Pebble: the 16 Million Dollar Smart Watch

Last year around this time I wrote about my first-hand (wrist?) experience with the original Pebble watch after nine months of real-world use.

I concluded that I loved the Pebble for it’s functionality at untethering me from my phone screen.  My opinion hasn’t changed – I still use it every day.

I created this as a primer for those of you who are using the launch of the new, 3rd generation Pebble Time (and Pebble Time Steel) as their first foray into the smart watch trend and/or those like myself, who are Pebble users and might not be sure if it’s ‘time’ to upgrade or to switch to the Apple Watch (I’m an unabashed iPhone user, but the same themes apply to Android wear).

What IS Pebble and how is it different from the other smart-watches?

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*Buzz*. Reach into pocket, pull out phone. Glance at wrist. Done.

Pebble as a platform, in my opinion, is the execution of a unique philosophy on smart watches – that is, it’s a watch that also gets your notifications. This is important. What Pebble does best, and where I think its philosophy is fundamentally different than its competitors, is that it simplifies and minimizes your interaction with your phone. It’s not looking for new ways to engage you with yet another screen (on which to sell apps).

Pebble simplifies and minimizes your interaction with your phone

Your phone is a needy ex- with ADD, it constantly demands your attention and you can’t tell what’s BS and what’s actually important without engaging every single buzz and chirp. With Pebble, everything is pushed to my wrist so I can see what actually warrants my time, read and dismiss it without ever touching my phone – from spam, to reminders to “911-the baby is coming!”.

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or in Tom’s case non-stop “Taylor Swift or Die” texts

My worry with the Apple Watch is that I don’t want or need more interaction with a screen, I want less. I want to simplify my workflow and continue my healthy breakup with my screen.

While Apple or Android may make a superior accessory to your phone, Pebble makes arguably a better watch – a watch that you can read in the daylight with its e-paper screen, you can swim with it and it will keep its charge for 7-10 days depending on the model. This is crucial because if I had to charge my watch every day… well I may not bother once the novelty has worn off.

Pebble makes arguably a better watch

Pebbles newest watch, the Time offers some new, interesting features over my OG Pebble, like a colour screen, but they sell it better than I do, so I’ll point you to their Kickstarter video.

But really, from a practicality point of view, it sticks with what it does best – it’s a watch. It gets your notifications.

This brings me to the Pebble Time.

Function vs Form?

I’ll admit I jumped on the Time kickstarter as fast as anyone, but after hours staring at my screen from all different angles I settled on a surprising conclusion: the Pebble time is ugly. I should clarify – I had expectations in my head of a follow-up for my beloved Pebble, my subjective expectations were met with something very different, and I simply and personally don’t like the industrial design.

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 The new Pebble Time

I find the thick steel bezel ‘chunky’ that really seems to highlight how small the screen size really is – the effect is reminiscent of the handheld gadgets of my childhood.

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except, this is all I can see…

It’s not entirely fair to compare it to the gorgeous all-screen designed Huawei or the Apple Watch – the Pebble uses an 64 colour postage stamp size e-paper screen to achieve its most practical selling point – a 7d charge; however, fair has nothing to do with it in what is about to become an extremely competitive market. The difference side-by-side in design alone is truly obvious.

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The competition – Huawei’s gorgeous Android watch

For my use I would have happily have taken a new pebble with a larger black and white e-paper screen with a thin in-line bezel with laminated display, and possibly front lit (a la beautiful, crisp paperwhite) in exchange for the colour screen and chunkier bezel any day.

 Except Pebble went ahead and released the beautiful Pebble Time STEEL

Being honest with myself, I regretfully concluded that I didn’t need the Time. It wasn’t for me, and it wasn’t an upgrade in my day-to-day use or in looks to my current pebble. I was about to cancel my order, except Pebble went ahead and released the beautiful Pebble Time STEEL a week into the damn campaign. Pebble is hustling for my money.

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The Pebble Time Steel

Contrary to the Time, from a design point of view the Steel looks fantastic. Despite being 1mm thicker, the thinner metal bezel looks more refined and minimal versus its chubby little brother – the screen itself is the same size as the Time, but the thin bezel makes the display appear visually larger than it is.  In my original article I explained that I loved the black pebble with black watchfaces because they appeared to float in the whole thing making it look bigger than it was. It’s the same effect here with the black border, but thin bezel.  The internals are the same as the Time, but the extra mm bumps the battery to 10 days of use.

Pebble is hustling for my money

And lets face it, its casing is basically an Apple Watch. This isn’t a bad thing, it looks GOOD. For my money, looks being comparable, the simple but effective day-to-day function of the Pebble wins out over the Apple Watch (and doesn’t hurt that it’s 100$ cheaper than the Apple base model). My only concern is that it looks TOO much like an apple watch that it might appear like a cheap knockoff – you will certainly be getting ‘is that an Apple watch?’ all damn day – I even do now with my OG Pebble.

Is it Time for a smart watch?

While the newly released Pebble Time didn’t compel me to upgrade from my beloved OG Pebble, the gorgeous design of the Pebble Time Steel (and my personal alignment with the functional philosophy of Pebble) is ultimately why I chose it as my next watch over the Apple Watch (the 100$ cheaper sticker-price doesn’t hurt either).

I chose Pebble Time Steel over the Apple Watch

For those of you thinking about a smart watch for the first time, or aren’t sure if it should be Apple, Android or Pebble – I’d say if you resonate with the use-case I presented here and in my original article, and the differences Pebble offers over other smart-watches speak to your lifestyle (and workplace), I’d say back the Time or the Time Steel, you won’t regret it.

Available exclusively on Kickstarter: Pebble Time & Pebble Time Steel

 

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One response to “Pebble: the 16 Million Dollar Smart Watch

  1. Pingback: Meta-Review: The Apple Watch | Refined Geekery·

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