Update: A couple days after I posted this review, the display on my Pebble started flickering (video. Resets and firmware updates haven't had any effect, so we'll see what happens.

Another update: I returned the Pebble and got a new one. The RMA process took around a month, because of slow support response times. Since it's a small, new company, I'm not really worried about it. They shipped a new watch as soon as they got a tracking number for my return package, which was nice though. The new watch has been working well for a couple weeks now.

The first large and expensive project I backed on Kickstarter was the Pebble E-Paper Watch, which I got in black. My watch finally arrived about a week ago, so I figured I should do a review, since it gives me something to write about it, and someone might find it interesting.

What is it?

The Pebble is a watch that connects to your phone over bluetooth. When you get a notification, the watch vibrates and displays it. With some notifications you can take action using the buttons on the watch, for example answering or ignoring phone calls, and ending active phone calls.

You can also change the watch face if you're into that sort of thing. There's a digital clock with the date, several analog clocks, a spelled-out clock ("eight thirty seven"), a fuzzy clock ("twenty to nine"), a binary clock, and more to come now that the SDK is available.

There's also a light sensor (used to control the backlight) and an accelerometer, but it's not used by any apps yet.

The screen

The screen is an e-paper display. The screen was one of the major selling points, since it means that the watch is readable in sunlight, and can go quite a while on a single charge, despite having a tiny battery. The battery should last about a week, but I charge it every night with my phone so I've never even seen the half-charge warning.

When I backed the project, I didn't realize that e-paper was a generic term for this kind of display, so I was expecting E Ink (used to make ebook readers like the Nook and Kindle). The Pebble uses a transflective LCD display. The screen is also pretty low resolution (144x168 px). This means that the screen is significantly worse than I was originally expecting.

After using the watch for about a week, I've decided that I don't really care though. It would be nice if the screen was better, but I usually look at it staight-on, and hold it pretty far from my face. It helps that the text is pretty big, so I never feel the need to look closely at it. Unless you look at the watch close-up or at extreme angles, it looks fine. It's definitely readable in sunlight, and like I said above, the battery lasts so long that it would be annoying for me to test it.

Notifications on your wrist

The Pebble does two things that are amazing:

  • It vibrates on my wrist, which is much more noticable than my pocket.

  • It lets me read notifications without taking my phone out of my pocket.

The combination of these two things mean that I actually notice notifications, and more importantly, I actually read them. I rely on my calendar to tell me what I'm supposed to be doing and where I'm supposed to be, so this means I've actually been getting to meetings on time.

It also means minor distractions like text messages are less distracting, since I can look down, read the message, then dismiss the notification, without having to pull my phone out, unlock it, then click the message notification. This may sound minor, since taking your phone out of your pocket only takes a couple of seconds, but reducing a few seconds to less than a second has made it much easier for me to handle distractions without losing focus.

Android integration

My phone is the Nexus 4, so my experience with Pebble is all on Android. So far, it's been pretty impressive. The Pebble app has options to forward notifications for calls, email, music (including controls), Google Talk, Google Voice, Facebook and WhatsApp, plus third-party apps can directly support communication with the Pebble if they want to.

When I turned Facebook notifications on, they didn't go to my Pebble for some reason, but I quickly realized that they're incredibly annoying, so it's not a big loss. All of the other notifications have been working well, and some of them are much better than I expected.

On Android, there are standard API's for things like music and phone calls, so I was pleasantly surprised when I made a call using GrooVe IP, and my Pebble popped up with the standard call controls. Similarly, Pebble lets me control any music application that uses the standard controls, which is a surprisingly large list on my phone (CloudAround, Subsonic, Google Play Music, Currents, BubbleUPnP, MX Player Pro, and SoundCloud). This will be useful for controlling the music while I'm driving, since I just need to hit a button on the side of the watch to skip songs.

The music controls were kind of hit-and-miss. Only the Google Play Music app showed the artist and song information. All of the apps I tried supported pause and play, and BubbleUPnP ignored the previous and next song buttons. Considering that none of these apps were designed to talk to the Pebble, I think that's actually pretty good.

Something that surprised me with the Android integration is that connecting to the watch over bluetooth all day had pretty much no effect on the phone's battery life. After being in my pocket all day today (and connected to the Pebble), my phone is at 83% charge, and bluetooth and the Pebble app have used so little power that neither one even shows up on in the battery app.


The Pebble is really nice if you get a lot of notifications, like calendar appointments, text messages, and phone calls. That alone made it worthwhile for me. I'm not sure how valuable the Pebble would be for people who don't use the calendar app and don't get as many text messages, but I'm guessing the third party app support (coming sometime) will increase the number of people it's useful for.

While I can't recommend spending $150 right now, if you're rich, have an Android phone, and don't like taking it out of your pocket when you're busy, then I recommend getting a Pebble.