Will Richardson

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Pebble Time

March 6, 2015Will Richardson

The new pebbles

A wee while ago I wrote a semi-review of the original Pebble Smartwatch after I splashed out and bought one (because why not?). I made some predictions of what I thought Pebble would and wouldn’t do with the next major iteration of the watch:

What I don’t think Pebble will do:

  • Color screen
  • Touch screen
  • Android wear OS
  • Higher price (Not much over ~$250)
  • One day battery life

I was fairly confident that the next Pebble would have some kind of voice input, making it more than just a second display for your phone.

Last week the Pebble Time Kickstarter went live as Pebble announced the next generation of Pebble: a colour-screened e-paper long-battery-lifed monster, a dramatic improvement from the original.

The Time has a colour e-paper display which is the same resolution (144×168px) and size of the original, meaning that all Pebble apps will work natively without any scaling. The resolution might not be much of an issue, as it displays 64 colours (compared to the 1 bit/ 2-colour black and white display) meaning there is an opportunity for anti-aliasing on the display if the processor can handle it. This is quite likely, given the quality and smoothness of the animations shown in the Kickstarter video one would hope that it’s going to be able to push around as many different pixels as you want.

Voice input is a nice feature - they could very well have skipped it and kept with the other improvements and the Time would still be a success. I don’t know how the implementation is going to work, as there is no nice API for ‘Send a text response back to the app that made this notification and let it handle the reply’ on either Android or iOS (Actually Android Wear might introduce some Intent/ BroadcastReceiver like this, which would be cool). Even if the functionality is limited to SMS initially, it would greatly improve the flexibility of the Pebble - far far past the 5 pre-set responses that are currently allowed.

The new ‘timeline’ style interface looks pretty interesting - I’m not that bothered with quickly changing watchfaces and would rather be able to cycle through useful information. It’s to early to say now as they haven’t really said that much about it. All I can say is that it better be reliable - I installed ‘3Calendar’ this week to get my timetable and… meh. It frequently doesn’t get my events, which is really frustrating and says a lot about where Pebble can go to improve their platform.

To be honest I am not a fan of the design. There, I said it. I like that on the original there is one piece of ‘glass’ (it’s actually plastic 😐) that covers the entire front of the watch, with no seams until you go over the edge (When you get over the edge it’s a shitshow of weird gaps and stuff). The Time, on the other hand (heh pun intended?) has the screen, then a black border, then presumably a bit of a seam and then a coloured border. I’m definitely not a fan of this look and would much prefer the black border went to the edge, as the coloured border doesn’t add functionally - the back of the watch is a different coloured material, so it’s not like it is a consequence of the construction (like the red band on the Nexus 5). I hope in the next revision when I’m thinking of getting a new watch/ phone, the design is more to my taste.

Despite the issues I have with my Pebble (Started screen tearing..), I can see myself remaining in the Pebble camp for quite a while - at least while I still use Android - as the functionality it adds (or any smartwatch adds) to my phone has become so ingrained into my use of the phone that I would feel a bit lost without it. Phones that make noises seem so 2000’s.

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