What’s wrong with Pebble Time? Sadly, too much (Review) – Updated

Facing tough competition from the Apple Watch and improved Android Wear watches, Pebble Time cuts its own path. Still the best smartwatch for outdoor readability, and battery life. But is this new smartwatch good enough?

Pebble Time Review
Pebble Time (foreground) with some Android Wear competitors.
In Review

Pebble Time

3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars - 'Sweet Stuff'
StarkIn
+
Long battery life, new color e-paper display very easy to read outdoors, lots of third party apps and watchfaces
StarkOut
Charging cable is defective, company slow to replace. Apple Watch and Android Wear smartwatches do more, and some (Moto 360) even cost less. Bezel scratches easily. Display not as contrast-y as before, causing some readability issues.
3.5
OUT OF 5
VERDICT:
"Sweet Stuff"
Proceed with caution. The Pebble Steel might be the better choice, until issues are worked out with build and firmware of Pebble Time.
Review by

NOTE: This review is based on an early “Kickstarter Backer” version of Pebble Time. Some (or all) of the issues pointed out may (or may not) be resolved by the time it reaches mass production.

UPDATE 7.22.2015 – Bumping up stars from 2 to 3.5 out of 5. I’ve now tested the Pebble Time with other phones, including the Nexus 6 (beautiful screen, poor battery) and Asus Zenfone 2 (solid bargain, dim screen) and did not experience Bluetooth connection drops. With that and the charger working, things are obviously much improved. I still find the color screen less contrasty and at times harder to read in certain angles when there is less available light. Regardless, outdoors Pebble Time is superb, beats anything on the market. Also, the Pebble Time app is vastly improved from the OG app from a year or so ago.

UPDATE 7.11.2015 – Pebble sent me a replacement charging cable, and it works perfectly fine. Meanwhile I’ve got a Nexus 6 on the way to see if that solves the Bluetooth/disconnect issues I’ve been having with the OnePlus One. I’ll keep the updates coming! 

UPDATE 7.7.2015 – I received an email (and Tweet) from Pebble Support this morning. A new charging cable is on the way, so hopefully that will resolve one of the issues. Being able to charge a device is a good thing!

On paper the new Pebble Time smartwatch looks better than the original in every way possible. For the first time, a Pebble watch comes with a color display. It has a more compact design, with buttons that are svelte, better integrated into the overall design. Battery life reigns supreme (up to 7 days, per the company), especially when compared to the Apple Watch and Android Wear devices, almost all of which require a daily charge.

So what’s the problem?

Quite a bit actually.

Quick caveat first. I’m a huge Pebble fan, and I am willing to admit, a loyalist. The reason? The OG Pebble was the bomb. Geeky to be sure, but it was my first experience (with a smartwatch) and as I wrote in my 2014 review there was no looking back. I just loved being able to quickly glance at my wrist to see notifications. This was especially handy when I was on location shooting video for Stark Insider, when my hands were occupied with camera gear and cables, and such. Very convenient. Plus Pebble’s battery life was amazing, I didn’t need to worry about it, and, because I didn’t need to charge it over night, I could wear it in bed, and get handy sleep monitoring info from a great little built-in app called Misfit. At the end of the year, I said that Pebble had won the 2014 smartwatch crown.

So, backing Pebble Time on Kickstarter was the proverbial no-brainer.

When I first received the watch a few weeks ago, all looked good. It had cute new animations, everything ran quickly. Then I tried to charge the Pebble Time. And that’s when the problems started (more on that below).

Again, I don’t want to rant here. And again, I love my OG Pebble, and vastly respect the Pebble team for what they’ve done in a David vs. Goliath situation (going toe-to-toe against Apple, and Google and its Wear manufacturing partners like Sony, LG and Motorola). But like Tony Montana, I’m just trying to speak from the heart and go about my business.

Also, it could be that my Pebble Time is part of an early batch that are possibly partially defective. So, yes, take that into account when reading this.

Okay, I’ll break this into two parts. The first is my thoughts on the new design. Then, I’ll get into the annoying stuff … all the issues I’m having with my Time.

Pebble Time – Design

Pebble Time Review
Pebble Time. At $199 not as competitive as it once was. Android Wear watches now start at only $149 (Moto 360) and can do more. Still, I like the long battery life of the Pebble, and the physical buttons are better for certain functions, like controlling music in the car or at the gym.

It should be better in every way. But it isn’t.

First, the bezel. It’s large. Though it may be the same as the OG Pebble, the two-tone color scheme (grey and black) ensures that the large bezel is noticed. On the other hand, the original was solid black, and it blended in seamlessly with the screen, thus creating the illusion of a larger watch face.

The display. It’s color. I like that. But I don’t like that there seems to be less contrast. Everything just feels less contrast-y. Not scientific to be sure. I used to be able to read the settings screens and app screens (accessible by pushing the middle right button) without issue. Now, in certain lighting conditions that’s not always the case. The color screen may be partially to blame, as some of the fonts and backgrounds are not just black and white anymore (ideal for readibility). One thing’s for sure: outdoors the Pebble Time display is awesome. It loves light, and legibility gets better the more you throw at it.

In my first few weeks with Time, battery life doesn’t seem as good as the original either, which is a shame given this is a next generation iteration. Still, I must say getting about 3 days per charge is perfectly fine for me — the “up to 7 days” claim seems a tad optimistic.

The charging connectors have been moved to the back of the watch. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing.

On the plus side, Pebble looks (slightly less) geeky, now that the gold connectors are not visible on the left exterior of the watch as they were previously. However, attaching the charging connector doesn’t latch as easily or solidly as before, which leads me to the first of several (unfortunate) problems with Pebble Time…

Pebble Time – Problems

Charging Cable Doesn’t Stay Connected

Google this and you’ll see I’m not alone. When I tried to charge my Time for the first… time, I attached the connector to the rear of the watch and set it on a table. For a moment I saw the (cheerful) charging icon, which is a coffee cup being filled (cute). Then that disappeared, and I saw a 20% battery life warning (in red, less cute). Some research led me to forums where others experienced the same problem. Turns out the two center pins in the charging connector are spring loaded. Occasionally — or  in my case, always — the pins get stuck, and won’t release, meaning they don’t extend far enough to make contact with the watch. Net-net: the watch won’t charge. Okay, not a big deal, right, just ask Pebble for replacement? Well, yes and no — more on that below where I talk about customer service.

UPDATE: Pebble sent replacement. Required more emails and follow-up then I would have preferred. Still, problem solved.

Bezel Scratches Far Too Easily

I never saw nary a scratch on my original Pebble. Within a few days I had several on my Time. And I’m one of those guys who treats his gear with ridiculous, silly amounts of care. Pebble Time it seems is quite a fragile one. Again, check the forums. I’m not alone. Too bad about that. If you get one, be sure to get a protector that not only covers the screen, but the entire face of the watch, including that large, delicate bezel.

Bluetooth Disconnects Daily

Almost daily, I’ve noticed the Pebble Time disconnecting from my phone (OnePlus One). That’s not good. I rely on receiving texts on my watch, and responding to urgent stuff. Last year when I tested the first batch of Android Wear watches I noticed the same thing (it’s much improved with Wear 5.1.1). Reliability was one of Pebble’s strengths, and now, that was even up for grabs. The solution I discovered is not clear, nor repeatable. It involves a combination of rebooting my phone, the watch, and switching Bluetooth off, then on again (on the phone). This takes an appreciable amount of time of course. I hope this is a firmware or app issue that the Pebble team can fix. Either that, or, again, my watch is part of a faulty first batch — keep that in mind, as all of this might be early QC issues, and I don’t want to make broad statements about ALL Pebble Time shipments.

UPDATE: Seemed to be an issue not related to the Pebble Time. Tested connectivity with Nexus 6 and Asus Zenfone 2 without any disconnect problems.

Battery Life Not as Good as Advertised

“Up to 7 days.” For me, more like 3, maybe 4. Still plenty fine. I’m not sure how someone could get a whole week unless they don’t receive any notifications. Regardless of the marketing hype, it blows away the competition. Fair enough.

Customer Service Slow to Respond

I get that Pebble is a start-up in Palo Alto. I get they don’t have the budgets of Apple and Google. And I get that there’s a community spirit around Pebble and its products, a sort of “let’s all work together” kind of vibe.

Still, I expect professional courtesy when it comes to addressing product defects — especially since I (along with many others) quickly ponied up the $169 Kickstarter pledge. That Pebble raised $20 million surely demonstrates they are doing something right.

When I emailed Pebble asking for a charging cable replacement, it took 7 days before I heard back. I was in the midst of testing the latest crop of, vastly improved, Android Wear watches so no matter I just kept wearing a gorgeous Moto 360 in the meantime.

The agent wrote, “Let’s get you a new charging cable right away”

Great!

They suggested I try a few things to solve the issue (which I had already tried, such as using a credit card to loosen the stuck pins) to no avail, and then asked for shipping info and — oddly I thought — to include a few photos. So I did.

That was 11 days ago.

I still haven’t heard back, even after a polite follow-up.

Maybe a new cable is on the way. I’m not sure.

Anyways, enough ranting, etc. Even though Pebble is a small company it seems they may need to evolve some of their customer service processes. Again, check the forums. There are similar stories (and, yes I know, first world problems indeed).

I found a tentative solution to charging the Time (I really ought to post a photo). It involves placing it on a copy of a magazine just thick enough (Wine Spectator!) to allow for the connector to sit flush on a surface, while then putting a heavy object (large book) on top of the Pebble – the pressure from the book ensures the pins make proper contact. A pain. Oh, well, it works!

Still – I Like Pebble Time

Pebble Time - Kickstarter Backer
I like that Pebble stamped the backside of the Kickstarter edition Pebble Times. I don’t like that I still don’t have a working charging cable.

I’m scoring Pebble Time 2 out of 5 stars. To be fair, that’s conditional.

If it turns out my watch (or the firmware) is a dud, and things improve, I’d give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

The competition is getting tougher. The Apple Watch, while more expensive, does much more, and has a vibrant screen (but it isn’t always on). Android Wear is more polished now, and some watches, like the Moto 360 ($149), are even cheaper than the Pebble Time, making them appealing alternatives. I’m a sucker for cool watch faces, and none are better than on Android Wear.

Would I recommend Pebble Time?

Tough call.

Given my experience I might instead suggest the Pebble Steel. It has a nice finish, and band, and can be found on the Web for a song. You’ll forgo color, but in my experience the original display was potentially easier to read.

At this point, the way the market is moving, you may want to consider a nextgen Android Wear device like the ones from LG (G Watch R, Urbane), or a trick, discounted Moto 360 (bad battery life though), or the sporty Sony SmartWatch 3.

Pebble had the early lead in the smartwatch market. They’re hanging tough, and continue to innovate. I just hope they can correct some of these issues (none are earth shattering to be sure) and restore confidence in their brand.

Pebble Time

3.5 out of 5 stars

Get One (Amazon):

Pebble Time

Pebble Time Steel

Pebble Time Round

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  • Timothy Rhodes

    You must have a bad one. While I will admit that readability in low light is not as good as the original pebble, that’s the only thing I can agree with you on. I haven’t had any problems with the charging cable, have no scratches on the bezel and mine had never had any disconnection problems. I am using a galaxy s4 though.

    • Cubits

      Same! Mine hasn’t disconnected once in three weeks. I’ve worn the watch every day, including surfing and mountain biking, and it looks like new.

      The pvd coating is soft but self-healing, so it has resisted the small sand scratches which would have marred the bare steel underneath (and which have ravaged the back of my HTC one).

      My OG pebble was WAY softer, but that’s entirely typical of polycarbonate. There’s no way your time is less durable than your OG, it’s scientifically impossible. Anecdotal evidence to the contrary is complete crap.

      I have seen some people report defective chargers, but the flaw isn’t inherent to the design or even particularly widespread. Mine has never come loose. It’s a case of the vocal minority, and customer service seems to be addressing fairly swiftly it in most cases.

      Finally, with a bit of screen refreshing (music app, nav me) I’ve averaged 20% battery use per day since I turned it on, with battery+ tracking. Seven days seems pretty tough to hit, but my backlight IS constantly turning on while I sleep, so it might be reasonable.

      Its not impossible that you got a dud, it statistically has to happen to someone (even Apple had their woes), but on the whole these seem to be doing everything it said on the tin.

      I’m super happy about the utility, toughness, battery life, and outdoor readability. There’s nothing else on the market which is competing for my money.

  • John James

    Sorry to hear you’ve had issues: mine is fine on all those niggles. I’m charging about every fourth day with about 20% battery left.

  • atatistcheff

    While my KS edition didn’t have the charging or battery life issues I did end up (sadly) selling it on eBay. My main sticking point was the display, in normal room light it is just too hard to see. I have gone back to my KS version of the original Pebble for now. I suppose I will eventually end up with an Android watch. I also agree about the bezel size especially with the grey color I swear the screen looked smaller than the original even though I know it isn’t.

    It was a watch I really wanted to like but found myself cursing every time I tried to see the time or read a message.

  • scottb58

    Clinton, thanks for your thoughtful review. I too was a purchaser of the original Pebble smartwatch which I still wear daily. I was very excited to receive my next-gen color-screen Pebble Time, but almost immediately was disappointed. I am a 57-year-old techie and had problems seeing the new reflective color screen on day one. I chalked it up to version 1.0 software that just needed a bit of tweaking and powered on. The new timeline software just caused me problems as I could no longer easily adjust my PT settings or switch faces. When the Bluetooth pairing flaked out after a week or so, I tried contacting Pebble Support with very poor results. Like you, I went for a week before hearing back from them, and the response was a cookie-cutter template that indicated clearly that the sender had not bothered to read my problem description. By then, my PT had reset itself into “Recovery Mode” from which there was no recovery. Repeated attempts to reset, reload, repair, re-App accomplished nothing. Despite my appreciation for my original Pebble, I could not get past the dim screen, small fonts, lack of support response, or now-unpaired and un-usable Pebble Time. After another round of emails to Pebble Support (with days in between), I finally received complete instructions on returning my Pebble Time for a refund. I’m sending mine back today (at my own expense) and will be hoping for a prompt refund. Sad experience after so much hope for months. Hope the folks at Pebble will get their act together as they really have missed an opportunity to gain market share as the new more-expensive and less-functional Apple Watch has now hit the market. Best of luck to those who remain Pebble Backers … I am out. :(

  • I leave my watch on a desk when charging, and the charging cable has never come loose – but I can imagine if I shoved the watch over a bit, it could come loose. It’s not a massive issue, at least not yet.

    The bezel I can live with. Yes, it looks a bit childish to some, but I am not really bothered any more than I was with my original Pebble (non-steel). I have nicer ‘ordinary’ watches for special occasions, but generally wear my Pebble 24/7. That does lead to a problem with my skin getting sore, and me needing to get a new strap as soon as possible (and try to avoid keeping it on in the shower so it doesn’t get wet). I have had this with the original Pebble (got a new strap) and a Fitbit, so I guess I have sensitive skin.

    The display is fantastic outdoors, but indoors can be very dull and sometimes a b&w watchface is better. The backlight washes the colours out massively, but that’s only really a problem at night (say looking at the time when in bed) for the most part.

    Finally, battery life. I too get just 3-4 days, and that’s with minimal usage and a watchface that only updates every minute. I suspect getting 7 days might be near impossible, but I’m happy. I’ve also got the Pebble Time Steel on order, so maybe that will manage 5-6 days out of its claimed 10 days?

    Oh, and Bluetooth. Not yet had it disconnect once. Not ONE single time, excluding when the phone it’s paired to has gone out of range or been rebooted. It’s absolutely rock solid, pretty much like my original Pebble was. I suspect it may depend on what device it’s connected to – in my case, it’s a Huawei P8.

    Personally, I’d up the score or seek to get a replacement watch and review your review!

  • warriorscot

    I haven’t had any disconnection issues on mine, and no charging issues so far(crossing my fingers). I’ve really liked it so far, would probably rate it 4 out of 5 and I think that a few teaks to firmware and software and it could be a bit better as the whole timeline thing doesn’t seem to work hugely well since it only shows up calendar events for me and could do with some options to do responses to more than just SMS or let you read different notifications(like facebook, skype etc.).

    I do think they should have went with wireless charging though, keeping the ports for bands would be fine and for optional wired charging, but I really can’t think of a good reason why they didn’t fit an induction coil.

    In low light the back light does help even if it does wash out the colours slightly, and I do like the fact it turns on with a quick flick of the wrist. I’ve found the contrast on B/W to be pretty good, but mileage varies though on different apps and faces with some much better than others.

  • Thanks all for the comments and sharing your PT experiences. Pebble Support did let me know today a charging cable replacement is on the way. No biggie. My biggest issue and show-stopper is Bluetooth connectivity. It drops daily. And it shows “CONNECTING” on app with no luck – stays stuck until I start rebooting, etc.. Others, and many on this thread have reported no such issue. So either it’s my phone (OnePlus One) or some other issue, maybe my KS edition is early batch, possibly defective.

    • Alex

      Hi, try these steps:

      1.) Uninstall the official Pebble app from your phone.
      2.) Delete any pairings you have for Pebble under bluetooth settings. Ideally, delete any other bluetooth pairings for other devices too, as they may be interfering. Headsets, keyboards, etc, remove them all.
      3.) Uninstall any other 3rd party Pebble apps from your phone, like Glance, Canvas, Pebbler, etc, etc, as these are also known to sometimes interfere. Ideally if you have other apps on your phone that use bluetooth (for instance, the Jawbone app for their headsets etc), remove them too. Try to unisntall anything you have that might use bluetooth.
      4.) Reboot the phone.
      5.) Redownload the official Pebble app v 1.9.6. Do NOT open it once it’s installed!
      6.) Go into your bluetooth settings, and search for devices. It should find the pebble. Click on it to pair When it pops up on the phone asking to confirm code, DO NOT press Pair on the phone. INSTEAD, select the checkmark button on the WATCH (I think it’s the top button). That should trigger the pair on the watch AND phone at the same time.

  • Joe Cassara

    The poor screen visibility breaks my heart. And the bezel on the Time Steel is just huge. I had high hopes for the Time, but it looks like either Apple or LG will get my business.

    Fun while it lasted, Pebble!

  • Ryan Gunn

    Yeah, a smartwatch isn’t important enough to deal with all those issues. If my PTS doesn’t work perfectly (not counting a 10 day battery in that), then I’ll be seeking a refund. I doubt I would have put up with charging issues and connection issues as long as you have.

  • Cornel Borină

    Funny. I had a different problem in that I lost the cable after 2 weeks. I contacted support about it and the responded the same way: Let’s get you a new charging cable right away.

    Meanwhile, I switched back to Pebble Steel. I had the idea to cut the edge of the charge end of the Steel cable. Time turns on, but always jumps to 100%. When I disconnect, after few seconds it falls back. But it falls back to a 10% more every time I do this.

    Now I just received a message from support saying they will send me a new cable.

    About the fragility, mine got a big scratch less than 24h after opening the box. I will probably try Time Steel when it gets available for order, but if it’s also disappointing, I may try a Android Wear, hopefully by that time there will be something with 2-3 days battery. Or I could stick with my Pebble Steel for awhile

  • LeGyEs

    I have OnePlus One and Pebble Time. CM 12.1 (5.1.1). Never noticed any disconnect in bluetooth range. The watch can run ~8-9 days, but you need a watchface without seconds display. I use “DB 31”. I charge every 4th day about 50-60% (~30-50 notifications per day and manual backlight).

  • tin

    I wonder if the bluetooth problems are the phone. I moved my old pebble steel from an iphone to a oneplus one and have had at least a similar problem, every other day, bluetooth disconnected, app claims connecting and only reboots of both devices would revive the connection. Weirdly after performing reboot hokey-cokey every couple of days for a good few weeks, it suddenly has become reliable and I have no explanation as to why.

    No such problems with the iphone which itself did have lots of bluetooth problems with remembering and switching to headsets etc. Not scientific, but an indicator nontheless.

    Thanks for the info BTW. I’ll stick with the pebble steel for now, but I do love the animations on the time. Might wait to see how the pebble time steel looks (and holds up to damage) when it’s generally available.

    • tin

      Spoke too soon, the phone (I presume) dropped the pebble yesterday and even though they’re sitting right next to each other right now, they can’t find each other.

  • The Cat

    “Unbiased”. First of all, Bluetooth problems on the OnePlus One aren’t uncommon. Never had any problems with my Z1 Compact. The screen is good enough. Yes, it is hard to read in dark rooms, but that is why it has a backlight. The big bezel is not a problem once you get used to it (you get used to it in 1 day). I’ve never heard of any cable problems and I spend a lot of time on /r/pebble. About the battery, I get around 6 days. At first, I got less because I constantly installed apps, downloaded watchfaces, experimented with it, but now, when things have settled down, I get 6 days. About the price, the Moto 360 is the only one that is cheaper and the review put it as the Time is more expensive than an Apple Watch. Overall, I give 9/10 I’m very satisfied with my Pebble and I can surely recommend it to anyone. This review is a great example of a biased review and should not be considered as a fair one.

  • Robin Markowitz

    His PHONE was the “dud,” and this is his update:

    “NOTE: This review is based on an early “Kickstarter Backer” version of Pebble Time. Some (or all) of the issues pointed out may (or may not) be resolved by the time it reaches mass production.

    UPDATE 7.22.2015 – Bumping up stars from 2 to 3.5 out of 5. I’ve now tested the Pebble Time with other phones, including the Nexus 6 (beautiful, poor battery) and Asus Zenfone 2 (solid bargain, dim screen) and did not experience Bluetooth connection drops. With that and the charger working, things are obviously much improved. I still find the color screen less contrasty and at times harder to read in certain angles when there is less available light. Regardless, outdoors Pebble Time is superb, beats anything on the market. Also, the Pebble Time app is vastly improved from the OG app from a year or so ago.”

    —–
    So, I am getting one! My first Smartwatch!

  • Pedro Gonzalez

    I love my Pebble time one of the most frustrating things about it is getting the damn thing to charge. I plug it, it says it’s charging and then later on it stops charging and then the plug easily comes off. honestly the original Pebble design of having the plug on the side it was a little bit more stable. Again I don’t hate the pebble time I actually really enjoy having it but one of the biggest issues I have is charging it and some minor connectivity issues.