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Pebble Time review: Timeline-focused interface works best with Android smartphones

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  • Editors' rating
    8.5 Excellent
  • $149.99

Pros

  • Comfortable and lightweight
  • Water resistant to 30 meter depth
  • Long battery life
  • Optimized timeline user interface
  • Good support for Android notification replies

Cons

  • Limited iOS support
  • Sometimes hard to read in low light
  • Limited app selection

You may be surprised to see this formal review for the Pebble Time given that I thought I was sending it back after posting my first impressions last week. We all make mistakes and I quickly learned my lesson as I have come to thoroughly enjoy the Pebble Time experience.

One of my main gripes when I posted my first impressions ten days ago was the visibility of the display indoors and in low light conditions. I've since learned that there is a simple gesture to turn on the backlight and I think my world has gotten brighter over the past week and a half.

It's true that the display can't hold a candle to the Apple Watch or LG Watch Urbane, but it's fantastic outside and I've come to like the color e-paper display.

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I also learned it takes some time to find timeline apps and pin events to your timeline so that the past and future buttons become extremely useful. The fun animations and icons also swayed me over to having fun with the Pebble Time and I'm pretty sure it's sticking around.

Specifications

  • Display: 1.25 inch color e-paper display
  • Water resistance: 30 meter water resistance
  • Wireless: Bluetooth 4.0
  • Sensors: 3D accelerometer, compass, ambient light sensor, microphone
  • Battery: Lithium-ion polymer for up to seven days battery life
  • Dimensions: 40.5 x 37.5 x 9.5 mm and weight of 42.5 grams

You can buy the Pebble Time in one of three colors; black, white, and red. I purchased the black one, figuring I could have it match up with other bands, but am kind of liking the looks of the red one I see online now. The Pebble Time comes with a nice silicone band, but also uses the standard 22mm band width so you can buy other bands and install them on the Pebble Time.

Check out the CNET review where the Scott Stein awarded the Pebble Time a 7.8/10 score.

Hardware

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The Pebble Time is the most comfortable smartwatch I have ever tried and I think those with smaller wrists will love it. It seems to disappear on my wrist with the high quality curved plastic resting against my skin while I interact with solid plastic side buttons.

The front stainless steel bezel is a bit wider than I would like to see, but it still looks good and feels great as it protects the display.

The soft silicone band does tend to attract a bit of lint at times, but it is easy enough to swap out bands too. I used my old Pebble black Kevlar band with orange stripe for a few days, but have since gone back to the default band. I am not looking for a nice black metal band to use for work and personally look forward to seeing what developers come up with in the way of smartbands.

Pebble advertises up to seven days of battery life, but that is highly dependent on what notifications you have setup as well. I'm seeing a pretty steady four or five days between charges with my particular usage. That's still better than the Apple Watch or any Android Wear device.

Software

As I mentioned in my first impressions, I was pretty down on the new Pebble interface with the focus on the timeline. It turns out that I just needed to give it a bit more time and find more apps that I could pin to the timeline.

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I can now quickly check my upcoming appointments, alarms, and Mariners baseball games. I have not yet found a way to get the Seattle Sounders FC on the timeline and hope that ESPN soon adds MLS and Premier League to its app.

Using the past button I can check Mariners games that already started, yet are still in play. Pressing the past button shows me the current score. The past button also gives me quick access to significant news stories through the News Headlines application.

I've paid for my morning coffee a few times using the JavaPay app and actually have that app assigned as one of my button shortcuts (press and hold to launch a preferred app). There are quite a few apps for the Pebble Time and as more people get the color display model I hope to see more apps launch.

You really need to dive down into the notifications settings in the Android phone app to get the information you want sent to the Pebble Time. iOS offers far fewer fine controls over your notifications than Android so just like Kevin Tofel wrote last week the Pebble Time experience is better on Android than on iOS.

One of the best things you can do with a Pebble Time and an Android smartphone is reply via voice to text. I have been doing this quite a bit over the past ten days and am amazed by the accuracy of the Pebble Time. I understand that Pebble is using the Android Wear notificatin system to make this happen so you do need to also have the Android Wear smartphone application installed on your phone.

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It's not all perfect though. You have a limited amount of time to respond to notifications and once the notification is cleared or timed out you can only view it in the app list. No actions are allowed from the notifications viewer after the face.

I selected the Misfit app/service for activity tracking because it also supports sleep tracking and given the comfort of the Pebble Time you can wear it to bed without any real issue. However, Misfit still doesn't have the capability to sync its data from the Pebble to an Android smartphone. I have to use an iOS device to get the data collected from the Pebble Time synced up to the Misfit website. This is not a Pebble issue, but one for Misfit to solve.

You can also select to use Jawbone UP as your activity tracker, but in order to sync the data over you need to have the UP watchface selected. Needless to say, activity tracking needs some work on Pebble in order for it to replace your Fitbit or other tracker.

Competition

There are two major competing platforms for the Pebble Time, Apple Watch and Android Wear. The Apple Watch starts at $350 and is limited just to the iPhone. Current Android Wear devices start at $199.99, but they are also limited to just Android smartphones. The Pebble Time works with both platforms and is less expensive.

There are also several fitness-focused devices that have some smartwatch functionality, such as the Fitbit Surge, Microsoft Band, Garmin Vivoactive, and more. If fitness and activity tracking is a priority for you, then definitely consider these over the Pebble Time. If smartbands live up to their potential, then maybe the fitness/activity tracking functions can be good on the Pebble Time.

Pricing

I backed the project on Kickstarter and purchased my Pebble Time for $179, but you will soon be able to buy one for $199.

Conclusions

The Pebble Time is a marked improvement over the original Pebble and the Pebble Steel so if you are looking for something to replace your Pebble then the Pebble Time is a great option. If you are also looking for a smartwatch to pair with your Android smartphone, then the Pebble Time may just be a better option than an Android Wear device.

Nothing really beats the Apple Watch for iPhone users, but if you want a smartwatch that lasts for several days and has a display that is always on showing the time then the Pebble Time may satisfy you as well.

I'm a second-time backer of Pebble on Kickstarter so have a 2x Champion badge on the back of my Pebble Time. I will likely keep it around to use as my Android smartwatch with occasional usage as my iPhone smartwatch.

Specifications

Miscellaneous
Color Category Black
Style
Product type Watch
OS Provided
Type Pebble OS

Where To Buy

Price
$149.99

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Where To Buy

Pebble Time (black)

Part Number: 50100020
Price
$149.99