In Review

Pebble Time review: praise for the basic smartwatch with 'retro charm'

It won't help you make a fashion statement but the Pebble Time is the best no-nonsense smartwatch around, critics say

The first generation of Apple and Android Wear smartwatches have drawn a mixed response from reviewers. Major flaws such as limited battery life, clunky design and fiddly interfaces have resulted in middling reactions from critics, and a slow uptake by consumers. Unofficial figures suggest that after an initial wave of enthusiasm, Apple Watch sales have dropped off dramatically in recent months.

Into this spluttering wearable technology market comes Pebble's latest contender, the Pebble Time – the third generation of its crowd-funded smartwatch, and the first to feature a colour screen. So what do the critics think of the new device?

Pebble Time design

When it was one of the only smartwatches on the market, the team behind Pebble didn't have to think about design terribly hard. The Pebble was there to be functional rather than particularly stylish. So has anything changed? Not really says Stuff.tv. The first generation Pebble was "a bit toy-like, pretty geeky", it explains. "Then the Pebble Steel came along and classed everything up with an all-steel design that made it among the most attractive smartwatches around." But while the Pebble Time does have a certain "retro charm … it doesn't take smartwatch design on in leaps and bounds."

Pebble Time screen

The biggest change ushered in by the Pebble Time is its colour screen. But instead of opting for an OLED display like many of its competitors, the Pebble Time has a colour e-paper screen. "This means that the screen isn't quite as bright and luminous as the Apple Watch and most Android Wear devices," says Engadget. But the e-paper display does offer some advantages. First, it is always on – so you won't have to flick your wrist to activate it like with an Apple Watch. Second, the display has an exceptional battery life (by smartwatch standards). Most smartwatches last between a day or two, but the Pebble can run for up to a week on a single charge.

Pebble Time interface
Pebble Time chassis

Many smartwatches are not waterproof and need to be removed before washing dishes or going for a swim. The Pebble Time, however, is waterproof to a depth of 30 metres, so can be worn throughout the entire day, even if you get go to the beach, have a shower or do the washing up. The new device's body is prone to scratching though, with many early reviewers and users saying that they managed to damage their smartwatch within the first few days of owning it. "I never saw nary a scratch on my original Pebble," says Stark Insider. "Within a few days I had several on my Time. And I’m one of those guys who treats his gear with ridiculous, silly amounts of care… If you get one, be sure to get a protector that not only covers the screen, but the entire face of the watch, including that large, delicate bezel." A more robust steel version of Pebble Time will ship to backers and those who have pre-ordered the device at the end of the month, and will go on general sale later in the year.

Pebble Time apps

The native apps that come pre-loaded on Pebble Time include a remote for controlling your music, a notifications centre for scrolling through old messages, an alarm clock and a settings feature that allows you to tailor your watch the way you want it. To get it to do anything else you will need to download a third-party app via an app on your Apple or Android smartphone.

Pebble Time turns into a step tracker and fitness device with the Misfit or Jawbone apps. It can also bring you the latest sports news via ESPN, act as a remote for your music with Pandora, monitor your sleep with Morpheuz and play basic games, such as Pixel Miner. Many apps are still in black and white, but colour highlights, according to Digital Spy include "a revamped TripAdvisor with a splash of 8-bit colour, Evernote for quick-reference reminders, PayPal, and a Domino's Pizza tracker."

Pebble Time price

The Pebble Time comes in black, red and white and costs $199 (£130). A stainless steel version of the device will be released at a later date, but the price has yet to be announced. By comparison, the cheapest Apple Watch costs £299.

Pebble time verdict

The Pebble Time won't help you make a fashion statement", Digital Spy says, "yet it's the logical choice if no-nonsense smartwatch functionality is what you're after."

While there are drawbacks to the simplicity of the Pebble Time, including its basic interface and plain design, the excellent battery life, always-on colour display and extensive app library make it a "solid choice for first-time smartwatch buyers", PC Mag concludes.

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