Pebble Time Review

Since my last Casio calculator watch broke a couple years ago, I haven’t been wearing a watch. This August, I ordered the red Pebble Time. I’ve spent a while looking at different smart watches, and practically all of them fell short. Anything that required a back-light couldn’t show the time unless you made some kind of gesture, and the battery life on most of them are terrible. The first Pebble watch couldn’t even display colours.

Initial impressions are good. The colour is stylish, though it can clash with my outfits if I’m not careful. I was afraid it’d turn out to be thicker, but it’s actually a really good size. The bezel is too big, but what can you do.
The metal pieces are really nice. They seem to be some kind of anodized aluminum. The face bezel will end up scuffed very quickly, so if that bothers you you’ll need to reconsider or apply some kind of protection.
The silicone band feels great and hasn’t caused any problems, yet. It’s a standard buckle strap, and it’s got a couple of those loop things to hold any excess strap down, but I find they add too much thickness. I’ve got four layers of silicone from the inside of the loop, through the overlapping strap, to the outside of the loop. Despite that, it hasn’t usually been a noticeable burden. There have been a couple times where I’ve been typing or writing and the loops got greasy and slid around the band. It’s easy to clean, at least.

One of the things I was looking for was a watch that would show seconds. I managed to find a black-and-white watchface that did what I wanted. Luckily, It’s fairly easy to code your own faces. They’ve got a cloud-based IDE with a built-in emulator, and running it locally is as easy as plugging your phone into your computer and turning on the developer option in the Pebble app. (I tried running it in Chrome on my phone, but it got confused and didn’t know how to connect.) Everything is pushed to the Pebble watch from your phone across the Bluetooth connection.

The display looks great. It’s relatively pixelated, though, at 144 x 168 (176 ppi). Normally I’d complain that it’s smaller than a Super Nintendo video feed and that you can’t watch videos on it, but these days we’ve all got phones for that. The screen is a bit tight for certain types of information, like barcodes, but it’s possible to put some in.
While the colours themselves are good, the backlight is horrible. If this were a watch that needed the backlight to function, it would have ruined the experience for me. As it is, I’ve all but disabled the backlight and just turn it on when I need it. The glass has an anti-reflective coating on it, so I can read it even by the light of streetlamps. The screen itself isn’t optically bonded, so there’s another layer or two of reflections that sometimes do get in the way. Luckily, brighter environments tend to also show the screen better, so I haven’t run into too many problems with reflections obscuring the time.

The animations and use of colour in the operating system look great. I get notifications for texts before my phone buzzes. I’ve also never missed a call since getting it, even though I usually fail to notice the phone vibrate in my pants or I left the phone in another room.
I’ve managed to get an entire week on one charge, so it’s definitely long-lasting. You won’t have to worry about making it through the day. Apparently some people can’t even get a week out of it, so I don’t think updating the screen every second drains the battery as much as I’d feared it would.

Overall, I find the Pebble Time both useful and stylish. I’m having trouble reconciling the USD$200 I spent on it, though. I’ll probably be able to extract all that value out by coding my own watchfaces and apps, but most people might be too limited by what’s available for the purchase to make much sense. Still, your options are slim: if you want an always-on, transflective, connected device, you can get a Pebble or you can pay far less for something that displays only the time and date and little else.

If the colours and style don’t matter to you, compare its price to that of the original Pebble. It’s a good device on the whole, but it does have some limitations that pop out from time to time.


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