After almost a year since I first backed the Kickstarter campaign, I finally have my Pebble watch on my wrist. It’s been a long wait, and it’s worth it, just about!
It was the middle of March when I got the long-awaited “Confirm your address, please” email, at the end of March came the shipping notification – although being on a slow boat from Singapore gave a lead time of two weeks – despite getting a tracking code that the receiving Royal Mail system understood, it would only give me information upon delivery – which is, well, kinda useless!
Of course, I checked it anyway and discovered a delivery attempt had indeed been made – it was small enough to fit through the letter box, but it required a signature and – annoyingly – a customs payment plus associated Royal Mail fleecery totalling a smidge over £25. So it was off to the collection office armed with cash to retrieve my prize.
I resisted the urge to open it immediately, instead I took it to work and did so at my desk. The box is neat, but minimalistic – there’s a URL to visit, a watch and a charge cable – nothing else, no instructions or anything else. Emblazoned on the back panel is ‘Kickstarter Edition’ along with the serial number to indicate it was one of the original batch thanks to the Kickstarter campaign.
I had assumed it would come with some charge in it as seems to be normal for devices these days, but it wouldn’t power on (achieved by pressing any button for 2 seconds). A quick google search didn’t find any other users reporting similar issues, so naturally tried pressing the buttons for longer to no avail.
A little worried, plugged it into the USB port on my PC at work and opted to let it get some juice. Still no response to the buttons, oh no – I’ve got a duff! A little panicked I fired off a support email via the Pebble website and sent them a Tweet to ask for advice – their overwhelmed status is confirmed because as I type I’ve had no response to either of them!
Sure enough, around half an hour later – still connected to the charger – the watch had indeed powered up and was asking to be paired with something! The process to connect to my iPhone 5 was absolutely fine, I enabled notifications in the iPhone’s bluetooth profile for the Pebble, and duly fired open the Pebble app to connect and copy some watch faces over, to be immediately asked to update the Pebble’s firmware to the latest version which went without a hitch.
The watch has three faces by default – an analog face, a simplistic digital one and ‘fuzzy time’ which gives you the time in ‘language’ rather than numbers, for example – if it’s 9:53am it will say “Five to ten” – quite nifty. My favourite watch face is ‘Wordsquare’ which operates on a similar principle to fuzzy time, but does it by highlighting the words to give you the easy-read version of the time. Not one for people who crave precision.
As well as telling the time in a myriad of funky ways, the watch also picks up your phone’s music that is currently playing, it will display id3 tag info in its’ music app and enable you play/pause or skip backward or forward through whatever playlist/album you have playing. Fairly rudimentary, but clever nonetheless – potentially useful for times when your phone might be stowed in a bag and you want to skip a track or stop your music playing or as a remote control when using a docking speaker system.
Perhaps the most exciting feature is the coupling with your phone’s principal functions – ie, phone calls and text messaging. If a call is received it is displayed on the watch with the caller id and the option to either answer or hang up, whereas text messages are displayed along with sender’s name on the watch itself. Alerts are signalled via a fairly robust vibration from the watch unit, it doesn’t make any sounds.
Currently the only other function is an alarm which also is restricted to vibrations (unless you opt to download the game ‘Snake’ from the Pebble app on your phone! The novelty of this wore off quite quickly for me though, despite loving the game on my old Nokia phones!) In the future there should be further applications which you can deploy via the Smartphone app you use to connect to the watch, so it could be pretty exciting.
As for the watch itself, the build quality looks solid and well constructed – it is, by definition, plasticky and the buttons a bit clunky but it works nicely and I’m pleased with the finish. The strap is sturdy, comfortable and has a nice rubberised finish which is better than I was expecting.
Whilst charging I didn’t find a means of determining how full the battery is, which seems a bit daft. I’ve not had it long enough to accurately judge battery life – only having one charging lead could be a challenge, they are bespoke designs held to the watch by magnets to enable the water resistant nature of the Pebble to remain intact – a nifty design but of course unique and as such if you wanted one for work, home, car etc then you’ll need to buy them from Pebble.
All in all, worth the wait – clearly Pebble was a victim of its’ own success and the way the manufacturing, shipping and communications has been conducted is symptomatic of a small company taking on a gigantic task and – frankly – struggling a bit. But it’s resulted in a product to be proud of, which I’m sure will probably be amongst the pioneers in a slew of ‘smart’ wearable technology which is quite exciting for a geek like me.
Recommended if you’re not in a hurry to get your hands on one – those Kickstarter backers who opted for anything other than a black watch are still waiting for theirs to arrive, so heaven only knows how long it will take them to fulfill their pre-orders they’re now taking over on their website.