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Pebble Smartwatch Review: A Useful Dumbwatch (programmingzen.com)
39 points by acangiano 1376 days ago | hide | past | web | 57 comments | favorite

I find the battery life on my Pebble to be much longer than the author is finding: it was still going 8 days after I misplaced it in my car. When actively being used, I find it lasts 3-4 days. It's still short enough that it's easiest to get in the habit of charging it overnight, but it easily survives one or two forgotten charges.

I believe that if you use a watchface that updates by the second, rather than by the minute, it cuts battery life down quite a bit. Perhaps that explains the discrepancy.

You have to disable the motion backlight, it turns on far to easily. With it on I got about 2 days of battery life. With it off I get 5-7 days.

Thanks for this, I'd been wondering why mine was turning on all the time and I'd forgotten about that setting. Settings->Display->Motion

I would think it would be a lot more useful if you could charge it from your phone itself. Pebble's battery is 130 mAh[1], so (unless I'm mistaken) you could charge it using 9% of an iPhone 5s' 1560 mAh battery[2]. If the charger had USB passthrough you could charge both at once.

Of course, then you'd be carrying an extra cable, but that might fit with those in Pebble's target demographic (in a bag along with your tablet/laptop and such)

[1]: http://appadvice.com/appnn/2013/03/the-pebble-watch-is-impos...

[2]: http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/iPhone+5s+Teardown/17383/

Ditto, and I have the motion backlight on - I get 5-7 days easily out of mine. More to the point, the battery life is long enough that I can simply use it until the battery indicator shows up, then just charge it that night.

Agree, I've been recharging in infrequently enough that I can't tell you exactly how long I get, but somewhere on the order of 5-6 days I think. I turn it off at night though to save a little extra (I don't need notifications while I'm sleeping).

I had a Pebble bought for me as a gift and I have to admit, while I'm a technophile I did think it was gimmicky.

Count me as reformed; I fell in love with the Pebble quickly. Now I won't try to tell anyone that it is a do-all device but it has done two things for me.

A. Having notifications pop up on your wrist... priceless. I get email and texts constantly and when I am working on-site I don't have to keep pulling out my phone. I can assess quickly if it's something I need to take time to deal with. I now wonder how I did without this.

B. It has convinced me that this is going to be a very big thing in the future. I find I constantly want the Pebble to do more... like the Galaxy Gear does. I'm not advocating the Gear specifically, but I am saying that having a Pebble has convinced me that this is a mobile device interface (wrist mounted) I want to see mature and that I will be making a standard device type for me.

Not trying to be snarky at all here, genuinely wondering what the advantages are as opposed to simply having your phone on your desk while you're working?

I mean if notifications are the primary feature (being connected 24x7 etc), isn't that the purpose of a smartphone after all? Why bring yet another device into the fray when it admittedly is a one-trick pony at this point of time?

It's a fair question, but for me moving notifications (vibration and tones) from my pocket to my wrist has been one of the best things to happen to my productivity this year.

My job is to give people I'm in conversation with my full attention. Getting texts or whatever used to completely destroy my ability to concentrate, and they are almost always useless — but not completely, preventing me from turning them off. With my Pebble, I can casually stretch and glance at my wrist to make sure that the house isn't on fire, and my client has no idea.

Likewise, I've never had a phone that vibrated strongly enough to get my attention when walking or biking. This is usually when all of the important calls would come in. Now the problem is solved.


Not the parent, but for me I don't have to keep the phone on my desk at all. It can stay in my bag. That's actually less distracting since the notifications to my wrist can be filtered (only email and messages, only phone calls, or whatever). Parent mentioned working on-site, where the phone might be more likely to walk off if you forget to pick it up.

Is it revolutionary? Will it change your life? No, I don't share the same rosy view as the parent commenter. But I do find it handy, my phone stays in the bag most of the time, and I don't have to dig for it to find out that I need to pick up milk on the way home.

I keep my phone in my bag too, I don't always have pockets and girl pockets are small anyway. Watches definitely help in that case.

Also, I had an app which forwarded all phone notifications to the Pebble and it certainly helps you realise just how spammy the phone is. But it was useful for capturing things like bank app alerts, TripIt, Google Now, etc.

In my case I don't work at a desk many days... I am walking around most of the day with my phone in a hip holster. During these days I am getting client emails and system alerts and Pebble saves me from pulling my phone out about 40 times a day to see why it just chimed at me.

When I am home I can also walk around the house and get alerts without having my phone on me which was also a surprise use case I hadn't expected.

What's the range on the Bluetooth? Prob not enough to get notifications at one of those annoying parties where you have to place your phone in a bowl at the door so you aren't distracted during "people time". I can see it would be useful to surreptitiously receive new Tinder match notifications while on a Tinder date though.

Mine will quite happily work from the other side of my house or if I'm outside gardening or something, so 15m or so. Far enough so that I can out my phone in its dock and do stuff pretty much anywhere on my block and still get notifications.

I don't have a pebble, but I'd imagine for some people the phone is out of arm's reach or they have it on do not disturb / silent mode so notifications don't show up on the screen.

For me, moving notifications from my phone to my wrist is worth using the Pebble. I'm not loyal to it, and would consider switching if I was given a compelling reason to. However, I don't know what that reason would be, given that it already does exactly what I need it to. Anything else would have to be something radical and awesome that hasn't been thought of, yet.

I wrote about the sheer number of smart watches coming out, here: http://hackertourism.com/watches

> I found myself essentially having to recharge it overnight as I could only get about 1.5 days worth of battery life from it and hated seeing it die in the middle of the day.

You should return it. Mine is never less than 5 days.

That's unusual. You should email support@getpebble.com to get an RMA replacement if you're consistently only getting 1.5 days

A good summary, I agree all around except with respect to battery life, I've had none of the problems anyone is talking about...but if I had to guess, I bet it corresponds to the amount of notifications you get and how much you're playing with the thing.

I've been able to get some of the apps to worth, but there is clearly still some slight hacking needed, which makes the whole thing more of a project than a product to me.

That being said, I commend their efforts in getting the technology out there after years of talking about smart watches, especially on an open platform for developers.

I'll continue to support it, use it, and hack on it, but is it the ipod of mp3 players for watches? Probably not, but I'm tired of waiting around for the big boys. Stop suing each other over patents and innovate for gods sake.

You may be pleasantly surprised by 2.0 =)

I use my Pebble to play music on my phone. It actually makes me listen to music more -- the play button is so easy to hit. It's really quite fun. Clearly other bluetooth connected devices can do this too, but I don't have those=).

As a whole, I think smart watches will eventually be quite common. There are clear advantages for: notifications, calendar viewing, remote controls, music, health/fitness monitoring, timers, siri integration. That said, Pebble has a ton of work left to before they have decent support for these things. It is impressive how well it works considering, but they need to step up their game fast or someone (Apple) is going to crush them.

Maybe this is Pebble's marketing, I don't know, the fact is most people don't need a Pebble, but it still serves a highly usefil niche for some. If you work with your hands a lot (as a chef, wood worker, contractor, whatever) it can be highly useful. If you work closely coordinated with a small team where you might consider using radios to keep in touch then used correctly a smartwatch might be able to fill that role.

If you don't have a practical use for a smartwatch as with the above examples then it might not be useful for you. Not everyone needs a multi-meter or a torque wrench either, they are tools for jobs and not necessarily universally needed.

I've been wearing a pebble everyday for about 2 months now.

Working from home (software dev) I will often leave my phone on my desk, before I got my pebble I would often glance at my phone after coming back into the room, just to see if I missed anything.

Since I have gotten my Pebble I have noticed myself doing this less and less, because I know what notifications I have received because they are right there on my wrist.

I admit there is more I would like from my pebble as far as functionality, initial outgoing emails/hangouts via voice dictation would be nice. That being said the Pebble in its current iteration has proven itself useful for me.

I still can't justify anything better than my $10 Casio Bin Laden watch.

There is literally nothing that has an advantage over it for me. Status and cost mean nothing.

I think the smart watch is purely an example of conspicuous consumption, nothing more.

>Casio Bin Laden watch

In case you are like me and didn't immediately get the reference:


Whoa there, Mr. Ranty Pants. I was with you up until you decided to paint every Pebble owner with the conspicuous consumption brush. Given the cheap, utilitarian look of the Pebble, I have a hard time believing that more than a smattering of owners have one to go "look at me! I have a Pebble!"

Folks find utility in owning a Pebble, and as an extension, in how they choose to integrate tech into their lives. Do you want to be the guy in the recent xkcd cartoon[0]?

[0] http://xkcd.com/1314/

I personally find value in using my Pebble. Having the ability to glance down at my wrist without needing to pull my phone out of my pocket (or computer bag) is great. Having the ability to trigger URLS through a companion app is pretty cool. Glancing at my watch while walking through the airport to see I have a gate change notification is great. In the near future, there will be many other potential integration points and companion apps as the next major version of the SDK is released.

Are these features for everyone? Probably not. But it seems closed minded to reduce the purchase of what is in actuality a pretty cool device to "purely conspicuous consumption".

Is having to pull your phone out of your pocket that bad? Do you even need to look at it unless it makes a loud noise at which point you can close to defer until later? Constant distraction is poisonous. On your arm, it's going to be worse.

On your arm, it's much less distracting. If my phone vibrates and not my arm, I know I can ignore it. If they both vibrate, it takes half a second to glance down and decide whether it's important or not. And if it's one of those many "medium priority" type notifications that seem to form the bulk of your notifications, you're much more inclined to just ignore it rather than just answer because you've got your phone in your hand anyways...

It really depends on the situation. Generally, if my phone is in my pocket it means I'm on the go or performing some activity where pulling it out would be less convenient (or very challenging).

Going back to my airport example, I generally put my phone in my computer bag when traveling to avoid accidentally losing it. This is a case where not having to pull out the phone right away is extremely useful.

Other activities that benefit from not taking out the phone: grocery shopping, shoveling snow, working out, cycling, riding public transportation, cooking, and I could keep going.

Constant distraction is another conversation altogether, but I generally don't find this to be an issue by configuring my notifications to only show things I probably need to know about right away.

You seem very down on smart watches and don't appear to value the opinions of those of use who are enjoying ours.

Why are you commenting on this thread beyond sharing your initial negative opinion here?

To put in Monty Python terms, "Are you here for an argument?".

I have one and find it extremely convenient to read texts from it while my phone is in my pocket or in some place inconvenient. The bluetooth range on it is awesome so if my phone is charging downstairs I can still get texts on my watch.

Is that more a problem that your phone has crappy battery life? Mine charges whilst I'm asleep and lasts fine for the rest of the time. Also it fits in my pocket fine and is never inconvenient unless I want it to be (i.e. Turned off). You now have two things demanding your attention.

Also, what if you get a phone call when your phone is downstairs and you are upstairs?

Limited utility.

The first thing I do when I get home is remove everything from my pockets and put them on my counter. I usually forget that my phone is down there, so getting phone calls/texts on my wrist is better than missing them all together. Even if I get a call I at least know someone called and can call them back immediately if it's required, as opposed to not realizing that they called at all.

Most of my pants would fit little more than a few bills or a single credit card, so my phone often lives in my purse. My watch, however, is something that's always on me, and now that it's a Pebble, I get the added benefit of having the important messages from my phone alert me as well.

I can read and respond to texts without finding or touching my phone. This is tremendously useful in the house or while bustling through a train station in a heavy coat and gloves. And if I have my bluetooth earpiece on I can take calls the same way.

Well, everything was at one point.

You would once have been called a materialist for owning your own set of cookingware, I think, but you'd hardly want to live without one now, would you? And you wouldn't call someone who buys a brand new set of kitchen knives "conspicuous".

I don't find much value in the Pebble so I don't buy it, but I definitely see a time when I'll want one of its kin. I'd pay to have data on my glucose level, heart rate, blood pressure etc available to me and me only, i.e. not sent to a central server.

But anyway, time will tell.

Cookware has an established practical and has been with us in various forms for thousands of years so I think that's a poor analogy.

The pebble demands your attention. That is all. It does nothing that something else doesn't do already, costs a chunk of money, needs constant feeding and attention. At least a smartphone was a consolidation of communication and entertainment devices. This is a portable distraction. A poor one at that.

Do you think it's healthy to constantly stare at your heat rate, glucose level and blood pressure and micromanage every parameter of your life?

Also in a decade, you will pay a subscription fee for that data from the central provider that your watch talks to. That model is established already plus it will probably be linked to your health insurance profile as well by then. You'll wear one to keep your premium down...

> The pebble demands your attention. That is all.

Almost everyone I've heard from -- in person and online -- that has had a Pebble or similar smartwatch has said that getting notifications on it reduced their gadget-focussed attention compared to having only a smartphone, and cited that as the primary benefit.

So, while I think it could be, for some people, a new distraction, I don't think that's generally the case, and is, in fact, the opposite of what it normally is and what is motivating people to buy it.

Cookware has an established practical use now, but not when it first emerged. I don't think that smartwatches have been around long enough to establish themselves yet. It's too soon to say they're impractical.

Well, the analogy was good enough that you got the point.

I don't see how wearing a watch that gathers biometrics would be unhealthy. A small bracelet without any display would be fine with me. At the moment, I don't need this - I'm in my prime. But once I get older, I might benefit from having a small buzz on my wrist alerting me that I'm working too hard mowing the lawn, or whatever.

I'm also against a model such as the one you describe, like I have made clear in my post.

The Pebble isn't that conspicuous. I don't wear it because people notice it (they rarely do). I wear it because it lets me turn off all sound and vibration on my phone without missing any important calls or messages, and it allows me to filter urgent calls/texts from non-urgent ones without taking my phone out (even in places that don't allow phone use, like movie theaters). These are useful features for anyone with a phone, and more than justify the Pebble's existence by themselves.

All I want is a digital watch that doesn't look like ass and isn't the size of a small car :/

I've literally flicked through thousands of them and found maybe 2 or 3 that didn't look completely awful. Do people seriously like watches where the manufacturer's name and various bits of other assorted useless text take up half the face?

I still can't justify anything better than my $20 Nokia burner phone.

There is literally nothing that has an advantage over it for me. Status and cost mean nothing.

I think the smart phone is purely an example of conspicuous consumption, nothing more.

See my other post: At least a smartphone was a consolidation of communication and entertainment devices. The pebble is none of that.

I would like to see the relationship between "wearables" and smartphones reversed.

Ideally, most of the functionality of a smartphone will be realized in a watch/bracelet. Then, you could just access your data using various cheap dumb-terminals (e.g. tablets and phones). And, by "cheap", I mostly mean something that you could afford to lose since it wouldn't need to have a large cache of your data to be useful.

In other words, we're still keeping the consolidation, just moving it to a different place.

> Status and cost mean nothing.

Saying status does not matter is of course an attempt to signal high status. No one's out of the status game.

> Tell me what time it is. Yes, I can reach for my pants and fight my pocket to get the phone out. But the watch is just faster and easier.

Obviously this is the killer feature of it.

Actually this week, how cold it is was (weather) even more important than the time, or day ... or texts, email, or phone calls. And with Glance (or other apps) this is on the watchface, for well, glancing at.

It was quite alarming as the temperature outside crawled down into negative degrees Celsius and I'm pleased to see it climb back into small positive integers today.

I don't pay much attention to the exact degree weather outside. I guess if it was on the cusp of freezing it might be interesting, but generally.. it's cold, I'm not going to change my behaviour as a result. Is the quantifiable degree increment interesting to other people?

The most disturbing thing about Pebble is the lack of proper UTF-8 support[1].

The most positive is of course the notifications: I leave my phone at a desk when I'm at work, far and away from me and still get all the notifications in the world, never missing a phone call.

[1] http://www.convalesco.org/blog/2013/03/05/the-pebble-experie...

> Waking up to a vibrating watch on your wrist still beats by far annoying iPhone alarms blasting full volume while you are half asleep.

or you could use one of those apps that track whether you're in REM sleep or not and wake you up when most appropriate..

A big advantage of a vibrating watch is not waking your partner at the same time.

Apps like SleepCycle that just use the accelerometer data are not as good as wristbands, especially if you're sleeping with somebody. I still have an WakeMate, but the app expired and they didn't opensource it, so it's useless :(

do you leave a sound on in case the battery dies?

if you turn vibration off on your phone you can confirm phantom vibrations are real.

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