Jun 2017

< Musings

For more information on this topic, please contact me.

UX Review of Pebble Watch

Reviewed 06/22/17
These reviews are timestamped, so as technology changes, so do the features and functions of these devices, which may have changed since reviewed.

For those that are not familiar with Pebble, they are now part of Fitbit, and at one time had the first successful smartwatch on the market. Pebble was a vendor-neutral watch platform (supporting both iOS and Android). The watches they released had a very long battery life, and came in at a modest price point (initially around $199, now $53 on Amazon, ouch!). Their concept of opening up their API to the public was a novel approach, and quickly garnered widespread acceptance by software developers who started making it their own, developing hundreds of custom watch faces and apps (Uber, etc) in a short amount of time. The brand and product was seen as a small niche tech company with a fun user interface, and a strong community appeal. They had a large number of designers and engineers and raised considerable money via kickstarter, but unfortunately this review is more like an epilogue.

Pebble released only a few watches in it’s short existence; Original Pebble Steel, Pebble smartwatch, Pebble Time Steel, Pebble Time smartwatch, and Pebble Time Round. From the initial product launches, it looks like they got many things right by the time they laughed the Pebble time, the 4th generation Pebble (The Pebble Time smartwatch is the one this review is based on). Being a connected watch, the on boarding process (First Time Setup & Pairing) is very intuitive and fun. Cartoon icons and cut-to-the-chase text cues make the process fun. If my watch firmware is outdated, they update it for me automatically first.

User Interface
There are numerous watch faces to choose from when setting up the watch. They still have an extensive watch face library, however many of the watch faces developed by third parties have expired and are no longer supported (due to Fitbit acquisition most likely). The watch face selection is fun and immediate. The interface is basic, with Button UP quickly displaying daily step totals, and button DOWN displaying my Timeline. The timeline is a novel approach, showing my upcoming events, and other things like sunrise, sunset, all presented in a "future, present, past" format which is great conceptually. The activity tracking is very fun and straight-forward.

The BLE connectivity is very robust, and the notifications are a key component of the watch. Once I set up the notifications on my phone, I can further refine notifications to only certain ones I wish to receive on the watch. Also the “Reply” feature was fun, allowing me to send canned messages directly from the watch. In order to do this however, there was a one-time carrier procedure (AT&T in my case) where I had to grant access to my watch to act as my phone via a text message. Simple enough, and they made a difficult process seem simple (good design).

Transition animations are super fun and well designed (some may consider annoying after a certain time). Many of the native apps like Music Control, Alarms, and Timer are fantastic. Other apps that were made for Pebble are also great, such as Pebtris (Tetris), or PebblePong…Part of the cool factor of the watch is controlling what you want on the watch via the app. An extensive app library on the Pebble app allows for easy customization. The app library is categorized by Daily, Health & fitness, Notifications, Tools & Utilities, Games, and Remotes (Pandora, GoPro)

Other cool features on the watch are the ability to assign apps to long button presses (Quick Launch), or settings allowing me to customize display (text sizes, timeouts, vibrations for certain things, customizable quite time (aka do not disturb) and more. All in all, the Pebble model is at the very least impressive. Too bad they bit the dust.