Pebble Time Review
Pebble launched the concept of the smartwatch we know today with their first product, the Pebble smartwatch. Since then we’ve seen dozens of other watches, all while Pebble remained fairly silent. However now the company has launched their latest wearable, the Pebble Time. The new watch brings a refreshed design, upgraded internals, and a better display, but does it stand out from the crowd? Can the Pebble Time win back the crowd the company originally created? Well, let’s just say they’ve got some work to do.
- 1.25″ LTPS LCD Display – 144×168 Resolution
- 40.5mm L x 37.5mm W x 9.5mm H
- 22mm watch band
- 42.5g (including strap)
When it comes to the hardware on the Pebble Time, I didn’t expect much in terms of design. The original Pebble wasn’t exactly anything to look at, but it got the job done, and it did it very well. Over time, I grew to like that design quite a lot, however that’s not the case with the Pebble Time. To put it quite simply, the Pebble Time looks like a kids toy. In fact, if you go into a Toys R Us, you can actually see a kids watch that looks nearly identical in design to the Time. I was able to improved the looks of the watch quite a bit using a skin, but there’s only so much you can do to make this watch look like anything more than another hipster accessory. It’s not the worst design ever, but Pebble could have done much, much better.
One area where the Time does shine however is in the water resistance department. While most Android Wear devices pack an IP68 rating for water resistance, the Pebble is about as close to fully waterproof as is possible with an IPXX rating. That means that the Time can be taken in the water with no worries or issues. Basically, if you’re in going in the water and you won’t need a scuba suit, your Pebble is able to follow along with you. One thing I did notice when wearing my Pebble in the pool was that the plastic display tended to be more prone to fingerprints and skin oil for a couple hours after drying off.
In the end, the hardware on the Pebble Time isn’t really bad, but it’s not exactly anything fun to look at.
The Pebble Time also introduces a new overhaul to Pebble’s interface which they call “Timeline UI”. For the most part, functionality is the same as it was. However now a click upward or downward will reveal your past or present events respectively. By default, this only works with Weather information and calendar events, however you can add more to it. That may include the scores and upcoming games of your favorite team (ESPN app), or the current tide and when low tide/high tide will arrive (Tideline app). It’s a useful feature, but only if you use it right. For the first week or so that I used the Time, I didn’t use the feature at all. Why? Well first of all, I don’t really use a calendar and second, there really aren’t that many apps that take good advantage of it yet.
Aside from the timeline, the new OS also has color added to it to liven things up, but also new animations. Between every transition and every notification, there’s an animation. While I’m all for trying to make the OS on the Pebble more lively, this is too much. The animations take far too long and just feel unnecessary. Whenever my wrist buzzes for a new notification and I pull the watch up to look at it, I find myself seeing the last bit of an animation about 70% of the time. I’d be fine with every animation if they didn’t take so long, but there’s no changing that (yet), but it would certainly be a welcome option.
Watch faces were another area of concern for me. While there are many to choose from, I didn’t really like that many of them. On Android Wear, there are hundreds of great looking designs, but on the Time I found myself looking for a long time to find even one colored watch face I actually liked. Apps fully optimized for the latest software are the same way. There really aren’t that many and I don’t exactly love the ones there are. Don’t get me wrong, Pebble has a strong ecosystem surrounding their wearables, but finding apps and watch faces that take advantage of the new color screen or the timeline UI are hard to come by.
Out of the box the Pebble Time has a pretty basic silicone band. There’s nothing special about the looks, but dang, it’s comfortable. Putting on the Pebble Time for the first time was quite the experience as the band simply felt amazing. I’ve worn plenty of silicone bands, but this is the best by far. I’m almost certainly going to pick one up to use on another watch. It’s really that nice. If silicone isn’t your style, the Time is also compatible with any 22mm watch band so you can easily swap it out for a leather or metal option.
The biggest highlight about the Pebble Time by a long shot is the battery life. Quite simply, it can’t be beat. No other true smartwatch on the market can beat the battery life on the Pebble. While it has decreased a bit from the first generation, it’s still the best in it’s market. Generally I’d get anywhere from 4 days to a full week on a charge. Most often I’d charge the watch on Sunday nights and I’d run out the following Sunday.
The Pebble Time uses a LTPS LCD display which has Memory In Pixel technology. This display acts just like the e-ink display found in the original Pebble models. Due to the way this technology works, the display isn’t very high resolution or detailed, but you trade those for better outdoor visibility and better battery life. Are the trade-offs worth it? Well, that’s up to you.
What I do like most about the display however is the outdoor visibility. The brighter it is outdoors, the better you’ll be able to see your watch. When you’re outside on a bright day with an Android Wear device, you’re lucky to see the time or a notification, but that’s far from the case on the Time. However at the same time, nighttime use suffers severely. At night you’ll rely on a backlight built into the Time. The backlight only activates when you touch a button and only stays on for a few seconds, however it’s plenty of time for me and you can adjust it in the settings. I just wish however that the backlight was brighter.
As with previous versions, the Time is compatible with both Android and iOS, but this year things are a bit different. On iOS, things are just like they used to be, but with a color screen. You still get notifications in exactly the same way and everything works just as it did on the original Pebble. However when you’re connected to an Android device, the Time can really shine. Here it can take advantage of Android Wear APIs to copy some of the same features. This includes opening notifications on your phone from your watch, sending voice replies to messages, and much more. It’s a far better experience in my opinion.
So in a growing smartwatch market, where does the Pebble Time stand? Well, it’s hard to say. The Time is still the best option when it comes to cross-platform compatibility and battery life, but aside from that, it’s tough to recommend. It’s behind when it comes to style, the apps and watchfaces are taking quite a while to catch up, and compatibility is a bit strange. Don’t get me wrong, the Pebble Time is a great watch, but I have trouble recommending it over other options like Android Wear and the Apple Watch. Those offerings are more advanced in many ways, but the Pebble Time covers the basics and covers them very, very well, it just feels a bit behind the times.