Smartwatch living — 2 weeks with the Pebble Time

So what’s a Pebble Time?

Just over 2 weeks ago now I walked to the post office to pick up my long awaited Pebble Time. For those who don’t know, Pebble started life on everyone’s favourite crowd-funding platform, Kickstarter. After the stellar success of their first watch (simple called the Pebble), the second generation Pebble Time also hit Kickstarter, becoming the highest funded campaign in history and raising massive awareness.

So what is it? It’s a smartwatch with a colour e-ink screen, 5 day battery life and connectivity with both iOS and Android. More than that, built on open source material, it allows for creation of apps specially for the device. For those looking for a more detailed review on the capabilities itself, have a look at the Gizmodo review, I’m not here to simply discuss features, I want to dig deeper on the actual experience.

Out of the box

If there is one thing i’m an absolute sucker for, it’s good packaging on a product. Pebble delivered. In my mind Amazon are the leaders in shipping tech products, attractive, accessible, no messing around, in fact, they started this idea back in 2008 (read here). The team behind Pebble studied this, as I find the packaging gorgeous, inspiring and exactly what you’d expect from a startup tech company.

Below, see the steps of unboxing a Pebble Time that created such a strong first impression on me.

Pebble Time Packaging as first delivered
I rip to open packaging on the Pebble Time
Pebble Time smartwatch as first opened
Syncing the Pebble Time smartwatch to Android Phone

Ownership expectations

Having owned fitness trackers before, but never a full smartwatch, I must admit I was slightly unsure what to expect on day 1 of having the Pebble Time on my wrist. Some of the experiences I document here would also no doubt be different if I had more apps, touchscreen etc as found on an Apple Watch or Android Wear device, but I don’t have those here to judge yet, so I’ll go on.

Novelty — for the first few days it’s all about excitement and interest in the new product, even when it’s not necessarily easier than using your phone. Learning to set up quick responses to messages, ensuring all my apps on it were connected and working, even being able to voice-reply, these are the activities that take up your time. I changed the watch face twice a day before finally settling on the smiling face I currently still have. You learn which buttons do what, you learn some limitations, but so far, they don’t annoy you, there is too many better things to focus on.

Day to day — after the novelty wears off, the day to day sets in. Here is where things get really interesting, here are a few key takeaways.

Smile! My Pebble Time watchface. Yes — my arm is hairer than the average watch model

  • Vibrating Alarm — for those who don’t mind wearing a watch to bed, this is the BEST way to be woken up in the morning, hands-down
  • Time Out — my watch will stop sending alerts from my phone at 10pm and start again at 9am, ensuring me peace, something I’m grateful for
  • Cycling — as someone who cycles to/from work, the lack of support for my dedicated app (MapMyRide) is a frustration yet to be overcome
  • Work day — it’s sometimes scary to realise I’ve started leaving my phone at my desk more, particularly in meetings. I’ve become used to having anything urgent (particularly phone calls) available on my wrist should I need them
  • Comfort — I must commend Pebble on the watch band for this device, comfortable, even after I’ve been sweating/wearing it in water, 2 weeks of daily wear and no irritation whatsoever
  • Pebble Apps — unfortunately, run on their own app store, which is in dire need of some UX review/overhaul to bring it to 2015. While functional, i’ve taken to pretty much avoiding it
  • No Touch Screen — seriously has made no difference in my life, I can’t think of a single operation that I’ve made on the Pebble Time that would have been made easier by a touch screen

So what’s next?

I guess after a few weeks, my thoughts are “would I miss this if i forgot it at home”. Right now — the answer is yes, I’ve become used to convenience, simply as that. For me, someone committed to technology and the IoT arena, the other question is “would i buy another?”. Right now — no, I wouldn’t.

See, here is the thing, my first smartwatch is smart, but not amazing. So shouldn’t I miss the fancy features? The connectivity? The apps? All the features I may get on a $500+ smartwatch? I should — but I don’t. Right now, there is not enough justification to move beyond a $199 Pebble towards something fancier, because while I can convince myself that this device has an important part in my life, I can’t convince myself that a more expensive watch would necessarily offer more.

In the future however — you bet I’ll be upgrading. Give me something with a high-res screen, 5 day battery live, heart rate monitor, Wi-Fi and more, I’ll be at that party — even if it costs more. Problem is, this device doesn’t exist right now. As first-gen smartwatch owners, we are simply trading off certain usability, until such a time comes as the technology and standards improve and no trade-off is needed.

Originally published at