The Pebble Smartwatch got a lot of ink in recent times in not just one, but two industries and even beat a few industry titans to the punch to boot. What we’re talking about here is the hype surrounding a device that was crowd-funded (and brilliantly we might add) and enjoys quite a bit of cache. In other words, it has the hype going for it. However, there are still some skeptics out there, and with this review we want to give you some steak to go with the sizzle.
So how far has the Pebble Smartwatch come? After the initial admittedly buggy release and a number of updates, what does the latest edition improve on and feature?
The folks who designed this watch have been careful to focus on improvements and not wholesale changes to the design. In fact the design is identical to the original version and the watch itself is for the most part unchanged. One of the things that is most fascinating about this device is the reception it has gotten from the engineering community. It’s not particularly intuitive enough to be a mass market product, however it is one of the best smartwatches out there and has a number of accolades to prove it.
Physically the watch has class; that is to say that there aren’t a lot of cutting-edge design elements, but it maintains a utility appearance. The casing and buttons don’t deliver a robust feel to them and the rubbery band is simple, but can be easily exchanged.
You can get a Pebble in black, white, gray, orange and red. The face of the device is customizable where you can have a dot matrix or conventional analog timepiece. To bring up the menu, there is a single button on the left side. To select menu-options, on the right side there are the up and down navigation, and select buttons. A nice thing is that pressing any of the buttons activates the backlight as well as turning your wrist quickly.
Don’t expect a smartphone experience here as the display measures 1.26″, and 144 x 168 pixels, and it isn’t the clearest view but it’s adequate. It doesn’t have that e-reader aesthetic you might find on a Kindle, but more along the lines of a liquid crystal display. Looking at the watch from angles isn’t ideal as the watch is somewhat reflective; even looking at it in outdoor settings is a little difficult, even with the backlight on.
The device is charged magnetically by means of three points you find on the left side. It’s reminiscent of the charger you’ll find on Apple laptops but isn’t quite as secure. The specs say that it can be submerged in water up to 165 feet in both fresh and salt water so essentially you never have to remove it from your wrist. On a full charge it will give you a good 7 days worth of function, and can also be charged from your computer or smartphone with the included USB cable.
For both Android and iOS you can play music and get push notifications, and you can also reply to texts. Some Android third-party apps however don’t work when you first pair the device, but the device is intuitive enough with Pebble Notifier to basically send any notifications to the watch.
The iOS app got a new update in addition to the firmware update and it has a better grasp of notifications when paired with iOS 7. The setup and function is crisp and you notice a bevy of info appear on your watch soon after pairing with your iPhone.
As far as improvements over the previous versions, music is much smoother and as we mentioned there weren’t any issues with notifications. For those who want to really utilize it’s potential, there are some issues with apps crashing and lost connections that you’ll just have to bear. No deal-breakers, just minor annoyances. The watch is a solid device in the burgeoning smartwatch class and is more for the tech-savvy than mass market consumer. It’s a nice, unobtrusive edition that does what it says it will, but there are still improvements that should make it more worthwhile in the future. Of the few smartwatches out there, the Pebble is by far the most practical and useful, and is the way to go in our opinion.