Review: Pebble Smartwatch

The wearable technology space has made quite a bit of progress this past year. We’ve been introduced to and become more aware of the various accessories — glasses, watches, fitness bands, etc. They all aim to be a part of our life, some as an extension of the phone and others as a standalone device.

The current state of smartwatches is analogous to the pre-iPod era for MP3 players. Remember how, before the arrival of the iPod, there were so many MP3 players available? You could name a manufacturer and, more often than not, it made one. Once the iPod arrived, it was the MP3 player that you wanted; soon it became synonymous with the term.

This isn’t to say that Apple will produce the smartwatch to rule them all or that the Pebble isn’t worthy of owning. Many people are simply still waiting for the “game-changer”. As with all reviews thus far, this one is mainly based on my usage. Read on to hear how the Pebble has fared on the Android platform.

Likes

  • E-paper display
  • Battery life
  • Lightweight

Dislikes

  • Crevices on each side of the watch contain dust/dirt
  • Media information isn’t correctly displayed for some apps

Setup

I didn’t document the setup process in detail but I don’t recall it being difficult. The main requirement is downloading the app on your smartphone. After doing so, you’ll turn on Bluetooth and pair the Pebble to your phone using the app. Subsequent connections are made automatically. This has been working well for the most part. For the seldom connection issue, turning Bluetooth off and on or restarting the phone would fix it.

Use

The Pebble really is a watch first. It’s relatively lightweight and comfortable; I have no trouble wearing it all day. Sometimes I don’t even take it off when I get home, but that’s also because I’d still be using it. That brings me to my main use case — controlling playback of podcasts. I’ve been listening to podcasts for a while before hearing of the Pebble. The ability to play, pause, and skip right from the watch was very appealing considering the number of times I’d take my phone out of my pocket to pause a podcast, or whatever I’m listening to, for various reasons. And the playback controls have worked with every app I’ve used although the track information displayed on the watch’s screen isn’t always correct. I’m glad to say it’s worked for PodcastAddict and Google Play Music, but it hasn’t for Soundcloud and Pandora.

On to notifications. One of the main goals of a smartwatch is to reduce the amount of times you have to pull your phone out. The Pebble achieves a good middleground between the amount of notifications and battery life. I’d say the frequency of notifications and battery life are inversely related; the more notifications you get, the quicker the battery runs out. This is why I’m OK with the Pebble’s lack of support for all types of notifications. Don’t get me wrong, it’d be great to have the option; however, the default support for text messages, calls, Google Hangouts, and emails are enough.

Conclusion

At $150, the Pebble is relatively cheap. For me, it was just outside the impulse buy range although I was really considering it for a while before I received it as a gift. And, even though it’s been out for almost a year when I got it, I still feel like sort of an early adopter. Wearable technology is still in its early stages in terms of consumer awareness and adoption. I’ve already stated what I mainly use the watch for, to tell time and control playback of media. Everything else is pretty much a bonus. And there are plenty of other features that I really don’t take advantage of. Downloading apps and watch faces are just a couple of examples. I guess you could say that I’m not a power user, but that’s simply because it’s good the way it is. Without having too much experience about the industry as a whole, I feel like this device is among the more notable of 2013. Like the Chromecast, the amount of features for the cost is great.

Update 12-29-2014:

The Pebble has been really useful throughout the year and what I’ve come to appreciate the most is its waterproof capability. That’s definitely not something new when it comes to watches, but I never really had a reason to wear a watch while washing the car or doing something that involved water, so I’d usually just take my watch off. Having my phone in my pocket and controlling podcast/music playback on my wrist has been invaluable. With that said, the Pebble is currently $90 on Amazon. Although the Pebble Steel is the latest model, this is still my pick because it’s more rugged and less expensive — an everyday watch.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s