A matter of time
The original smartwatch maker is back with a warning to its rivals, writes Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson
The company that literally kickstarted the smartwatch trend is back, and it wants you to look past the Apple Watch to something more unconventional.
Palo Alto-based Pebble has launched its third attempt to get on your wrist in the Pebble Time (above), and it debuts a colour screen, fresh software, and even a water-resistant microphone for dictating messages.
It retains features that set it apart from the smartwatches which followed, including week-long battery life, use with Apple and Google phones, and a water-resistant body.
But can it be enough in what has become a fiercely competitive, multibillion dollar market filled with the likes of Apple, Samsung, Motorola, LG and Sony?
The launch of Apple’s first smartwatch in April not only changed the smartwatch market but its leader.
Juniper Research estimates Apple has already sold more than two million watches, bringing in $US1 billion.
“This makes it the most successful smartwatch launch to date, with no other launches coming close in a comparable time period,” Juniper devices analyst James Moar says.
Moar predicts Apple will sell more than 7 million smartwatches by the end of the year.
Pebble is acutely aware of its new competition. Despite breaking Kickstarter crowdfunding records for its first smartwatch, and bringing down the website with its subsequent $20 million Pebble Time and Time Steel announcements, its efforts do not match that of its new rival.
In response, though, the company says an “overpriced trophy watch wasn’t on our todo list”.
Pebble Time instead does not stray far from its predecessor, even though it’s a worthwhile upgrade.
The Pebble Time’s form shaves 20 per cent off the last model to sit just 9.5mm off the wrist. Its body is also slightly curved and, combined with a standard-sized, silicon wristband, it looks pleasingly inconspicuous for wearable technology.
The Pebble Time screen is undoubtedly the biggest upgrade to this device: an epaper screen with 64 colours you can see in direct sunlight.
The Pebble Time’s user interface has also been overhauled, with past appointments when you arrow up and future appointments when you arrow down. Tapping its middle button lets users access notifications, settings and apps.
While some apps require smartphone input, a surprising number of Pebble apps function on the watch alone or control the connected phone. They include silent alarms, AppLauncher to open apps on a phone, Jawbone and Misfit step-tracking apps, and apps for music playback.
Another important feature added to the Time is a microphone that will let you dictate text message responses. The voice-to-text translation is reasonably accurate and you’re given a chance to proofread it before sending. Alternatively, this watch will let you reply with an emoji.
Despite its upgrades, the Pebble Time retains some of its most important features that its rich opposition has yet to match. They include a weeklong battery life (a working week in our experience), connecting to an Apple iPhone or a Google Android handset, and water resistance to 30m.
Pebble’s third smartwatch does not match other elements of its rivals, however. It has no touchscreen, no speaker for answering calls, limited interactions with an iPhone, and a small, 1.25-inch screen.
Ultimately, the Pebble Time is quite a geeky and esoteric wearable technology, but its old advantages and new additions make it a genuine upgrade some will adore.
“It debuts a colour screen ... and water-resistant microphone”