability in the last couple weeks. A chat message or text comes in when I’m in the middle of something and don’t feel like pulling my phone out of my pocket just to type a short response, so instead I tap a few buttons, speak my message, and send it. The voice to text transcription has so far been flawless. It just works, and it feels like magic.
The Bluetooth connection to my phone is solid, and seems to have a good range. It works throughout my home and office when I wander away from my phone. Incoming notifications cause a strong vibration in the watch that is near-impossible not to notice. Thankfully, you don’t have to experience a buzzing wrist all day if you don’t want to, since notifications are highly customizable. The Pebble smartphone app allows you to enable or disable notifications from any individual app on your phone.
Pebble’s app ecosystem is nearly three years old now, so there are apps out there that can do just about anything you can imagine. Some of my favorite apps so far are:
- Morpheuz – A free sleep tracker and smart alarm that can wake you up by vibrating the watch at an ideal point in your sleep cycle.
- Endomondo – Connects to the Endomondo Android app and allows you to start/stop your workout tracking and displays current info like speed, distance, duration, etc.
- Evernote – Read-only access to all your Evernote notes.
- Leaf – Control your Nest thermostat right from your watch.
- ESPN – Notifications for Mariners and Seahawks games. Oddly though, no support for MLS yet, so the Sounders get left out.
I have been using my Pebble Time with an Android phone, so I can’t speak to how well these features and apps work when paired with the iPhone app.
I’m a fairly heavy user of my Time. I use it as a sleep tracker through the night, as a workout tracker during the bicycle legs of my commute, and I probably get more notifications than most people thanks to the ongoing popularity of my Seattle real estate blog. I also prefer precision in timekeeping, so I’m using a (super nerdy) Star Trek-inspired watchface (see the first photo above) that updates every second, which is probably a battery drain as well.
With all of those factors combined, it’s no surprise that so far I’ve only managed to go about three days between charges—about half of Pebble’s claimed “up to 7 day battery life.” It’s also worth noting that there are reports that the Time will continue to run for up to 12 hours even after hitting “0% battery.”
Unfortunately, my experience hasn’t been completely without issue. The charging cable I received with my Pebble Time refuses to stay connected unless it is in a very precise position. It can sometimes take a few minutes of fiddling with it to get a solid connection that will actually charge the watch. Thankfully, this seems to be an issue of a defective cable rather than a design flaw (although I’m not the only one to run into this problem). When I contacted Pebble support, they quickly agreed to send me a new charging cable, which will hopefully arrive later this week and solve the problem.
[Update: I received the replacement charging cable from Pebble the day after this review was posted. The new cable works flawlessly and makes a consistent charging connection without problem.]
The Bottom Line on Pebble Time
Overall, I definitely recommend Pebble Time. It does everything I’d want a smartwatch to do and looks and feels good while doing it. Pebble Time’s $199 price tag makes it one of the least expensive smartwatches on the market today, but its features and app ecosystem are relatively mature and still growing. If you want superb battery life (even under heavy usage), clean looks, useful features, and you don’t care about swiping your watch’s screen or spinning knobs, the Pebble Time is a great choice.