Monday, April 15, 2013

Pebble Smartwatch Review

Wanted to share a few notes on the Pebble Smartwatch, which came out of the largest Kickstarter crowdfunding to date (as far as I know), and which I wrote about in December.  The team raised $10M in 38 days, and delivered my watch roughly 9 months after the close of the campaign, 5 months later than promised.  Despite the late delivery (FCC approval!), I'm still very happy.  As I've noted to others, part of supporting a kickstarter campaign is to support entrepreneurs, as I think they make our communities stronger.  On top of that, I got an awesome watch!
(Here's an interesting article/debate about how investing relates to Kickstarter.)

I'm very happy with the watch.  I felt that they did an excellent job, and even over-delivered in a few ways:
  1. Battery life is excellent.  They noted roughly a week, and that's what I get.  You might say that they delivered what they promised, but even the most honest teams in tech (Apple, Motorola, etc.) regularly give ridiculously high battery estimates, and so I was prepared for a couple of days of battery life.  My pebble lasts usually about 7 days, in my experience of a month of daily use.
  2. Screen and backlight are done perfectly.  Flick or tap your watch to see the backlight, fades out nicely, impossible to tell if the backlight is on or off during the day, contrast is super high.  LOVE it.
  3. Water-resistance to 5 ATM.  That's 130 ft below the surface.  Granted, the rating is more helpful in surviving streams of shower water than in deep free diving, for me, but the point remains that they delivered.  I was surprised by this, as the water resistance was a 'stretch goal' - when I contributed to the campaign, they hadn't decided to make that a feature.
  4. The software development team is continuing to put out software.  There was a major update just after I got my phone, and that as well as the primary setup were quite simple.  There's still some room for improvements, but the point is that they are attentive to forums/user needs, and are active in addressing those requests.  (Glad they included an easy-to-set alarm, but will have to install a countdown timer for help with daily stretching!)
  5. Build quality is good, though I expected that.  Buttons work well, magnetic-attach charging cord is super simple to use, wrist strap is comfortable.
  6. Software development through the SDK is going wild.  Super creative watch faces, like this animated Mario one, and games and other apps starting to be released, as well.  (Also, don't forget, there's horrible clock faces as well!)
    Casio 'retro' watchface: "Dub 91

    Tetris!  Well... Pebblis block game.

    (Working on some pretty watch faces! )
Now the downsides:

  1. The screen is plastic.  I knew this when contributing, but went forward anyway, I felt it was unrealistic to expect this group to pull off a glass screen.  Scared for the potential of scratching, I got a few Skinomi screen protectors and after a botched-application the first time around, have been using my Pebble for a week with the Skinomi on there, and very happy with how it looks.  No double-reflection or unsightly seams.

  2. The amount of notifications seems a bit finicky.  Lately I'm receiving a deluge of wrist-vibrations for next-appointments, and haven't found a good way to handle that.  Good news: it's fixable with software updates.
Now the suggestions / requests:
  1. Menus: It should never be possible to create disturbing action by repeated pressing of single button from home screen.  As it is now, in a meeting, if I lean on a table and depress the 'enter' button, music will start playing from my phone.  I apparently did this in my sleep last night.  I'm weird, I know.
  2. Screen polarity: It would be excellent to have an option to set all non-graphical applications (ie. menus and notifications) to reverse polarity; the visual display would be much more appealing, as you wouldn't notice the large bezel of the watch, but rather notice the watch being black, and then white text floating in the middle.
Final thought: When people ask what it's good for, and I tell them about incoming call / text / email screening, silent alarm clock, music control on the phone, various displays, I almost forget to tell them the most important thing:
It's an awesome watch for telling time!  It's the first real watch I've bought, and I love it!


  1. Thanks for the review Holden! I was thinking about getting one, but heard the experience isn't as good on iOS due to backgrounding restrictions. As I recall you are an Android user? Do you know about any differences/restrictions when using with iOS?

    1. Great point, Erick. I am using Android (2.3.3). I'm using the official Pebble App, Pebble Notifier App, as well as Augmented Smart Watch Pro App. (Though I'm not using Tasker, as some folks are, for sending texts, etc. from the phone)

      This is definitely an area of improvement for both iOS and Android, per my "Software" section above - I have high confidence that they will sort things out in the coming months. I think that early adopters are happy to help them fix all this, but that regular adopters (ie. this summer's customers) will be less likely to look favorably on it.

      But yes, in the short term, iOS is a bit behind as Apple hasn't approved their latest app, apparently. Though, it must be said, there are already workarounds, including using ifttt:

    2. Also, sorry for mistyping your name, Erich! :) Apparently blogger doesn't support editing comments, either.


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