24 hours with the Pebble Time
Back in the mid ’90s, during the pager era, I hung up my watch for good. Why do I need a watch to tell time, when my pager does it for me? That made sense. I was always a little bit of a freak since I wore my watch on my right hand (despite being right-handed) so why not stop confusing people? So I hung up my watch for good. My watch-wearing days were over. Until I visited Motorola’s headquarters last fall, that is.
I was introduced to the Moto360 and my love affair with watches was rekindled. But normal watches would not do for me. I fell in love with smartwatches. That love affair continued with the original Pebble, and now continues to the Pebble Time. I received mine in the mail yesterday and I’ve spent about 24 hours with it now. I though I’d share with you a few initial impressions of the watch before we drop our full review of this bad boy.
The Pebble Time is a classic looking digital watch. Notice I didn’t say classic looking watch? It reminds me of a throwback to the era of the 1980’s Casio watches of old. Of course, I say “of old” because that’s the last time I wore one. But the Pebble Time has that sort of look, which is a really nice thing. It doesn’t look ostentatious. It looks like a watch that you’re going to see on the average Joe’s wrist. Of course, if you’re looking for something with more of a classy look, this is a bad thing. But if you’re like me, and you just want a nice looking watch that can be worn for parties, or yardwork alike, this is a safe choice.
The strap is a soft-touch silicone. I can’t compare it to the original Pebble band because my used Pebble came with an after-market band. But it’s surprisingly comfortable to wear. How that assessment stands up to a summer full of heat and travel remains to be seen, but I put it on par with the Moto 360 thus far. It ~looks~ cheaper, but it’s just as comfortable to wear.
In living color
The color screen on the Pebble Time is where this watch stands out. The 1.25-inch
display has muted colors with a backlight for dark environments. The muted colors come from the fact that this is an e-paper display, and it has the battery life to go with it. The screen is a bit on the hard side to read in direct sunlight, but that’s due mostly to the lack of contrast between lighter colors and the background. In most circumstances though, the colors are fine and they make the Pebble watch experience better, so no real complaints there.
The Pebble is powered by Pebble’s all-new operating system that sorts your notifications in a chronological pattern called Timeline. Three buttons on the right side of the watch help you navigate forward and backward in time so you can see what happened (notifications, sunrise, etc) and what is going to happen (calendar appointments, upcoming sports games, and the like). I’m not sure how useful this part of the watch is for me personally, since I’m not really a “live by your calendar” kind of guy. But for folks who do have busy calendars and need to know what’s coming up, this is fairly intuitive.
Your apps menu is still a button press away, still using the three buttons on the right side as up, down, and select, as one would expect. Pebble made the Pebble completely backwards compatible; so all your old apps still work, which is quite the relief to all the developers out there. What’s new though is the fun little animations that take place between menus. Press the center button and the clock face folds up before zipping off the screen, replaced by your menu. Little animations like that can be found throughout the OS, including some of the watch faces. What that does for battery life, I can’t say, but it’s cute.
Voice capabilities are here on the Pebble, but are a bit limited. Currently, Android-toting Pebble Time owners can voice reply to messages, but cannot initiate actions. This is an advantage over iOS users who can’t use voice at all. Pebble is currently working on a workaround for this, but it’s still a little on the disappointing side. I’m not saying I necessarily want to “Ok, Google” like on the Moto 360, but it’d be nice. I did come across an app in the Pebble store that seemed like it might address that limitation, but there were some caveats and I didn’t have time to fully test it, so I’ll reserve judgment for now.
Finally, we get to battery life, which I’m happy to report is far superior to Android Wear. This shouldn’t be surprising in the slightest considering the technical differences. When I brought my watch home from work last night at 30% charge, I realized I’d left the charger at work. Didn’t slow me down in the slightest though; the watch is a battery sipper. Speaking of the charger, the magnets on the charger are strong and seem to hold their place very nicely on the watch, unlike my first-generation Pebble.
Overall, this is a great entry into the smartwatch space. This watch is more utilitarian a smartwatch than Android Wear, and Apple’s WatchOS. There are some trade offs, yes. But are they enough to justify the additional cost of those watches over this one? So far, I can safely say no. As I’ve said in the past, Pebble is great at making a smartwatch and that’s it. It’s not trying to be a smartphone on your wrist. It’s just trying to be the best damn notifier it can be, and it’s doing a great job. I look forward to more time with the…Time.