This morning, Kickstarter phenom Pebble officially introduced the final build of the Pebble smartwatch, the digital watch that connects via Bluetooth to your Android or iOS smartphone to display notifications of email, social media updates, text messages, and a slew of other smartphone features. At $150, the Pebble smartwatch is one of the more affordable smartwatch, while at the same time has all the feel of a premium device. We’ve spent time with both the i’m Watch at the show thus far, and while each has its benefits and drawbacks, the Pebble is the watch we’d recommend to the wide variety of consumers out there.
The Pebble smartwatch features a 1.26″ LCD sunlight readable e-paper display, with a resolution of 144 x 168 pixels. Due to the low-power-consuming nature of the e-ink display, the battery lasts a staggering 7 days, compared to 1-2 days on other smartwatches. The Pebble is water-resistant to 5 atmospheres, highlighted by one Pebble developer who uses the Pebble in the shower.
Charging the Pebble smartwatch reflects the high-tech nature of the device. Instead of the customary charging via micro USB or headphone jack, the Pebble features a magnetic conductive charging cable that snaps onto the device to charge it. Of course, that does mean the Pebble needs proprietary cables to function, and you’ll likely be a bit out of luck should you happen to misplace your charging cord.
Pebble comes in 5 color options, and is future-proofed thanks to upgraded innards such as a Bluetooth 4.0 module inside the device, ambient light sensor, accelerometer, and magnetrometer. The device will need to last a long time, as Pebble indicated onstage that their resources will be poured into improving and enhancing the Pebble software as opposed to churning out new versions of Pebble as hardware evolves.
Speaking of software, Pebble outlined what is to be the final build of the Pebble OS on the smartwatch. Instead of simply adapting Android to meet the needs of the watch, Pebble built their own operating system from the ground up atop the freeRTOS core platform. Before you mention incompatibility, CEO Eric Migicovsky mentioned that apps can be sideloaded via Bluetooth, so companies can integrate existing Android and iOS apps to easily communicate with the Pebble watch.
Much of the functionality of Pebble is done via the company’s applications, which are currently being developed for iPhones and iPod Touches running iOS 5+, as well as Android devices running version 2.3.3 and above. Over the coming months, the company is also building out the Pebble cloud, which should allow for better integration and connectivity between smartphone and watch.
While Pebble is currently a closed platform, meaning that the watch is solely driven by Pebble-built applications, the closed nature of the platform is short-term, as Pebble will soon release an SDK platform for developers to build their own Pebble applications for the smartwatch. As you might expect, Migicovsky stated that Pebble has received “significant interest” from developers hoping to build applications for the Pebble phone, and once the SDK opens up we’ll likely see a slew of applications to keep the platform interesting.
Any watch is only as good as the way it displays time, and Pebble has a ton of different clockfaces users can choose from, and many more are available from the Pebble store. As more developers get in on Pebble, the number of clockfaces available will expand exponentially, offering significant amounts of customization for the devices. The Pebble UI marks the first time a watch has done fluid animations and texts on the screen.
When paired with your Android smartphone or tablet, the Pebble can display notifications on the watch itself, letting users choose which updates they want to pull their phone out of their pocket to address, and which can be ignored. Pebble also allows users to control various aspects of their devices such as music playback, which looked extremely fluid and responsive in the demo.
Finally, Pebble is working on gesture integration, and shaking your fist wildly can not only ensure people know how angry you are, but also serves to turn the backlight on so you can easily view the time or notifications in the dark. The team is working on additional gesture based inputs, with additional features likely rolling out over the next few months.
The Pebble Smartwach offers a compelling smartwatch experience that will last customers for years to come. By focusing on hardware, Pebble ensures that your device is always up to date with the latest and greatest features without needing to upgrade hardware like you do smartphones. Pebble will begin shipping the smartwatch to the 85,000 Kickstarter backers from January 23rd, with preorders opening up to individuals who’ve expressed interest in Pebble as soon as February. The company hasn’t detailed when or if the Pebble will be available outside of Pebble’s online store, though we expect given the levels of buzz Pebble has generated that it won’t be too long before you see Pebble’s smartwatch at your local electronics retailer.
The Pebble Smartwatch retails for $150, and can be found on getpebble.com.
This article was written by Anthony Domanico
Anthony is the Editor in Chief of Techgress, and a big mobile and gaming geek. He's covered mobile technology for the better part of three years, and gets excited about shiny, new things. He currently uses an iPhone, iPad Mini, and Nexus 7, but Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry devices are never too far away.