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Pebble E-paper Smartwatch First Look and Hands-on

 

Pebble Smartwatch Android

As an early backer of the Pebble E-paper Smartwatch on Kickstarter, it looks like I was lucky enough to receive one from the first batches that were created. Yep, mine arrived late last night, though I am just now having a chance to play with it. As you can see from the pictures, I went with the standard black to keep it a bit more classy and timeless. So let’s talk about my first impressions.

In the box, you get the Pebble and a USB cable with magnetic tip for charging the watch. That’s it. The only instructions ask that you head over to go.getpebble.com where you’ll find instructions on syncing through the Pebble app on your phone via Bluetooth. It took all of 1 minute to set up, sync, and start testing.

The watch itself, is a great size. The first few times I saw the device during the Kickstarter campaign, I thought it might be too small, but now that I have one in hand and on my wrist, I can say that I think they picked a great size. Gone are the days of the ridiculously oversized watch, folks. Pebble clearly understood that.

Pebble Smartwatch Android

The black version is a polished plastic with matching matte black rubber wrist band. The device itself has four buttons:  back, home, up and down. And then there is the charging port, which again, only works with the cable in your box since it magnetically attaches to the watch. In other words, do not lose this thing.

On a software front, the watch does as advertised for the most part. While I have yet to fully sync with my device to start testing emails, texts, calls, the Pebble app allows you to send test messages so you can at least see what notifications would look like. When receiving each, your watch will do a little vibrate in order to notify you. From there, you can view messages, scroll and read them, or decline incoming calls. I can see how this could be handy.

At this time, Pebble can accept notifications from Gmail, Email, Google Talk, Google Voice, Calendar, WhatsApp, Incoming Calls, SMS, and Facebook.

Unfortunately, the Pebble team still has a ways to go when it comes to other apps. In the campaign on Kickstarter, they showed it tracking workouts such as runs or biking, but those have yet to be built in. It does allow you to control your music, though.

On a first impression basis, I’d say that Pebble is off to a good start, but it’ll take some time for me to fully review and decide if you should drop $150 on one, which is the retail price now that it’s out of Kickstarter and on its own.

For now check out the gallery and video below.

Gallery

Video

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  • Chris Hollenbeck

    Want.

  • n900mixalot

    I had a smartwatch from Sony, I think it was, and while I enjoyed it, it just didn’t ever get the attention to make it a long-term device to own.

    There were PLENTY of opportunities for developers to create apps, but very few ever did and it died on its own. Smartwatches aren’t new.

    I just cannot, for the life of me, figure out what is so exciting about this one. Is it the fact that it uses E-paper? Help?!

    • http://mikekusold.com/ Mike Kusold

      E-Paper allows the battery to extend to the 5-7 day range. My biggest issue with previous smart watches is the fact that they last 12-24 hours before needing a charge.

      • noc007

        This. I never take my watch off. If I only have to take it off one night a week to charge, I’m willing to put up with that. If it can charge on my wrist for <=30 min while I'm at my computer, even better.

        The display tech not only saves battery, but it is always visible. Most of these smartwatches in the past required one to hit a button just to see the time; IMHO that's a silly feature for something that calls itself a watch. The guys that did the Pebble also previously made a watch that used an OLED screen; battery life and display type were two big lessons they learned in that endeavor.

        The other plus is that there's guaranteed to be 85,000 watches out there based on Kickstarter backers alone so there's hard numbers for a dev to see and decide.

  • http://profiles.google.com/lwvyruz luke woodruff

    Just got a movado for christmas, ill wait till a good touch smart watch comes out.

  • Keith Sumner

    Plastic and rubber, a watch that needs to be charged, BIg turnoffs.

  • anezarati

    that actually does look pretty big on your wrist

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=808110267 Brad Kou

    anyone else think it would be a good idea to have a long press on the buttons to switch songs instead of going into the music section of the watch?

  • xzombiex66

    The one thing that i dont like is, its Bluetooth, so your phones battery will suffer.

    • noc007

      For a watch that’s connected to your phone, what other standardized and regularly available method do you propose? Most phones will probably see about a 10% reduction; that’s hardly the penalty the separate LTE radio brings in the first round of those phones and I’d imagine that it still exists today with current phones that have a separate LTE radio.

      They’ll turn on BT 4.0-LE functionality in a future firmware release and it won’t be as bad for phones that have BT 4.0. I turned on BT on my D4 just to see how much of a penalty I’ll see with it and it’s barely noticeable.

      • xzombiex66

        Also I connect my phone to the Bluetooth in m car for music so i would also lose functionality of the watch at that time..

        • noc007

          Why? BT was designed to allow multiple devices to connect together simultaneously. Part of the point of BT was to take what normally would be connected with wires in close proximity to be wireless. The type of limitation you’re refering to is generally imposed by the designer of the BT device, what it’s function is, and what BT profiles it utilizes. Ex: your headunit can only play audio from one source at a time. That doesn’t apply to being able to pair and simultaneously use a BT keyboard, BT mouse, BT headset, and a Pebble at the same time. I would expect that your HU and a Pebble would both be able to control your music app at the same time.

          If your phone has that kind of limitation, it’s time to upgrade to a better smartphone.

          • xzombiex66

            Well I have a brand new car and a nexus 4…had no idea I can connect multiple devices over Bluetooth. Thanks for the heads up

          • Jason Broad

            I use a Sony Ericsson MBW150 smart watch on a daily basis. I am able to use that at the same time as using a handsfree car kit with my Galaxy Nexus. So in theory there is no problem here

      • Hohlraum

        My Verizon Galaxy Nexus takes way more of a battery hit than 10% leaving BT on all day without being plugged in. It murders the battery.

        • Justin Winker

          …. The Galaxy Nexus on VZW has a bad battery life to begin with, so I don’t think that’s a fair comparison. I’ve left Bluetooth on for my phone (Nexus 4) for a full day, connected to Bluetooth headphones (Moto S10’s), and it doesn’t have great battery life, but with about 2 hours of screen on time, I can make it through a 14-16 hour day (not just work, mind you) and still have 25%+ battery left.

  • inthedark12

    can you set the pebble next a regular watch so we can see the size difference?

  • Tom Z

    I look forward to the next generation. I would like a smaller / thinner version.

  • Doug Wing

    Kellex, thanks for including the pic on your wrist. Until I saw that pic I was interested in the watch, but it just looks huge. I too do not have huge wrists and I think it would look odd on my arm.

  • Andrew

    When did you back them Kellex? Trying to get an idea on where I am in the shipping queue…

  • NexusMan

    Every pic that I have previously seen of this watch appeared unatractive to me, but I gotta say Kelle, that black on black color scheme looks pretty slick.

    • http://www.droid-life.com Kellex B

      I was a bit skeptical too, but it actually does look pretty nice in person.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=717340875 Shane Mahon

    Just got my Pebble this morning (box was too big for my small mailbox, so I had to grab it from the post office). The watch itself is indeed about the size of a matchbook, which is smaller I think than any competing product. It feels very solid, but the case actually looks to be two pieces of plastic. I agree that more apps are needed, but it does control my music perfectly which is ideal since I use my phone for music while I’m driving.

    • http://twitter.com/Jason13L Jason Lassourreille

      I have a bit of confusion. Which music app does it work with? I hear it does not work with Spotify, does it only work with the default Music app? Is that also the current Google Play Music?

      • http://www.droid-life.com Kellex B

        Definitely works with Google Music, but not sure what else yet.

    • teejaycard

      When did you back them? Trying to figure out when I’ll be getting mine.

      • darwin914

        I just got notification that my pebble is ready to ship (i orderd jet black) and I backed the project on 4/16/2012

        • noc007

          Ditto. I’m hoping it arrives on one of my WFH days.

  • http://www.facebook.com/choler83 Nathan Choler

    How early of a backer were you? I was about 10 days in and I’m guessing I’m in the 10,000 range.

    • http://www.droid-life.com Kellex B

      I think I was in the first couple of days, can’t really remember though.

      • darwin914

        Just got notification that mine is ready to ship and I backed the project on 4/16/2012 (i ordered a jet black and it is my understanding that the other colors may take longer to ship)

        • http://www.facebook.com/choler83 Nathan Choler

          Sweet, I backed on 4/17/2012 and i ordered jet black also. Thanks for the info.

    • Kam Francois-Ashbrook
  • Booyah

    Would be curious to see how this measures up to the MotoActv…

    • http://twitter.com/misterE33 Mr E

      same — the Motorola one looks possibly more featured, but the e-ink screen has its own advantages too

      • http://www.droid-life.com Kellex B

        MotoActv is definitely more feature-rich. But the Pebble has a ton of potential, is also not a giant brick on your wrist, and looks fairly classy, heh. We just need developers or the Pebble team to start building more apps for it.

        As someone that used a MotoActv for months and finally grew tired of the bulk, this is somewhat a breath of fresh air.

        • Booyah

          Makes sense. Thanks for the input.

        • noc007

          I’m waiting on the watchface SDK. One of the big reasons I bought it. I’ve got things relatively mocked up in PS am ready to get this going.

  • http://twitter.com/naturallyBlack1 Kyle Wilkins

    I cant see much of a market for a “smart watch” I feel the screen is just too small for anything beyond time and music. I wouldn’t want to read email or anything on it. It could be a good addition to Google Glass somehow though…

    • http://twitter.com/misterE33 Mr E

      It’s hard to do much on such a small screen, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve avoided using my phone because I can’t/don’t want to pull it out of my pocket (sitting with anything but loose-ish jeans, for example), and that’s with a GSIII. With a Note, it would be worse. Plus, my phone is my clock, so I hate to wing it out just to check the time — my old phone got dropped several times like that.

      • http://twitter.com/misterE33 Mr E

        I realize the absurdity of the point about needing a smartwatch to replace my phone which replaced a regular watch, but the same goes for checking notificactions, caller id, etc.

    • Michael Weachock

      I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can tell you why I ordered one (I know you mentioned some of these):

      1. I don’t always want to check my phone or read a full email (maybe I’m eating or with a friend), but I do want to know what it is. I want to be able to check to see if the email I just received is something important or something I can deal with later. I don’t want to read full emails on my Pebble, but I would like to use it to determine whether I should grab my phone.

      2. Music control in the shower/car. I use my phone as my music player when I’m driving. Sometimes I want to skip a song and don’t want to distract myself by unlocking my phone and taking my eyes off the road.

      3. Time

      4. Weather. Some of the watchface concepts had weather right under the time. I like knowing what temperature it is outside, so this would be a really easy and quick way to stay updated.

      5. To do lists: It would be nice to potentially have a to do list on that screen. Most of the items I’d put on mine are short, so it wouldn’t be too much of a pain to read.

      6. Reading an important text when near water. Sometimes I invite a friend over and ask them to let me know when they leave. Then hop in the shower or something. It would be nice to be able to get and read the quick text to know when I need to get out.

      Some of these aren’t that significant, but all of them together represent a sizable quality of life boost for me. To each their own.

    • noc007

      In addition to Mr. Weachock’s post, one of the big things for me is knowing who’s calling without having to pull my phone out of my pocket or even more useful when it’s charging at home. There’re plenty of times my phone has rung and I’m elsewhere in the house; it’s much easier to glance at my watch vs. running up a flight of stairs for a robocaller or ignoring it and it be important.

      Another big selling point for me is the custom watch faces. There may be another watch that can do what I have in mind, but the one’s I’ve encountered that get close are way out outside my budget. Not only is the Pebble the cheaper option, it’s better because I can make changes to the watch face as needs change and there’s so much potential on what it could with my phone.

      Is it for everyone? No. For me, it’s the best option I have found. I’ve looked at other smartwatches and so far the Pebble is the only one I”ve come across that does it the best. Yes there is room for improvement and I look forward to see what they do in the next version.

      • http://www.kertongroup.com Derek Kerton

        “There’re plenty of times my phone has rung and I’m elsewhere in the house”

        Then don’t get your hopes up. It uses Bluetooth, so the range isn’t house-wide.

        • noc007

          I expect about 10 meters and I don’t have a problem currently with my phone upstairs and using BT headphones downstairs. They’ve also hinted that they’ve done a little work to extend the range a little beyond 10 meters.

  • http://twitter.com/ranwanimator Randall Wanamaker

    How is that not oversized? You want small look at Skagen. When Pebble can make their watch look like that then I’ll get one. I’m not interested in packing around something the size of a matchbox on my wrist.

    • punkroyale

      I agree it looks very large on the wrist…Maybe he just has a small wrist?

      • http://www.droid-life.com Kellex B

        I do have somewhat small wrists, but maybe we just have different takes on what a large watch is. When I think large, I think of those insanely huge Diesel watches. This thing matches up in size, or is even a little less wide than my normal watch.

    • Raven

      I have a nice little black anodized titanium Skagen dress watch that I wear when I have to wear a suit, but I would even settle for one the size of my daily wear Citizen Eco-Drive Titanium watch. I would even consider something near its current size if they would round off the edges a bit and make it out of metal with a metal link band. But, I hate rubber bands like it currently has.

      • http://www.kertongroup.com Derek Kerton

        Rounded edges? What, you want a lawsuit from Apple?

  • panicswhenubered

    The Pebble watch is polished plastic? Is the screen plastic too? It looks all integrated into a single piece.