Pebble, the company that brought us the first truly usable smartwatch back in mid-2012, is back with another Kickstarter campaign for their next model, the Pebble Time. By way of a reminder, the first Pebble raised over $10 million on Kickstarter after initially seeking $100,000. Some 68,929 people pledged money to the project and as of the end of 2014 Pebble had sold a million of its cross platform smartwatch. We reviewed the Pebble and in its earlier state found it to be a good but not great watch.
The Pebble Time is again available via the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. They have updated almost every aspect of the watch. The case is now more rounded than the original and has a slight curve to it so as to fit the wrist. The case appears to be a bit wider than the original and has rounded corners to give it a slightly less boxy appearance. They also upgraded the bezel to make it PVD stainless steel over the plastic case. The Pebble Time is thinner than the original, which along with the curved case gives it a lower profile.
The plastic crystal is gone replaced with Gorilla Glass which should lend to the durability of the Time. The Time is water resistant, although only “shallow water activities”, such as swimming, showering or running in the rain. While they do not give an actual rating they do call out it is not meant for diving. The five original colors have been trimmed down to just three: black, white and red. With all of these changes to the appearance it still looks like a plastic, digital watch.
The exception is the Pebble Time Steel. After the campaign had been live for a bit the team added a new model, the Time Steel. This model keeps the same shape as the plastic/steel bezel models, but is made of CNC-finished 316L stainless steel. It will come in three finishes: silver with a stone leather band; gunmetal black with a black leather band and gold with a red leather band. All three will also come with a “metal” band. The steel case goes a long way in dressing up the Pebble Time. It looks like a more grown-up version of the Time over the plastic models. There is a price bump for the Time Steel versions, but it still is kept competitive with other smartwatches (pricing below).
Aesthetics aside, the Pebble Time keeps the features that made the Pebble popular as well as adding a few new tricks. The Time will show you notifications of calls and messages, let you control music, display workout information (from an associated app on the phone) and of course show the time. It performs the same functions as the original Pebble, just now with a color screen. It still uses an e-paper display which lends to its leading 7-day battery life.
All existing watch faces and apps will work with the new Pebble Time, there is no compatibility issue at all. One of the additions is that of a microphone that allows for short voice notes or quick replies to incoming notifications. This voice reply feature currently works with more Android apps (SMS, Hangouts, Faceboook Messenger, Whatsapp, and “hundreds more”) than iOS apps (Gmail notifications only at present, they state they are working to bring voice replies to more apps). The charging port, once located on the side of the case has been moved to the back of the watch on the Time, which feels like a more appropriate spot for the magnetic charger.
Another new feature of the Pebble Time is the Timeline. Timeline connects to calendars, alarms and apps to organize all the information there into a past, present and future chronological timeline. You can scroll forward and backwards and see your events and messages in the order they arrived or occurred. It is a neat feature and Pebble is counting on it being a big differentiator over other smartwatches.
Overall the Pebble Time appears to be a well done upgrade to the first truly popular smartwatch. They have made efforts to soften the case and add some flair with the bezel without drifting too far from its roots. The cross-platform ability of the device, Android or iOS, is a big seller, as is the competitive price. You can currently pick up a Pebble Time for $179 (USD) and a Pebble Time Steel for $250 (USD) during the Kickstarter campaign run. Pricing will be $199 for the plastic models and $299 for the steel after the funding closes. The first Pebble set all kinds of records and the Time is no slouch. They had reached a massive amount of funding in their first 24 hours, in the neighborhood of $6,000,000. As of this article they sit at almost $16,000,000 with 23 days yet to go. If you want to get on board, head over to the Pebble Time Kickstarter page and kick in your pledge.