Wearable gadgets seems to be the next big thing. In the previous generation iPod nano, we’ve seen how people have been using it as a wrist watch. Just recently we have gotten ourselves a Pebble, which is a kickstarter e-Paper smartwatch priced at RM530 locally. What does it do? And does it work like a normal watch and more? Read on the review to find out.
At first impression, it doesn’t feel like RM500. The watch piece is made of plastic and the front display comes with a glossy surface. On the left you’ll get a large back button along with connector pins for charging. Towards the right, there are 3 buttons to navigate up and down with a confirmation button in the middle. The buttons are comfortably large enough to press with a decent springly tension to avoid accidental presses. The unit which we have is black in colour and comes with a black rubber watch strap.
To start using it, you’ll need to pair the device to your phone via Bluetooth which currently supports iOS and Android. Before that, the Pebble app needs to be installed first on your mobile device. In terms of display, the Pebble comes with a 144×168 monochrome E-Paper display which comes with white illumination. Once paired, you can enable the Pebble to display notifications for calls, SMS and even WhatsApp.
The biggest advantage for the Pebble is the ability to know what’s going on without the need of taking out your phone from your pocket. In a meeting scenario, the Pebble is a more courteous way to check on your notification. The built-in vibration is quite a surprise at first and it is definitely more noticable than a vibrating phone in a pocket or in a hang bag especially for the ladies.
Reading SMS off the watch is such a big convenience especially when receiving online bank TAC numbers. WhatsApp notification is also supported but it only shows who is messaging without showing the content.
Controlling music from the Pebble is quite a breeze and you can choose which app to control. If you are a Spotify subscriber, you are able to control your music from the watch and it even displays the full artist and song title. The only limitation we noticed is that it doesn’t display Chinese text and presumably non-romanised characters as well. Another limitation is the lack of volume control and fast forward/rewind options. As a result, you’ll need to depend on your phone’s volume rocker to adjust the volume.
The Pebble screen is highly visible even under direct sunlight which is a good thing. In the dark, it is also visible thanks to its illuminated back light. You are also able to set the back-light to be always on, off or auto.
In terms of customisation, there’s a choice of about 10 watch faces to choose from. With a built in accelerometer, the Pebble was shown to be able to work as a jogging pedometer but at time of review, it isn’t available yet. The only non-watch app available is the classic snake game. To sum it up, the choice of apps is rather limited but since the Pebble is open source, we would expect more apps to be developed much later.
According to the maker, the Pebble battery lasts for a week and we managed to get about continuous 6 days worth of use in our day to day usage including WhatsApp notifications enabled, which isn’t too bad. The only bummer is that there’s no battery life indicator and you’ll only know charging is needed when the low battery icon shows up.
Charging the pebble is rather easy thanks to its magnetic clip on USB cable. In terms of smart phone battery life, the always paired Pebble didn’t drain as much battery as expected and we still managed to push about 14 hours of use on the HTC One.
Being a watch, the Pebble also functions as an alarm clock however it lacks built-in audio buzzer. When the alarm kicks in, the Pebble vibrates which doesn’t work at all for those heavy sleepers.
After several weeks of usage, we find the Pebble as a great gadget companion for the iPhone or Android smart phone. The ability to control music and read notifications from it is a great convenience. It isn’t perfect but we like the fact that more apps would be made available to make full use of its features. The Pebble comes with water resistance of 5 ATM which should be decent for normal day to day wet activities but we haven’t tried it in the pool just yet.
At RM530, it feels quite worth it after considering the cool factor and the extra notification convenience it brings. Admittedly it took a while to get used to looking at our wrist instead of our phone to check on time and now it has started to become one of those things which we can’t live without. We ordered our Pebble from GeekZen.com but currently it is on pre-order only.
UPDATE: Now available for direct order from Pebble at US$150 including free shipping to Malaysia.
If you haven’t seen it yet, you can check out the Pebble unboxing over here.
Pebble Photo Gallery