Multi-platform; lots of style options
Mono display; app support
It would be pretty easy to make an argument that the modern smartwatch era began with the Pebble. Launched as a Kickstarter project – until recently it was the crowd funding site’s most successful, raising in excess of $10 million or more than 10 times its target – it is so popular that you’ll find it in vending machines at airports and resorts in the US.
The Pebble doesn’t care whether you use an iPhone or Android device – it works well with both platforms. Connectivity is via Bluetooth LE, so notifications are transmitted from your phone to the watch using the least possible power. The iOS app is easy to use and provides a connection to the Pebble app store.
Out of the box, the Pebble does little more than tell you the time, display alerts such as incoming calls, messages and reminders, and let you answer calls by using the buttons on the side of the rectangular display.
However, Pebble has taken a similar approach to Apple’s with iOS and has made tools and APIs (application programming interfaces) available, so that developers can create their own apps for the Pebble platform.
This includes integration with popular social media services, fitness apps like RunKeeper and alternative watch-faces that can give you the weather and your next appointment right on your wrist.
The apps aren’t limited to simple alerts – you can use the Pebble to control your iPhone’s camera, smart lights like the Philips Hue and your phone’s media player. The latter ability is particularly handy when you’re playing music through wireless speakers.
Although it lacks a touchscreen – now a feature of almost every other smartwatch – the Pebble is easy to use. There are three buttons on the left side and one on the right for accessing settings and interacting with information on the screen. In order to keep things relatively simple, the Pebble limits you to just eight installed applications at a time. You can move apps in and out of the watch using the iOS app.
Since its initial release, Pebble has increased its product range. The base level Pebble has a plain black band and plastic face that can be ordered in several different colours. But there is also the Pebble Steel, made with a metal face and band that costs an extra $100. Then there’s the new Fly Pebble, which includes a coloured band for the same price as the original Pebble.
Despite the monochrome, non-touch display, the Pebble hits the most critical function of a smartwatch – making information on your phone more easily available. The Pebble looks good and, with a custom watch-face, would not even be noticed, as it looks like a regular watch.