The Pebble E-Paper Watch has finally materialized, for better or worse. The Pebble is not a novel idea, but is novel in its implementation when compared to other currently available smartwatches. Unfortunately, while the ability to check notifications from your wrist without digging into your pockets every time your pants vibrate is extremely convenient, the Pebble smartwatch reminds me of using a first generation iPod … and using it now, not when it was first released in 2001.
The Pebble E-Paper Watch began as a great idea with insufficient funding, as all great startups do. Accordingly, Pebble turned to online creative funding platform Kickstarter for the required capital, raising $2,656,389 via 18,867 public backers in their first three days online. This far exceeded their $100,000 goal and bestowed upon Pebble the crown of highest grossing Kickstarter project ever. Great publicity for fledgling smart watch maker and their Pebble offering.
The Pebble smartwatch is not intended to be a replacement for your iPhone or Android equipped cell, but rather an extension of your phone’s display that allows for some remedial user input. Possessing a lackluster 144 x 168 black and white e-paper display, you will find the backlight to be much needed. A nice and bright high-res OLED display would serve to enhance this watch immensely … maybe in rev. 2? The Pebble smartwatch also sports 4 buttons, a vibrating motor, an accelerometer, and surprisingly is waterproof to 165 ft. The smart watch battery boasts a 7 day runtime and is unobtrusively charged via an included magnetic USB cable. Pebble wirelessly connects to your iPhone or Android device via Bluetooth Bluetooth 2.1+ EDR and 4.0.
The Pebble E-Paper Watch is compatible with iPhone 3GS and up and with Android devices running OS 2.3 and up. On the iPhone, the Pebble is mostly controlled and configured from within iOS. For familiarity and ease of use, this is a good idea. However, presently there is only limited support for Pebble functionality in iOS. This leaves much of the Pebble’s potential unrealized until Apple implements additional settings designed for iPhone/smart watch integration. Considering the rumors making the rounds regarding the upcoming Apple iWatch, these settings are probably already under development and should make their way into an iOS beta before long. On an Android phone, the Pebble smartwatch is controlled from the Pebble app. Although this allows for faster implementation of Pebble functionality via software updates, such programming requires you to give broader permissions to the app to control your phone at the system level. In short, the Pebble experience with an Android phone seems more complete right now, but requires significantly more user configuration and tweaking. Conversely, using the Pebble smartwatch with an iPhone feels limited and incomplete at present, but it seamlessly integrates into the the user’s iPhone experience. Not surprisingly, the same dichotomy found in a typical Windows vs Mac comparison.
Various watch faces can be downloaded and displayed and I fully expect the number of available options on that front to skyrocket as proliferation of the Pebble smartwatch becomes more widespread. However, for now, there are but a few electronic faces available, all of which are rather uninspired. Pebble claims that several enhancements will be forthcoming in the form of apps: music control with the touch of a button, GPS generated speed, distance and pace data for cyclists and runners, a golf rangefinder app that will work on over 25,000 courses, and many more. However, as of this writing, no apps are yet available.
Well, I really wanted to like it … and maybe eventually I will. However, at present the display and interface already feel dated and there are no apps yet available to make it more useful. I do like the convenience of being able to glance at my wrist for caller ID and email/text alerts. However, that convenience is not enough for me to keep the Pebble E-Paper Watch in my arsenal. I anticipate generation 2 will be much more refined. Nonetheless, we find the Pebble to be the best smartwatch of 2013 so far.