Pebble review

3 minute read 26 March 2013

Colin loaned me his Pebble until he gets back into town next month and I haven't seen anyone else in our circle review it, so here goes.

Who Needs the Time?

First some setup. I don't wear watches and almost never have. Its a modality I think underutilized and one I've still intend to design for, but the truth is I haven't found anything with enough value to wear on my wrist over the 31 years of my life.

Thus I was incredibly surprised to find that after even ONE day of Pebble usage, I felt naked without it.

Fit, Finish, Setup

First the boring stuff. I've found the watch to be very pleasant I'm proud to wear it on my wrist daily. It does slightly rotate off my wrist which I find annoying, but perhaps this could be solved with a new or longer watch band. Further I've found the build quality to be pretty good. Theres a slight rainbow-ing on the screen apparently due to the glue process, but I can live with it.

It was extremely easy to set up. I'm sad to report that as usual the locked down iOS ecosystem loses out on the majority of the notifications, only receiving phone calls, texts, and music information and control. Even though it sounds limiting, thats actually enough for me to recommend the pebble with just those few notifications. However, I went the extra mile and used my jailbreak to full push notifications which I highly recommend.


It turns out Music is one of my favorite features. I listen to podcasts constantly and people typically approach me have to wait for me to dig into iPhone menus in order to pause my audio. With the watch, I found I actually kept my screen on the music control app, rather than the watch, and could, with one button press, pause and play my music. Handy!

Vibration alert

What REALLY surprised me about the watch, however, was how blown away I was by the vibrator in the watch. Most people know that I've been doing research and development in haptics for several years now. I obviously understand the benefits of haptics and am somewhat biased, but I was curious to see what I'd think of the real world implementation.

I immediately found it incredibly freeing. As we all know phantom vibrations have completely poisoned the haptics well when it comes to our phones. We can't leave them on vibrate because in the back of our mind we know that is as good as turning them off.

With vibration on my wrist I found I didn't worry about missing anything on my phone and I was happy to silence it permanently. I also loved using vibration as my alarm. I hate alarms and they don't tend to even wake me up so adding vibration to my wrist really was a fun and new way to wake up. It should be noted that Pebble actually deals with alarms in its own OS, not in iOS, but besides this setback I found alarms easy enough to set and delete.

I did, however, find one big problem with using the watch as an alarm.

Battery Life

~~I'm sorry to report I'm getting only two days under typical use. Im not sure if thats backlight, vibration or bluetooth communication issues, but I'm ready to sacrifice something, ANYTHING, in order to get more battery life. They may be able to patch some of this in, but its definitely the weak point of the system.~~ (ed. note: battery got SIGNIFICANTLY better just weeks later. Not a problem anymore!)

This is worsened by the need for a proprietary magnetic charger cable. I have to keep yet one more cable, or more likely I don't have the cable I need and theres a useless monolith tied to my wrist all day.

Wrap up

In conclusion if I have anything negative to say about the Pebble is I feel they may have done too much, which is not surprising the way it was scope creep developed in public. ~~Battery life seems to be suffering~~ , charging suffers presumably due to the need to get water proofing at X feet deep, etc etc. ~~Maybe eventually we'll be able to disable some of the software based features in order to save battery life, but right now we're stuck.~~

That is we're stuck with a device which can't call anything other than incredible. I can't image what I'm going to do when I have to give it back to Colin.