Pebble Time and Android? Great! With an iPhone, not so much

After using a Pebble Time with an Android handset happily for days, I switched over to an iPhone. It was like using a completely different smartwatch.
Written by Kevin Tofel, Contributor

Since my Pebble Time arrived earlier this week, I've been happily wearing it.

Paired with the Asus ZenFone 2, which runs Android 5.0, Pebble Time is handy. I've responded to incoming texts by voice and canned answers and I've triaged email by archiving useless messages.

Then I switched phones.

As soon as I put my SIM card in an iPhone 6 for some app testing and then paired the Pebble Time, it was like I was wearing a completely different smartwatch, and not in a good way.

Gone were mostly all notification actions, save for the ability to dismiss them. No more replying to texts, either by voice or by pre-programmed responses. No more archiving Gmail messages. I can still see my calendar events, of course, can still accept or reject phone calls on my iPhone, and Pebble apps generally work the same regardless of the platform.

Pebble Time product and screenshot gallery

Even so, trying to use the Pebble Time with an iPhone -- especially after using it with an Android handset -- was like being woken by someone dumping a bucket of cold water of my head. To say it's been frustrating is an understatement.

In fairness, I can't really blame Pebble here.

They've put out a nice device with a useful new interface and, just like the prior model, advertise cross-platform support. I've only just charged my Pebble Time since using it the past few days as well; the battery should last for 5 to 7 days.

The issue is that no third-party smartwatch or accessory for an iPhone is going to have as much freedom as Apple's own. The best software bits are typically reserved for Apple's own products.

All of the "missing" notification actions on the Pebble Time, for example, are readily available on the Apple Watch. Pebble might be able to add some of these features in the future, but only if Apple's software allows for it. Voice responses to email messages might arrive -- Pebble has said it's working on that -- but not likely for text messages.

While it may sound like I'm trashing Pebble's product, I'm not. It's a solid smartwatch that will surely attract buyers, because it should: It's comfortable, runs for nearly a week, is less expensive than alternatives and it handles many of the basic "table stakes" features a smartwatch should, assuming you're using an Android phone.

It's fine for iPhone owners too, provided you don't want to take actions on notifications from your wrist.

That sort of defeats the purpose of a wearable device for me personally, however: If I have to pull out my phone to take action on a notification, what's the point of having them on my wrist to begin with?

My hope is that Pebble finds a way to truly compete on iOS with the Apple Watch in terms of features because it has a price and battery life advantage, but I'm leery. Apple isn't the type of company to cede control to outsiders.

And for those hoping to see Android Wear support come to iOS, let this be a precursor if it does happen: You won't likely get the full smartwatch experience there either.

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