Ah, the Pebble Time! The direct successor to the wildly popular Pebble was, as its predecessor, crowd-funded on Kickstarter in 2015, raising a staggering $1 million in 49 minutes and became one of the most funded Kickstarter to date. It had a growing, dynamic community always spewing tons of apps and watchfaces for all tastes. I was always keeping an eye on it, always low-key hoping to own one sometime. I was understandably delighted when I came across a sales post in my city last October advertising the sale of a mint condition white Pebble Time and at a real bargain! And it was a Kickstarter backer edition! I didn’t have to think twice to purchase it and keep it on my wrist since then.
BATTERY LIFE & CHARGING
One of the original Pebble’s highlight features was the ridiculously long battery life. With the Pebble Time, they brought this feature back and improved! Yes, unlike the monochrome e-ink display of the original Pebble, the Pebble Time touts a fancier color e-ink display that can last up to 7 days on a single charge, with the “always-on” feature! That’s insane compared to the competing Apple Watch and other Android Wear smartwatches which can barely survive one full day. This is thanks to the Pebble’s e-ink display compared to the vampiric battery-draining OLED and LCD screens of its competitors. I can attest that this is indeed true. But the battery life is obviously use- dependent; iIf you’re not connecting to your phone via bluetooth too often, it will live up to 7 days on a single charge but if you’re constantly connected to your phone, receiving numerous notifications and/or using several apps on the smartwatch then the battery will last about a day or a day and a half. I don’t constantly pair mine with my phone, so it has not a problem for me.
And it shouldn’t be a problem if you do maximize the use of your wearable because the Pebble Time charges quickly. The 150 mAh Lithium-ion battery fills up in less than 2 hours from 0%. I don’t usually let it drop to that low, so charging time for me is even less; usually less than 1 hour and the smartwatch is back on my wrist.
PERFORMANCE & DESIGN
Ditching the sporty, thick-bezel look of the orginal Pebble for a sleeker, square form factor with a stainless steel bezel were much welcome design improvements to the Pebble Time. Further improvements include a thinner, curved frame which make the smartwatch more ergonomic. And sure enough, I would even sometimes forget that I was wearing it. The device also has standard 22mm straps with quick-release pins, allowing you to swap in a new band in less than 10 seconds! Rather than having a touchscreen, the Pebble Time, like its predecessor, opted for physical buttons which weren’t of any inconvenience to me and were quite easy to reach and press.
Performance-wise, the Pebble Time is more than satisfying. The always-on screen, notification-at-a-glance is a handy feature and its customizable vibration will keep you in the know about incoming notifications. The latter are in sync with your phone’s; there no delay at all! Moreover, you can perform compatible actions like accept/reject call, dismiss notifs, send emojis and/or send canned messages or even dictate a reply, all from your wrist!
STRENGTH & DURABILITY
Even if the Pebble Time has a plastic frame, it doesn’t feel fragile nor has it proven to be fragile. Mine is still in one piece, no damage to the frame with daily use (I even use its sleep tracking feature and it hasn’t succumbed to the weight of my heavy head; speaks for itself). It’s Gorilla Glass screen and being water resistant up to 50 meters all attest to its durability for daily use. Some people have complained that the stainless steel bezel scratch easily but I haven’t experienced any scratch personally. I guess that depends on how you treat the device, and your wrist for that matter.
A robust battery life and fast charging are among the primary features of a smartwatch that I consider before purchasing it. The Pebble Time fulfilled those conditions beyond expectations, so much so that whenever I forget about it on my desk, I can always rely on it to be stlll alive and ready to be worn. This is a huge advantage it has over its competitors which aren’t as long-lasting and require more frequent charging.
A new feature of the Pebble Time is the integrated microphone. This opens up a whole new level of function as compared to the original Pebble. Thanks to this new feature, you can take voice notes (very handy for making grocery lists!) and reply to messages from your SMS, Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp, straight from your wrist! The voice recognition for English is pretty accurate too!
Also weighing in heavily for my smartwatch-choice criteria is the cost. I don’t want to spend as much as a new phone would cost on a device that’s a fraction of its size, lasts less than a day and needs pairing with a smartphone for full functionality. The Pebble smartwatches have always been sold at an affordable price point and the Pebble Time is no exception. Even if I got mine at a bargain, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to get your hands on one at a fair price. And you’ll get the best bang for your buck without breaking the bank!
If you couldn’t already tell, I really like my Pebble Time but that doesn’t mean it’s without flaws either. Its lack of wifi and “sandbox” operating system means that it relies exclusively on pairing with a smartphone to access all of its features. I’d like to be able to get notifications without the need to have my phone on me or take voice notes without needing to be paired to a smartphone. Moreover, the device has no touchscreen nor a heart rate sensor, which several of its competitors possess. Although not an inconvenience, a touchscreen might have made way for easier control and a HR sensor would appeal to the fitness-oriented demography.
Despite integrating a microphone, Pebble seems to have missed including a speaker at the same time. I’d like to answer and listen to calls from my wrist and could open the opportunity for a personal assistant, which is getting increasingly common these days. But without a speaker, none is possible.
A “downgrade” from the original Pebble that I would consider is that with the color display, the screen isn’t as crisp and easy to read in bright light than with the monochrome display.
I’ve also read a few complaints that the Pebble Time has a “cheap look and feel”. Sure the Pebble Time has a plastic casing but for its price, you can’t possibly get anything better on the market. Nevertheless, this can put off some possible customers who are looking for a more “quality feel” in their smartwatch.
But alas, these features (and lacking features) that I mentioned appear to be mere trade-offs for the price and battery life of the device.
The Pebble Time introduced me to the world of wearable technology. And it did so by being affordable, feature-rich and superior to its competitors on several fronts. Its mind-blowing battery-life, tons of compatible apps and watch faces and a dynamic community are what keeps this smartwatch above others in the market, for me. Despite being acquired by FitBit, official support has been promised through 2017. And I’m not too worried about the support after the official one has ended either. The online community is dedicated to their technological heart-throb and are actively planning on continued fan-support.
If you are looking for a smartwatch to try out for the first time, the Pebble Time is a great option. You can get one for under $100 nowadays and it will definitely prove to be value for money. You might even end up, like me, adopting it as your primary watch. Granted, its future is shaky (hence the score) but with continued official support throughout this year, this smartwatch might help you figure out where you stand on wearable technology, without getting you broke. It touts most features that are considered “standard” for smartwatches and you’ll get to experience them at a bargain. Should you want a newer smartwatch with more features, you can always sell your Pebble. There are a lot of people out there still looking for one!