It has been several months now, closer to a year than not, since the Pebble smart watch hit Kickstarter and created such a huge buzz. They raised many times their initial funding request with their iOS and Android compatible smart watch setting a Kickstarter record in the process. Since funds were raised shipping dates slipped more than once, however, and some were wondering if the watch would turn out to be another case of Kickstarter vaporware. Fortunately for us backers, that is not the case; the Pebble began shipping in late January in batches out to its backers. I have had the Pebble on my wrist for a few hours now and have some first impressions to share.
The Box: The first thing that struck me was the packaging the watch comes in. It was a long cardboard box made from recycled material (13 x 4 x 1). Below the shipping label are the words “it’s time” and on the back is “meet pebble” with a render of the watch and a list of compatible devices. Very simple, and that simplicity is repeated on the inside. Tearing open the box is the watch laid out lengthwise and a USB charging cable; the only instructions are a graphic on the inside top of the box showing a Pebble pairing with a smartphone. Again, very simple and in a lot of ways reminiscent of Apple’s packaging designs. A very pleasant and functional packaging all around.
Set-Up: Set-up with my iPhone 5 was very easy. The accompanying free iPhone Pebble app all but walked me through each step. It took just a couple of minutes and my Pebble and phone were paired; as soon as they were I was notified a software update was available for the Pebble which was downloaded on the iPhone and pushed to the Pebble via Bluetooth. Slick and easy. There is a page in the app to install other apps which only consists of other watch faces at the moment. Pebble is expecting several other apps to be available in the near future. Despite that, installing a new watch face was as simple as tapping the screen of the phone.
Notifications: Part of the appeal of a smart watch is to be able to see what is happening on your phone without the need to actually access the device. I have found that my notifications were successfully pushed from the phone to the Pebble providing a quick glance. You can only read the notifications, not reply, and longer ones are truncated. The watch vibrates quite nicely when new notices come in.
As a watch: The Pebble is surprisingly light. Granted, it is a plastic case, but you still expect a bit more weight given the size. The Pebble ships with three faces installed: Text Watch – tells the time with spelled out numbers; Fuzzy Time – spells out an approximation of the time to the nearest five minutes; and Classic Analog – a three hand analog watch face. I have played with all three and found the time to be as easily legible on the watch as with any other analog or digital watch. The backlight has been a bit wonky so far; it should turn on with a tap on the screen but I can only get that to work intermittently so far. On the wrist the Pebble looks far better than I had expected. I chose the black model and it is very sleek and does not come across overly “cheap” looking despite the all plastic case. I swapped out the generic silicone rubber strap for a nice black leather one with white contrasting stitching. It really looks quite nice and fits my small 6.5″ wrist quite well.
My impressions thus far are mostly positive. I am hopefully that more apps will be available very soon, as that was one of the selling points of the Kickstarter project. I am also quite interested in how my iPhone 5 battery life is at the end of the day after being paired to the Pebble via Bluetooth throughout the day. A full review with more detail will be coming soon.