Smartwatches are the new hottest trend in today’s tech world, and the Pebble E-Ink watch helped start the fire. The most successful Kickstarter project to date, the Pebble, raised over $ 10 million during its month-long campaign that ended in May 2012. It had nearly 70,000 backers and more than those from non-Kickstarter pre-orders you’ll see a lot of people on the street wearing the watch. Why?
Before we dive into pebble politics, a topic we can’t avoid even in this innocent review, let’s start by pre-ordering a red pebble after months of waiting. For those of you who didn’t come along, the Pebble is a smartwatch with an e-ink screen (similar to various eReaders) that plugs into your iPhone or Android device. With its infinite number of apps and watch faces, it’s far more customizable than your regular watch.
The pebble is still hard to come by. You can currently pre-order the black version from Best Buy or pre-order one of the five available colors on the Pebble website, however it is not clear when you will receive the watch. In the meantime, you can read all about it in the chart below and, if you’d like, join the run and win this $ 150 new, cherry red pebble for free ! As it goes, this can happen before you can get your hands on it from a dealer.
History lesson for pebbles
By the time you read the intro, you already know that Pebble had nearly 70,000 Kickstarter backers, and more than that on pre-orders. It was originally offered in three colors: black, red and white. Two more colors were added later: gray and orange. As things stand today, many pre-orders in colors other than black and red have not yet been delivered. Worse still, many Kickstarter backers haven’t received their pebbles yet, especially those who ordered the white one.
The company had made promises from Pebbles in March, then in May, and then simply stopped updating because those deadlines couldn’t be met. Back when all seemed lost, they decided to make the most controversial decision of all: make the black pebble available to everyone on Best Buy. When disappointed Kickstarter backers and pre-order customers were mad at this move, they were furious when the Pebbles at Best Buy sold out immediately, mostly bought by people who didn’t support the company in the first few steps.
I personally pre-ordered the red pebble in October 2012 which then had a shipping estimate for March 2013. I paid for my order in January 2013, but March came and went and nothing happened. The shipping date was then changed to May, which came and went. At this point, Pebble started sending out sporadic emails without ever setting a new date, which led me to believe that pre-orders for black and red pebbles would be shipping soon. Fortunately, I chose red in my pre-order as I didn’t know it was the right choice at the time. I finally got my Pebble in July.
Where is that today? Nowhere too positive. The Pebble Forum is still filled with supporters and customers who did not receive the watch. Best Buy is out of stock. It seems like nothing to do but wait, or if you’ve pre-ordered and haven’t paid yet, cancel and wait for the watch to be available again in Best Buy.
If you supported the Pebble or have pre-ordered it, we’d love your experience in the comments. And now let’s leave politics behind and focus on the real purpose of this report: the Pebble smartwatch!
Get to know the pebble
When I was first given the pebble box, I thought there must be a mistake. I was supposed to get a watch, not a keyboard!
After waiting over 6 months, I wasn’t ready for failure. Luckily it says “hit pebbles” on the box, so it has to be the right one. I opened the box to find a ton of plastic wrap, plus a pebble clock and USB cable. Not the most efficient packaging in the world, but it looks good.
I knew exactly what to expect in terms of how the Pebble would look. Hence, the biggest surprise when I opened the box was how dusty and dirty the pebble was before I even tried to touch it. This is evident in some of the photos below as I wasn’t aware of how dirty it was when I first took it out.
As you’ve probably noticed, it’s not a regular USB cable, but a proprietary magnetic connector. This means there isn’t a jack that makes the watch vulnerable to water, but it also means that if you lose the cord or something happens, you won’t be able to use every old cord that is around the house. Given how difficult it is to get through these pebbles, I’m not sure if I want to get my hands on a replacement cord.
Looking at the Pebble itself, I found the magnetic charging port and an additional button on the left and three more on the right. You may also notice how dirty the watch is in these shots. So it was out of the box , I’m not sure where it was before it got to me.
If you have keen eyes, you may have noticed something special on the back of the pebble. Yes, my Pebble says “ Kickstarter Edition ” on the back, even though I’ve never been a Kickstarter supporter and although some Kickstarter supporters have not yet received their watches.
Setting up the pebble
If you thought you would take the Pebble out of the box, turn it on, and start using it, you will be bitterly surprised. It took me a full hour to get the Pebble to show me the time, much time waiting in vain for things to happen as described in the instructions. Don’t worry, I finally got it working.
If you remember the box said go.getpebble.com to get started, and so I did. Turning on the Pebble itself only served to display the message shown above, so obviously some settings were ok. The website sent me to the Play Store to install the Pebble mobile app (there’s an iOS version too, of course). Then I was told that bluetooth was turned on on my phone and had to tap the gear icon in the Pebble app to pair them.
The Pebble app had other plans, however. Before I could even access a tooth icon, the Pebble app asked me if I wanted to get started or learn more. When I chose Get Started, it just looked for Pebbles.
I won’t bore you with details, but from here on nothing looked like the instructions, and on top of that, my phone and Pebble wouldn’t connect. Every time I tried to find the gear icon pictured here, I was ominously asked if I wanted to “skip setup” which of course I thought I didn’t.
I got stuck on the screens that can be seen below. These look promising, but not if the Pebble itself ignores any attempt at pairing made this way.
Eventually the app announced that it had paired with the Pebble and the Pebble had now been updated. The problem is, the Pebble still was n’t showing any sign of anything, and kept showing the “Install and start the Pebble App” message. I think it just takes time, I’ve left it “refreshing” for about 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes of nothing happening, I got tired and withdrew from the process. This means that I chose to “skip setup”, which was apparently what I had to do in the first place. I was then finally able to tap the elusive gear icon and manually pair the devices. At this point my Pebble was really updated and it looked like this:
Once that was done I could finally use my Pebble!
What can the pebble do?
The Pebble is a pretty nice looking watch and has an e-ink screen, but what can this watch do for you that a regular watch can’t? A short answer would be “a lot”. A longer answer would be “depends on how you use it”.
The Pebble is a large and sturdy watch. It comes with a 1.26-inch screen (144 × 168 pixels) and a very wide strap. It has a backlight, a vibration motor (but no speaker or microphone), light sensors, and an accelerometer. It’s also 5 ATM water resistant, at least on paper, which means it should be up to 50 meters underwater. You can pair it with any iOS device with iOS 5 and higher and with an Android device with Android 2.3 or higher.
The first time you use the Pebble, there are three different watch faces to choose from, which you can switch between using the top and bottom buttons on the right. The middle button opens the menu where you will find the music controller, alarm and settings.
In Settings you will find a list of paired devices, date and time controls, display controls, and notification controls, among other things. The display controls let you choose how and when to turn on the backlight, and whether to turn it on when you are using your wrist.
Speaking of notifications, while you can toggle them on and off via the watch, you’ll need to use the app on your phone to determine which notifications are sent to the Pebble. The Pebble can alert you to incoming calls, text and WhatsApp messages, new emails, Google Talk and Google Voice messages and Facebook messages. Currently, email notifications only work with the standard email client on iOS 6 (not iOS 5) and with the standard email app or Gmail on Android.
Alerts are presented as short vibration patterns, along with text on-screen warnings and summaries of the new message. Apparently, these notifications differ slightly depending on your mobile platform. For example, on iOS, Pebble lets you take calls using the watch, while on Android, you can only decline calls.
Email notifications contain the first few sentences of the email (400 to 500 characters), while text messages usually contain the entire message if it is not particularly long. WhatsApp messages only contain the sender’s name. In general, these notifications mainly consist of knowing that you have received a new message / email rather than actually reading it on the Pebble. Reading email on the Pebble, even if it’s brief, is quite inconvenient, and I only kept getting notifications for new emails in my inbox, although most of my new emails skip the inbox in favor of labels.
If you speak languages that don’t use regular Latin script, expect your emails and texts to look like this:
You must be curious about the music controller mentioned above. What can it do? To make it clearer I have prepared a video showing how it works.
On iOS, the music app works with Music, Pandora, Spotify, and “any other music app that implements standard music controls”. Things aren’t that advanced on Android, and the app is only supposed to control the default Music app and Google Play Music. In reality, I could also control earbits – my mobile music player – so you never know. The built-in pebble music app is very simple and doesn’t even allow you to navigate between artists or albums, it just controls the music that’s currently playing.
However, that’s not all Pebble can do. By far not. While these are all the features you can find on the Pebble right out of the box, the web is full of additional faces, apps, and features to add to your Pebble. You can access some additional watch faces and apps through the mobile app. You can find dozens of other users on The Pebble forum and other websites.
The easiest way to download these watch faces and apps from the internet is to scan a QR code. This will automatically install the app on your watch through the phone. The Pebble cannot access the internet; B. Weather information that appears on many watch faces. To do this, you need to install an additional third-party app called httpebble [no longer available].
Update (November 2017): The httpebble app is no longer available in Google Play.
Pebble apps range from alternate music controls and RSS readers to Super Mario faces and cycling apps. All of these apps and panels were created by third-party developers. So don’t expect to find the same things for Android and iOS.
Live with the Pebble Smartwatch
Disclaimer: I don’t like heavy and bulky watches. This may be because I am a woman or simply because I am who I am, but my normal watch is almost non-existent next to the Pebble. For me, the Pebble was extremely uncomfortable to carry. The combination of the huge dial and the very wide strap made it feel like I was wearing an additional smartphone on my wrist. Even my gadget-loving husband, who usually wears a much larger watch than I do, said the Pebble doesn’t feel particularly comfortable to wear.
I can definitely see how useful the Pebble is at times when your phone is somewhere out of reach, but at the end of the day you still need the actual phone to perform most of the actions.
When it comes to printing, the Pebble’s biggest draw is the endless number of dials that make it possible to wear a different and original watch every day, as well as the e-ink display.
Should You Buy the Pebble Smartwatch?
This is kind of a question as there is currently no way to actually purchase the Pebble. You can pre-order it, but as things stand, you might want to wait until it’s all over.
In general, the pebble is a nice gimmick that gadget lovers would love to play with, but at the end of the day I don’t see too many situations where it would really be necessary. That, in turn, can be said of most smartwatches. As a regular watch, the Pebble packages endless watches in a $ 150 watch, which is nice.
Recommendation: If you like the customization options, love e-ink, and want to wear huge watches, buy them but don’t buy them that this is too useful.