Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you’re probably familiar with the very successfully funded Pebble E-Paper Smart Watch for iPhone and Android Kickstarter project. I too got caught up in the hype and paid $115 last May 18th for the privilege of supporting this project. After multiple missed ship dates, it finally arrived last week. Was it worth the wait?My expectations were very high for the product based upon the specifications and features; however, reality fell far short of expectations.
144 x 168 pixel display black and white e-paper
Bluetooth 2.1+ EDR and 4.0 (Low Energy)
3 axis accelerometer with gesture detection
Distribute apps via Pebble watchapp store
The rechargeable battery keeps Pebble going for 7+ days
Rated at 5 ATM, tested for both fresh and saltwater
Scratch and shatter resistant lens with an anti-glare optical coating
Designed to fit most 22mm watch bands
Compatible with iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S, 5 or any iPod Touch with iOS 5 or iOS 6. Android devices running OS 2.3 and up
Messages and Notifications:
Incoming Caller ID
Email (Gmail or any IMAP email account)
SMS on both Android and iPhones
iMessage (iOS only)
Silent vibrating alarm and timer
The watch has a plastic case and strap. The display is easily read in daylight, and there is a backlight for easier viewing in lower light. The backlight is activated by shaking the watch.
There are three buttons on the right side. The outer ones are to scroll the display and the center one is to execute the highlighted item.
On the left side is the “back” button and the contacts for the charge cable. This cable is magnetically attached when used.
To use the Pebble, I downloaded the app from the iTunes app store. If I was connecting to an Android phone, I’d get the app from their store. As I don’t have a smartphone, I used my iPod, for which I hoped to get email and Message notifications.
The first thing I did was let the device charge overnight. The specs say it only takes 2 hours for a full charge, but I wasn’t going to take any chances.
I went into the settings menu on my iPod, and the Pebble was listed. After tapping on the device listing, it went through the pairing sequence and then the Pebble was connected with the iPod.
Upon connection, the above screen came up on my iPod. I tapped the software updates tab, and they downloaded. I also set up my address book and notifications to allow the Pebble access.
When everything is working correctly, the home screen is displayed on your connected device. If there are problems, such as loss of connection, the green graph icon will turn red and by tapping it you are brought to a screen with details and suggested fixes.
I only used the Pebble for two days, because it wasn’t very useful to me. I purchased it based upon the ability to be notified of email messages on my iPod, but that feature does not work. As a matter of fact, the only things that worked for me were the iMessage and Ipod Calendar notifications. There is another feature that seems of minimum usefulness. You can control the music player on the phone/iPod with the watch, to the extent that the audio can be played or paused and skipped to the next or previous track. It only controls the current playlist. I thought it would be more useful to my daughter, who has an iPhone 4S.
Before I gave her the watch, I again charged it overnight, actually until the minute I gave it to her. That was Sunday evening and by Wednesday evening, the battery was depleted. That’s only 3 days, far short of the 5-7 days as called out by the people at Pebble.
While she had the watch, we did some testing, and she used it in a real world environment. Notification of iMessages and SMS would be acknowledged by the watch most times. The notification consists of the watch vibrating and the iMessage/SMS being displayed on the watch screen. Phone call notifications seemed to work well. When a call is received, the watch vibrates and a screen pops up with the caller id and the option to reject the call, which then sends it to voicemail. Something we found very interesting is that if you receive multiple notifications, only the last one will be displayed. Apparently, there is no storage in the watch, so you cannot scroll through the messages. We found this out when she received two messages at essentially the same time and only looked at the watch to read it. Had she looked at her phone she would have known there were two and wouldn’t have missed the important first message.
The promise of the Pebble watch is the ability to download apps. At the moment, all that’s available are several watch faces. These are loaded into the phone/iPod and then quickly transferred to the watch. The founders have suggested that they are working on some applications and are encouraging independent developers to do the same. With the current limited features I’d be hard pressed to pay $150 (the new retail price) for this watch. I offered to give it to my daughter, but she said she’ll wait for the ladies version. It is rather big. One thing highlighted by the overwhelming response to the Pebble, is that there is a large demand for a smart watch.
In my opinion, the best summary of the Pebble watch comes from another owner who was asked his opinion by my daughter. “Excellent hardware, awesome potential, incomplete software”. I think I’ll hold out for a complete solution from a large company rumored to be making a smart watch. I’ve never had success buying potential.