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Pebble Review: Disappointing With Limited Apps, Especially for iPhone

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The much-anticipated Pebble Smartwatch has arrived! The popular Kickstarter project, now available for pre-order, precedes the rumored Apple iWatch. But should buyers wait? Or get the Pebble?

The Pebble watch promised users a cool smartwatch that connected to iPhone or Android phones. Apps were promised to extend phone control to the wrist for music, to receive notifications and get buzzed when there was a call. The user could keep their phone in a pocket, bag or purse.

However, after reviewing it, the promise seems largely unmet for now. The included “apps” do very little and third-party apps are nonexistent on iOS, with only a few on Android.

Pebble Smartwatch Build Quality

pebble watch left side

The Pebble packaging looks low-budget; like a toy watch a child might get out of a cereal box, not a $125 watch. The plastic housing, oversized watch face and ugly rubber watch band scream low-budget.

pebble watch left side

The Pebble’s display is bright under good light and a backlight shows text in the dark.

pebble charging cable

We like the easy connection of the Apple MagSafe-like connector on the charging cable, except it detaches too easily. Owners can’t get a replacement or second cable if they lose or break theirs. That’s why we’d prefer a more ubiquitous standard: like a mini or micro USB charger.

pebble charging cable connected

Design and Function

Thanks to the buttons, the Pebble watch looks funny. Fashionistas will balk at wearing it. Replacing the ugly band won’t turn it into an elegant timepiece: it’s still a thick slab of plastic on a wrist.

pebble back

The Pebble connects to a phone via Bluetooth. The connection remains solid… most of the time. Occasionally the iPhone displays a message asking permission to communicate with the Pebble. This shouldn’t happen and makes the Pebble less useful.

Apps Missing

An firmware update coming soon will extend the watch’s third-party app abilities, but right now there are few apps for either Android or iOS. The user can install a few watch faces, but right now that’s it.

ios pebble app watch faces

A few apps in the Google Play store extend the watch for Android users. The free Pebble Notifier sends more notifications to the watch than Pebble’s own app. There’s also Augmented Smart Watch, at $4.20, with even more notifications.

pebble ios app

Out of the box we now get notifications for email, text messages, appointments and phone calls. Users can control media playing on their phone. That’s pretty much it on iOS.

pebble text notification

The Android Pebble app also includes a strange bug unique to Samsung Galaxy S3 phones. Whenever a user opens a folder of apps on their home screen, the Android Accessibility feature announces the opening and closing of the folder. Pebble knows about the issue.

Verdict

pebble music control

We currently can’t recommend Pebble. For the early $125 Kickstarter price, the watch doesn’t do enough. Now it costs $150 to pre-order. More apps and better build quality might make it a worthy price someday. iPhone and Samsung phone users should stay away. Other Android phone users might get more use if they don’t mind the ugly look.

Kevin loves notebooks, tablets, gadgets and photography. He grew up with computers starting out on a Vic 20 and Commodore 64. The first computer he owned himself was an 8086 Compaq Deskpro. His foray into tablet computing began when he bought a Samsung Q1 Ultra. The smartphone market opened up for him with his Palm Treo 600.

22 Comments

  1. Paul H

    03/23/2013 at 1:39 pm

    I have a Pebble & use it with an iPhone 5, I have had no problems recieving any notifications – sms, iMeasage, email all work fine. The build quality of the two I recieved were both fine. After using Pebble for two weeks I would definately recommend this watch to eveyone. Regarding the lack of apps, I accept that for now there are only a few for iOS, however I suspect this will change as soon as the SDK if released in April.

  2. Anthony A.

    03/23/2013 at 3:08 pm

    I am a little upset because I ordered one early in the kick starter process,but because I didn’t pick black I have yet to receive it.By the time I get it, IPhone and goggles watches will be available.

    • howster

      04/23/2013 at 1:08 am

      Anthony,

      They have been telling backers this forever. The watch I believe is worth your wait.

  3. Brendiux

    03/24/2013 at 1:52 pm

    Well, Can I have your Pebble if you don’t want it? :)

  4. lsbeller

    03/24/2013 at 5:47 pm

    I have had The pebble for over a month now. I use it with the iPhone 5 and have had a good experience with it. I like not having to pull my phone out in the middle of a business meeting to see a text message or a call. Since it’s waterproof, I have also enjoyed being able to change my music on my iPhone that streams to a waterproof Bluetooth speaker in the shower. It even works with Pandora and slacker. I have shown the watch to several people and all of them commented positively about the look and Functionality. I do get annoyed with the pop up message wanting me to approve the connection to the Pebble server on the iPhone. I wish it did that automatically without needing my response. I am hopeful they will come out with activity apps like sleep monitors and activity monitor soon so you can replace devices like the Nike fuel band. I would also like to see the ability to reply to a text message or phone call with some canned messages.

    I like it and think it will only get more useful.

    Steve

  5. jbkuklnkjln

    03/25/2013 at 11:19 am

    boboubipb;

  6. Halloween Jack

    03/28/2013 at 12:09 pm

    I’m really not sure what the basis of your complaint is, since the watch is doing exactly what it was meant to do. I’ve wanted a decent, attractive Bluetooth call notification/acceptance watch for several years, and this is exactly the sort of thing that I was looking for. It’s not supposed to be a fully functioning PDA.

  7. whiner whiner

    04/01/2013 at 1:56 pm

    You seem to be quite the whiner.

  8. Hermann

    04/12/2013 at 9:19 am

    Agreed with whiner whiner. For one, the magnet charger was a design choice, to make it more waterproof, but I do agree it disconnects a little too easily (then again, it’s not like you’re charging it all the time). And as for the lack of apps? It’s an open source device, give it time to mature! Hell, they haven’t even finished shipping to all of the backers yet! I would be a little bias on that point, since I have received mine already :) As for your ‘fashionista’ comment, that’s a personal taste issue.

  9. Allan

    04/12/2013 at 10:46 am

    Great watch. Site says my iPhone 3GS is compatible . Controls my music, shows Caller ID sometimes but that’s it. No SMS, no iMessage, no Apps

  10. Alfie

    04/13/2013 at 1:27 pm

    The company and it’s aficionados don’t seem to like criticism, even from major investors and take to insulting relies and in jokes! The watch has had major investment over quite a long time period now and yet the functionality is still basic (really just a watch) with hit and miss interactivity with iOS devices due to software/firmware issues. There are regular updates but at this stage the beta period has been too long and software emulators could have iron out some of the issues even before a watch was hardware. Also the problems with coloured watch manufacture seem again to ask questions about the actual experience/knowledge of the Peddle team who have asked for investment on a pretext of ability in the area when they were very low on the learning curve. Maybe it’s Kickstart investors beware?

    • howster

      04/23/2013 at 1:13 am

      Are you the one everybody is calling a whiner? Cos it sure sounds like it.

    • Nexuist

      04/28/2013 at 10:37 pm

      Do you hear about these software/hardware problems on Android? No. It’s because of Apple’s restrictions on iOS, and you can do nothing about them.

      However, if you jailbreak, you can install a tweak that allows all notifications to be sent to your Pebble.

  11. Heiko

    04/14/2013 at 3:34 pm

    Good point Alfie

  12. Glen

    04/17/2013 at 3:06 pm

    It’s not even finished shipping to backers and the sdk has only just been released and you’re complaining about a lack of apps?
    why didn’t you wait until it went on general release before you bought one then?
    You want the moon on a stick you’d do (actually you probably want two moons on twoo sticks :-p)

  13. Richie Walker (@digitalsadhu)

    04/18/2013 at 12:36 pm

    I can’t agree with this review at all. I’m super happy with my pebble. Does exactly what I expected it would. Psyched for more apps!

  14. Ray

    04/18/2013 at 4:47 pm

    As mentioned, the charging connection was a design choice to help with waterproofing. And we all knew what the watch would look like before we paid for them. As for apps, I’m happy to use what it has and wait for more to come.

  15. UncleKeg

    04/18/2013 at 8:35 pm

    Kevin:

    May I recommend a more balanced approach or at least a feigned attempt of being objective during your review? Yes, I’m an early backer. Yes, I’m an early adopter, but I also do not enjoy koolaid. I can afford $115 so I can afford to tell the truth… the pebble has delivered and continues to get better. Now find a hair piece or a girlfriend. One may proceed the other.

  16. howster

    04/23/2013 at 1:20 am

    The watch is doing what it is supposed to do. It will take time for apps to become available but it will be fun once they arrive.

    Pebble have been very good about updating everyone so give it a little time.
    Yes you’ve waited this long so wait a little more and you will be happy you did.

    Whoever said there was a build quality issue should either shut it or sell it.

  17. Brian

    04/23/2013 at 11:41 am

    I just got my pebble yesterday. I mainly got it to control my audible app on Galaxy S3. It does it, pause, forward 1 minute, backward 1 minute, but that’s it. The watch faces are watch faces… I don’t mind the plastic slab on my wrist but yeah the watch band is pretty cheap. Luckily it can be changed out though.

    I don’t have any notification issue with folders being opened, but I use a replacement home screen app, so that could be why. Or they fixed that bug already.

    I’m hoping over time there will be more functionality. This product *just* hit the market. Give it time.

  18. PJ-butta

    04/30/2013 at 3:24 pm

    I agree with you on the aesthetics, it looks cheap to me too, but I have received one compliment in the three weeks I have owned it. Currently I only use it to change my music while driving. I’m hoping they will come out with good stuff, because of the price.

  19. huien

    05/18/2013 at 3:10 am

    I’m an early backer who ordered red. Waited while everyone else who came in later got their pebbles first. Gave up and changed my order to black. Waited while they sent me an invalid tracking number. After chasing the parcel through hell and back, backers got their red watches. I got an ugly black thing a week after them. Then had to chase them for my color discount.

    It’s a thick piece of plastic that sits on my wrist and goes with nothing in my closet. I get sms and phone notifications, but not whatsapp or financial news. Alarms have to be deleted each day if you need to have them at different times on different days. I can’t control my music (but then that’s why I use a Starck headset). My iphone has decided that the device needs tons of energy and dies 25% faster (at a guess). I occasionally get asked to reconfigure my phone so that Pebble can connect with it. That’s all my money got me.

    I sold the blasted thing a week after getting it.

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