Pebble Watch – A Smartwatch with Potential

Not since the days of Dick Tracy has a watch been the hottest news in tech. But the Pebble watch, the poster child of Kickstarter projects, is getting plenty of buzz in the tech community. The Pebble watch connects to your iPhone or Android phone to become a second screen, saving you the trouble of digging your phone out of your pocket or purse to read a text message, control your music or see who is calling you.

Remember when cell phones only made phone calls, before the days of smartphones? Well, you may be telling your kids someday about watches that only displayed the time.

This is the dawn of the smartwatch.

About the Pebble Watch

As a backer of the Pebble watch, I received the Kickstarter edition of the watch last week and I’ve tested it with my iPhone 4S and with the Galaxy Note 2.

Here’s a video showing the Pebble watch in action:

To use the watch, download the Pebble app for your iPhone or Android phone. Pairing the watch with Bluetooth is very easy, you confirm that you want to pair the phone and you’re good to go.

After the watch is paired, you will feel it vibrate when you receive a call or text message on your phone. The first few lines of text or caller ID will appear on your screen. You can also use the watch to control the music on your phone.

Pebble claims that the battery life extends for seven days, but real world testing has shown that its endurance usually lasts closer to three or four days. I ran through the battery in two days with my heavy testing. The watch doesn’t display a battery meter until you’re running low on juice.

The charge cord has a magnetic connector, similar to the MagSafe connectors for Mac laptops, though the connector isn’t reversible. The reasoning behind the magnetic connector is to help keep the Pebble water resistant. A dock connector such as the micro USB connector would have provided a channel for liquids to seep into the watch. But the cord connection is unique, so if you lose the cord you will have to buy a replacement cord from Pebble.

The Pebble has an e-paper screen, similar to the eInk screen of Kindle ereaders, though the font isn’t nearly as sharp as on the Kindle. The screen is mostly monochrome, though in certain light, blue can be detected.

The four buttons on the sides are designed to be simple and intuitive. The button on the left side takes you back a screen. The upper and lower buttons on the right side toggle the menu up and down. The center button on the right is used to select the highlighted choice.

The Pebble watch comes in five colors: Arctic White, Jet Black, Cherry Red, Grey and Orange. Perhaps as a gesture of good will to patient backers, Pebble developers allowed backers to choose the fifth color. Fans of Syracuse University, Philadelphia Flyers and the Orange Bowl must have banded together to choose orange. Backers of blue, such as myself, must have assumed that the obvious choice would prevail. Shame on me for not mounting a campaign with fellow fans of blue, such as IBMers, Smurfs and the Blue Man Group.

The watch comes with several watch faces and when I received the watch an update was available with even more choices. The Pebble app gives you even more choices. The watch faces range from the traditional analogue to the uber-geeky designs that may impress some, but will take some time to calculate what the actual time is.

I like my speedometer, watch and other dials to be analog so I chose Brains.

What the Pebble Watch Does

The Pebble functions differently for Android phones versus iPhones. The Verge has an excellent article comparing the differences: Pebble smartwatch review.

With both phones, the Pebble will vibrate to notify you of incoming calls and text messages. The vibration is quick, occurring even before the phone plays a ringtone. The screen displays the number of the caller, or the name if the caller is in your Contacts. The screen also displays the first few lines of the text message.

The watch also acts as a remote control for your music player, including, iTunes, Spotify and Pandora.  The music player also works with Instacast, Podcasts and Audible apps so you can control your podcasts and audiobooks using the Pebble.

What the Pebble Watch Doesn’t Do

The Pebble watch doesn’t have a speaker or microphone so you can’t actually be Dick Tracy and use your smartwatch as a phone. You can’t answer or place calls or send texts using the watch.

The Pebble website mentions other apps that sync with the Pebble including a GPS and pedometer for runs and bike rides, and a golf range finder. But those apps are still in development and not available yet.

You can set an alarm but there is no stopwatch or timer.

The Pebble watch doesn’t automatically reconnect with the iPhone. Unfortunately, with the iPhone, you have to reconfirm on the phone that you want to pair the watch any time your phone is out of range with the watch, which sometimes means the next room. No matter what you’re doing on the iPhone, a pop up notification appears, asking you if you want to allow the watch to pair. When you press Allow, the Pebble app opens to confirm the connection. You then have to return to whatever you were doing prior to the interruption. Repeat this sequence several times a day and the routine can become tiresome.

Who Might Like the Pebble Watch

People who attend a lot of meetings – when you’re in an important meeting but expecting important news via a phone call or text message, looking at your phone can be awkward, even disrespectful. Sneaking a glance at your watch is more easily accomplished. That buzz on your wrist may be the most inconspicuous way of getting the news you’re waiting for.

People who miss important phone calls – if your spouse, kids, boss or other loved ones complain that you never answer your phone, the Pebble could solve your problem. If your phone is buried in your purse or your pocket and you can’t get to it in time to answer it or you don’t hear the ringer, the Pebble can help alert you to the call in time to answer it.

People who enjoy controlling music from their wrist – I quickly became used to being able to control music, podcasts and audiobooks from my wrist.

Who Should Avoid the Pebble Watch

Fashionistas – Don’t put your diamond-studded Rolex watch on eBay quite yet. No one will mistake the Pebble watch for a fashion statement, except techies who will be much more impressed with a Pebble than a Rolex. That is, until the next cool smartwatch is launched.

Those who are resisting reading glasses – The Pebble watch screen is small, about 1″ diagonally, and the font isn’t as crisp as a Kindle ereader. Reading the face of the Pebble watch may be what gets you to finally admit to needing glasses.

Those who don’t have patience for cutting edge tech – The Pebble watch is at the forefront of a new product category, the smartwatch. The first smartphone models were criticized for what they couldn’t do and in hindsight became antiquated quickly. Smartwatches will probably follow a similar trajectory with future smartwatches making the Pebble seem like a prop from the Flintstones. But if you don’t appreciate getting a glimpse of the future, then stay away from the Pebble.

Ideas for Future Development

Make a non-water-resistant watch. Not everyone cares about going swimming with the Pebble. Many of the design features have centered around keeping the watch as water-tight as possible. By conceding that the watch could be affected by moisture, the developers could add a:

  • microphone
  • speaker
  • USB port

These features would add tremendously to the functionality of the watch. A microphone and speaker would allow you to answer calls using the watch, á la Dick Tracy, handy for when your phone isn’t easily retrievable.

A micro USB port would mean those charge cords you already have for your Android, Blackberry, Windows phones and Kindles would work to charge the Pebble. You could also transfer data and files to the watch using a micro USB cable.

Increase screen space. The watch is large, but the screen is small. The design is limited by the size of a screen that can be worn on a wrist, but much of the watch face is taken up by a rather thick bezel. Narrowing the bezel and using a square design would increase screen real estate significantly.

Offer the watch in blue. Orange? Seriously?

Other Smartwatch Options

If you like the idea of a smartwatch, but want to explore other options, check out David Pogue’s article in The New York Times: Dick Tracy, Your Watch Is Ready, Almost.

Availability

The Pebble watch is available to pre-order from the Pebble website for $150. Expected ship dates are in April or May. International shipping is available.

The Pebble watch app is available for:

Bottom Line

The Pebble watch is simple to use for its basic functions. If you’re a fan of getting cutting edge tech and are patient for improvements, then get in line now for the Pebble. If you are satisfied with a watch that just tells time, well, the Pebble watch is probably not your best investment of $150.

Are you excited about smartwatches? Are you interested in the Pebble watch? Have you ever missed a call because you couldn’t hear your phone ring in your purse or your pocket? Would you like to control your music from your wrist? Do you know how to tell time using a Tic-Tac-Toe board? Let us know in the Comments section below!

See also, Mashable The Tech That Makes the Pebble Watch Tick to get a peek at the insides of the Pebble watch.

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Comments

  1. says

    Wow Carolyn!

    Never heard of such a watch, and am sure those who use devices like the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or the Android devices – would love Pebble (nice name too!) If my Dad would have any of these devices, I would surely have gifted this one to him as he is one person who does attend a lot of meetings, and sometimes misses important phone calls if he is busy elsewhere.

    It surely has all the reasons why people should buy it, though speaking of myself, I would rather stick to my wrist watch to see the time (old habits die hard!) or sometimes my mobile whenever the need be. :)

    Thanks for sharing this with us. Have a wonderful week ahead. :)
    Harleena Singh recently published this awesome post..The Father Who Had No TimeMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Harleena, You’re right, the smartwatch will be very similar to the smartphone. There will be those who have no need for a smartwatch. But for those who have smartphones, having a smartwatch can be very enticing.

      My favorite feature is the audio control feature. If I’m not wearing the watch, I forget and try to pause the audio from my wrist anyway. I also have appreciated getting notice of incoming calls. I was driving my daughter home from Philadelphia on Saturday. My Pebble watch started vibrating so she answered my phone (we couldn’t hear the ringer). It was a neighbor wanting my daughter to babysit at the last minute. We probably would have missed the call and the babysitting job except for the Pebble watch!

      If your father gets a smartphone, you may want to get him a smartwatch as a present, Harleena. If your dad is like my dad, finding a great present for him is very difficult to do!

      Thanks for stopping by and starting the conversation, Harleena!
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Manilla – The Thrill of Organizing Your AccountsMy Profile

  2. says

    Hi Carolyn,

    I find this interesting because I think eventually all these smart devices will be part of a system. The watch talking to the phone, the phone talking to the TV, the TV talking to your computer, your computer talking to a supercomputer and so on. I think just about every electrical device will have it’s own IP address eventually.

    My blog tomorrow is mostly about doing Timeline cover pictures on Facebook, complete with words! The weather went really cloudy on Sunday when I was out taking photos, but I used a couple of them anyway. One of a lock-keepers cottage has been quite popular on Facebook. :)
    Mike Maynard recently published this awesome post..Psychology | The meaning of lifeMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Mike, You’re right, smartwatches really do seem to be part of the future. I like your prediction of what may be on the horizon. People have been speculating about a watch and a TV from Apple. Perhaps they will be connected?

      I look forward to seeing your images tomorrow, Mike!
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..8 Easy Ways to Get Free Dropbox SpaceMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Churchill, Yes, if you’ve given up on watches because all they do is tell time, you may want to reconsider with the advent of smartwatches. They really are similar to the differences between smartphones and non-smartphones.

      Now that I’ve been wearing the Pebble watch, wearing a watch that merely tells time seems a bit, well, frustrating. Now I want my watch to do more. We get spoiled by tech pretty quickly, don’t we? ;-)
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Samsung Galaxy Note 2 – A Phantastic PhabletMy Profile

  3. says

    It will be really interesting to watch (no pun intended) this space, especially since there are rumours that Apple is preparing to make a move in this direction as well. Personally, I don’t think I could really get into a product like this (I am indeed a bit of a fashionista), but I can imagine that it represents an opportunity.
    Ruth Zive recently published this awesome post..3 Simple Tips for a Tagline That Doesn’t StinkMy Profile

  4. Rashmi Sinha says

    Finally someone that can keep a “watch” your calls :D :D.

    On the serious note…this is definitely a big step toward the integration of technology that we keep hearing about. Heard apple is doing the same in year or so. will be fun to see how that turns out.

    Thanks for the share. Great post like always :)

      • Rashmi Sinha says

        Yeah technology will win but i am bit apprehensive about the fact that we may be pushing things in wrong direction. I wear a watch for its design value and the persona that it carries as a “time keeper”. With these Hi tech watches, it will be …well just a gadget, will people actually buy them as a thing that is considered to be part of the personally as it is done right now. :-|

  5. says

    In was really hoping to see that this watch could also be used for calling. It would make someone look like an agent engaged in an Op. Would look elegant no doubt. I am sure in the next updates they won’t forget to include speakers and microphone. A USB port would be a plus making the watch a pen drive too. I think the price is a bit too high don’t you think?
    Mushfiqur recently published this awesome post..List of Smartphones and Tablets released in Mobile World Congress 2013My Profile

    • says

      Hi Mushfiiqur, Yes, in many ways the Pebble watch seems like a tease for us, it has some very cool features, yet we are left wanting more. I completely agree with you, there is room for improvement with the Pebble watch, though it is a first generation smartwatch.

      The watch doesn’t have speakers, a microphone or USB port so it could be rated as water resistant. But many of us would prefer those features to a watch being water-tight.

      You’re right, the watch does seem expensive, but like all tech, the price will probably come down in future generations.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Mushfiqur!
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..How to Catch Up on Movies Before and After the Oscars!My Profile

  6. says

    Thanks for the heads up on the Pebble. It certainly has promise but it could easily suffer the fate of many “first out of the gate” products. Because it is new and many capabilities will depend on apps – coming soon I hope – it’s not likely to have a big following just yet. In the meantime rumors of similar products from Samsung and Apple continue to swirl and one or both could be successful. Generally Apple has not actually invented a technology but they take an idea and improve on it substantially. Their ace in the hole is their app store and the way they’ve adapted that to a variety of devices. The clue to the limitations of the Pebble was the emphasis in the promotion on the variety of colors and clock faces. Maybe I’m being to harsh and I wish the company well. I don’t mind being wrong so good luck to the Pebble!
    Gary

    • says

      Hi Gary, Yes, when Apple put a watch face on the iPod Nano, many were hoping that the next version would have apps and a smartwatch feature, but that wasn’t the case. Perhaps because a true smartwatch is coming from Apple?

      The Pebble has the advantage that it syncs to both Android and the iPhone, but most people probably wouldn’t care too much about that versatility.

      Your assessment of the Pebble is fair. The first version of tech is often a mixed bag, exciting but rapidly eclipsed by improved, less expensive versions. Perhaps the Pebble will follow along that track. As David Pogue’s article pointed out, there are many other watch makers who are entering the smartwatch field.

      Time will tell whether smartwatches become a fad or a necessity (pun intended).
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Field Trip – Discover the World Around You!My Profile

  7. says

    Carolyn – Now, this is something new to me, i had never heard of this watch before.

    It is nice to see how they have paired our smart phones to the watch, really interesting concept. Sadly, even though i own like half a dozen watches, i hardly wear any, i just dont like accessories :-)

    But i can surely see how useful this can be for others, as you have listed, who usually tend to miss out calls and messages.

    Thanks for a wonderful share, and have fun with your p-watch.
    Praveen Rajarao recently published this awesome post..Does Your Website Have What It Takes or Is It Time for Website Redesign?My Profile

    • says

      Hi Praveen, Yes, if you think of this as a watch, you may not want one. But that’s like thinking of your Galaxy S3 as just a phone.

      For example, a few minutes ago my daughter sent me a text message. My phone was in my purse in another room so I didn’t hear the text sound. But my Pebble watch vibrated and I was able to read the message on my watch without even finding my phone. Very cool!
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Field Trip – Discover the World Around You!My Profile

  8. says

    That is too darn cool Carolyn. You know I haven’t moved up in the world with my phone yet but even I think that’s a really cool watch. I love the idea and I had a feeling something like that would eventually come along.

    Good for you testing it out, I’m not surprised. It’s not the prettiest watch and way too bulky for my taste but it has to be to read text messages and such.

    Honestly, I would even consider purchasing something like that. Seriously, that’s way too cool. I’m jealous!

    ~Adrienne
    Adrienne recently published this awesome post..In Search Of The Perfect Author Bio BoxMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Adrienne, You’re so right! This smartwatch is very, very cool. I even wonder if someone will get a smartphone just to be able to use a smartwatch with it.

      I’ve only been using this watch a few days but I already don’t want to be without it. Being notified of text messages and phone calls, plus having the audio controls on my wrist, are all very handy. Now when I’m not wearing the Pebble watch, I miss having it. That’s the sign of useful tech in my mind!

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us, Adrienne!
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Samsung Galaxy Note 2 – A Phantastic PhabletMy Profile

  9. Romy Singh says

    Hi Carolyn,

    The first time I saw Pebble on a TV show called Gadget Guru. After watching the review I was completely shocked that now a watch can do all these crazy things. I’m fan of doing crazy things so I wanted to get my hands on this watch as soon as possible.

    I’m planning to buy it soon, because recently I bought iphone4s and as you mention combination of these 2 can be a boom. I’d love to see that boom. :)
    Romy Singh recently published this awesome post..You’re Already Good EnoughMy Profile

  10. says

    Hi Carolyn,

    Excellent review :) That implies how it works in real World.

    I had no idea of Pebble Watch until I read your post about KickStarters and as I remember it was one of the popular projects there.

    I really love the features they listed about Pebble Watch and how we can use it. Oh no… I just lied :D lol…. I really love your experiments and the outcome as we can compare how it really works. We don’t wanna stuck in a lab and work it in best conditions, no?

    I didn’t notice the screen size at first but when you mention it, I’ve given it a look again, very carefully. Actually I was watching it in the video, and as they have used black color watch, it never rings the bell.

    I just went to Google Play to see the details of app and it says it has a bug with Samsung smartphones. Did you notice anything with your Note 2 dear?

    Well, it’s still under development, so I think we need to wait for final version as still it’s missing some features yet. I’ll second your suggestions on future development. Did you send your suggestions to ‘em Carolyn?

    Cheers…
    Mayura recently published this awesome post..Download All Your Tweets and Information on TwitterMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Mayura, Wow, you have a great memory! I’m glad you remember about the Pebble watch being the most successful Kickstarter project ever. That shows there is definitely a market for smartwatches.

      The Kickstarter edition of the Pebble watch is selling for over $200 on eBay so there is strong interest in these watches.

      Yes, there is a notice in Google Play about an issue with Samsung phones running Android version 4, but I did not have any issue with the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 I used to test the Pebble. My test wasn’t definitive, my experience was with just one phone, but I’m pleased to report the Pebble had no issues with the Note 2.

      Yes, I sent this review to the developers of the Pebble watch. Thank you very much for sharing this article too, Mayura!
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Scrub Your Facebook Clean!My Profile

  11. vicky says

    Nah I guess my smartphone is enough for me. I don’t have the patience of checking text on watch and then bring out my phone to reply. If it comes with calls and text feature too, then its worth considering.

    • says

      Hi Vicky, Yes, the Pebble does leave you wanting a bit more. But I still am impressed with what the Pebble does. Since I’ve been using it, the Pebble has alerted me to quite a few calls and text messages that I would have missed otherwise.

      But you’re right, I’m certain future generations of smartwatches will have capabilities far beyond today’s Pebble watch.
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..10 Features My iPhone Has that Your Galaxy S3 Doesn’tMy Profile

  12. says

    Being a technology evangelist who is in constant look out for new and interesting tech developments I must say this was an interesting article. I’ll certainly try Pebble watch out myself. Thanks.

  13. says

    Never heard about this watch before. This going to be exiting, it is not that expensive also compared to other brands like Tag heur, Rado etc which only tells time. 150$ pretty decent price, will buy it. Good post, thanks for sharing.,

  14. says

    The main reasons Pebble will succeed while other smartwatches are struggling to catch on are, complements vs duplicates smartphone features/functions, long battery life, affordable price. The I’m Watch and Sony Smartwatch try to be a 1.25″ screen smartphone. This alone is unreasonable and a sure cause for failure.

  15. says

    Carolyn,
    Wow. This one really interesting and its new to me. I didn’t hear about Pebble before. I like the concept where the technology drives us now. Like from hand to wrist level..lol :)

    The features and app concept looks cool and might be useful when we keep our mobile at vibrate mode in theater or hospital. A quick buzz we can have from wrist and still we are connected.

    Thanks for sharing the very nice info Carolyn. :)
    Manickam Vijayabanu recently published this awesome post..Google Unveils Touch Screen Driven Laptop – Chromebook PixelMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Manickam, Yes, the more I use my Pebble, the more I appreciate it. I have become very spoiled by getting my notices on my wrist. When I’m not wearing the watch, I wish I were.

      I have switched my watch face to Fuzzy Time which tells you the time in writing and only changes the time every five minutes. For example, the time right now is 2:58 but the watch says three o’clock. Close enough, right?

      Well the battery on the watch tends to last longer with this watch face so I’m going to try Fuzzy Time for a while. :-)
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Hulu+ – For True TV FansMy Profile

  16. says

    Nice watch! Infact very nice. I’m not a busy man but still I will buy this watch because it is not that expensive & the benefits are great. I have Samsung android will take this watch very soon.

    • says

      Hi Sam, I hope you like the Pebble watch a lot. It really helped me tonight when I was out to dinner. I got some text messages and I could read them discretely from my watch. I wouldn’t have even known I got them without the watch!
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Hulu+ – For True TV FansMy Profile

  17. James says

    The watch looks amazing. I am very excited to try out this one. This is a good innovation but still I would not say “Great”. The design of the watch looks quite interesting but still more effort is required in regards to its functionality.