There’s a new Pebble smartwatch in town and it’s quite interesting to see what Pebble has chosen as the key features of its entry-level model four years after it broke Kickstarter records as one of the most funded and most successful projects ever with 68,929 backers.
The rest, as they say, is history. Pebble grew to be the pioneering smartwatch product and released various variants including the Pebble Steel, the Pebble Time and the Pebble Time Round. Pebble really created the smartwatch market, years before Android Wear or Apple Watch came into the picture. They put the smartwatch front and centre of consumer consciousness and showed how it could be a useful adjunct.
So, it is 2016 and Pebble has come full circle with the Pebble 2. In the box we see a black Pebble 2 with a rubber wristband, a proprietary charging cable which is likely easy to lose as well as some documentation.
Like most Pebble’s before it, the Pebble 2 comes with an ePaper LCD which is easy on the eyes in various lighting conditions and which is far more energy efficient than the coloured OLED and LED displays that ship on competing smartwatches. Pebble 2 comes in a variety of colours, it is encased in hard plastic with rubber straps. While not the most fashion-forward smartwatch out there, it is robust and looks serious.
Battery life of Pebble devices has always been stellar and the Pebble 2 promises 7 days on a single charge. This is far more impressive than the one day and a half that more expensive smartwatches offer specially if you consider that Pebble 2 comes with a 24/7 heart rate sensor.
Smartwatch pioneer Pebble’s been plugging away, not just in creating the latest version of the Pebble 2 and Pebble Time 2, but also refining their software. I recently updated my Pebble Time to version 4.0 and now get more granular and better presented fitness and sleep tracking information as well as some useful and encouraging notifications during the day.
Pressing up the Pebble’s watch face surfaces a daily summary of the number of steps you’ve taken and the quality of your most recent sleep session.
It allows you to view trends over the course of weeks. The companion app for Android is also much improved.
In terms of apps. a new Optimised for 4.0 category in Pebble’s App Store will curate what’s been updated for the new OS.
The focus on health and activity tracking is high. The Pebble 2 is also water resistant for 30 metres which means you can take it swimming in the pool, no problem.
The tough but lightweight construction ensures a rugged smartwatch that’s utilitarian and doesn’t need to be babied. Worst case scenario, your Pebble 2 gets destroyed, damaged or lost, it’s still more affordable to replace than some of the more upscale wearables out there.
Pebble 2’s heart rate monitor is a big feature for active users who are considering monitoring their activity as well as getting all day measurements on their heart-rate. I used the Pebble Time 2 in the gym, took it swimming and even inadvertently hit it against some muddy rocks when I stumbled on a recent hike, and I’m convinced it can take a lot of abuse.
Performance and Software
This is really a sign that Pebble’s shifted gears towards health and fitness, while maintaining all the cool features pertaining to customization, time-focused app access, notifications and more. There are also health insights designed to get users to perform better than before with tailored coaching, summaries, and mobile graphs.
Two other features I like with the Pebble Time 2 are the automatic step counter as well as sleep tracker. These are built-in the OS and function provided you are wearing the device. Very few of these wearables and specially smartwatches get sleep tracking right, Pebble is one of the few that’s done a decent job of getting it right.
Sleep tracking has become an important aspect in overall health and has been something that Pebble’s innovated on early on, first through third-party products and later on as a standard feature of their OS.
There’s a built-in microphone where you can Speak your mind with the built-in microphone and voice dictation. This allows you to reply to messages, record notes, and more. This is implemented surprisingly well. I particularly appreciate how I am able to respond to short messages from services like WhatsApp, Viber, Messenger and others using my voice. Pebble’s opened up their SDK and makes it possible for services and third party apps to take advantage of the feature.
Pebble’s made it easy to remove and replace straps and really given consumer the opportunity to mix and match styles to suit their tastes. I used leather as well as the included rubber straps to change up my look.
Pebble OS is playful, intelligent and is far more delightful than Android Wear or even watchOS 3.0 which still feel to me like pared down computer operating systems. Pebble only makes watches and they’re free to design an OS that’s focused on what their devices can do. I personally feel that the software is the killer feature of the Pebble ecosystem. That, and the multi-day battery life, are the reasons that Pebble loyalists stay with their devices.
Pebble 2 is really the smartwatch for the rest of us. While it is more affordable and pared down than most of the competition, it is still very competent at the few things it does better than others. If you want a tough, simple yet intuitive smartwatch that’s good for six days on a single charge. The Pebble 2 is worth checking out. While the look and feel are certainly austere, this is a great device for notifications, 24/7 health tracking and for the handful of apps integrated into the system.
While not the most fashion-forward smartwatch out there, the Pebble 2 is robust and looks serious in a geeky sort of way. It can pass for a regular smartwatch and doesn’t call attention to itself.
The tough but lightweight construction ensures a rugged smartwatch that’s utilitarian and doesn’t need to be babied and that puts it ahead of many competitors that look and feel frail.
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