I’m not a big fan of wristwear, usually preferring to check my phone, or the cooker for the time. However, this Christmas I received a new Pebble smartwatch, fresh from the Kickstarter campaign that helped this small concept gain global notoriety. With 2014 set to be the year when the wearables become the next big thing, and a slew of smartwatches entering the market, I was keen to see how this early starter stacked up.
The Pebble box itself is quite small and nothing to write home about, containing a charging cable, the device itself and manual (which was instantly thrown away), it leaves you to get to work immediately.
It’s nice to have a very plain, very small box – it’s almost understated, and certainly doesn’t feel like it contains one of the coolest trend-setters on the market.
Perhaps the easiest device I’ve ever had to set up; download the Pebble app from the App store, or Play Store, open it, simply switch on the watch, making sure Bluetooth is active, and the two will pair together pretty quickly.
I’m working off a Nexus 4, so for an Android user, the App effectively controls everything. Notifications and personalization as well as music control are all set from here, along with any other custom installs you’d like to perform (there’s an app store included, but you can download more from the Play Store).
iOS is a different story, much more control is given over to the watch, rather than the app, each pair quickly and once up and running, there’s very little difference.
What’s it like?
Once it’s on you and working, you barely feel it – the watch itself is nice and light. While it’s entirely plastic, it feels sturdy in the hand and very well build especially when you consider where it came from. The strap is plastic, but it’s comfortable and does the job – this can be swapped out for any others you might prefer, meaning you can personalise nicely.
The battery is decent, on regular use I can easily get five days to a week from the Pebble, the e-ink display helps reduce battery consumption a lot, compared to the gear – it only uses power when it moves. On the other side, your phone doesn’t get seriously affected, using Bluetooth 4, there’s only a small difference in usage. The Pebble is also waterproof, but I’m yet to test this out for fear of destroying it.
Notifications are, ultimately the most useful prospect. You can set it to pull texts, tweets, Whatsapp, calls, etc. and vibrate on your wrist. It can get annoying if you have your phone out, as you’ll go through a much longer process of responding to each notification. When your phone is in your pocket, or walking along the street, however; it’s a real convenience, especially when screening calls, or in a dodgy area, where you might want to keep your phone right where it is.
The one problem I do have with the Pebble, is that Bluetooth doesn’t always work for me, some tweets or notifications have been missed, especially when several come together. It’s small, but can be annoying. The lack of a battery usage icon can also be disconcerting; smartphones have tempered us to short battery life, using the Pebble can take getting used to being comfortable with power consumption.
The Pebble, to me, is by far the nicest smartwatch currently on the market. It reminds me strongly of the old Nokia 3210; sturdy, reliable and with terrible graphics. If someone could create Snake for it, it would be a real trip down memory lane.
From a usability point of view, what you get is a real achievement for a kickstarter campaign, the device works and does exactly what it says it will, delightfully lacking in gimmicks. From a looks perspective, it’s by far the nerdiest looking out there, which to me, as an early adopter is exactly how it should look. There’s also a metallic version, but to me the plastic looks like it should, a cool device, rather than a strictly fashion statement.
While Samsung have released the bloated, heavy and awkward Galaxy Gear, Pebble is a nice throwback to when devices did exactly what they needed to, reliably and makes you feel like a real nerd while you’re at it.