Pebble Time Long Term Review

So I have had my Pebble Time Steel a few months now so I thought that it would be good to revisit it and put down my thoughts having had it a while. The first thing is that I have now received my steel band and the watch looks so much better for it than the “leather” strap it was originally sent with. I’m really pleased with the look and it is a step up from the original plastic version (original Pebble) I had.

The Good and the not so Good

The watch interface has had an overhaul and there are a couple of new features that I really like. The first is the timeline. Pressing the top or bottom buttons on the right hand side of the watch cycles back or forwards in time through your calendar. Pressing the centre button then drills down to give more information on the calendar entry. This is so much more useful than just being able to change watch faces which was the option before.

The other useful change is to the left hand button. Previously this was just there to cancel any action or to move back a level. Now long pressing this turns on or off quiet time (or do not disturb as it is more commonly known elsewhere) which is great for when you are just about to go into a meeting. For some strange reason the image displayed on screen has been changed in the latest firmware from a bell to a mouse.

One thing that hasn’t change from the original Pebble is the font size. I really struggle to read the font on even the largest setting. With wearables becoming much more mainstream and more oldies such as myself wearing them this is something that is definitely going to have to change.

Battery Life and Steps

A year ago I published an article on the battery life and step counter in the original Pebble watch. Over the period of a few weeks I monitored both the battery life and number of steps that the watch recorded. This enabled me to see how close I got to Pebble’s suggestion of battery life and whether it could replace my Fitbit.

My original Pebble was getting about four days of life before I had to recharge it. The quoted battery life for the Pebble Time Steel is “up to 10 days on a single charge” but I never got close to that. With my usage I averaged out at comfortably seven days between charges. When you compare this to the competitors it is pretty decent I think. I was slightly disappointed that the old charger didn’t fit the new watch and that additional chargers are £15 a pop.

The graph below shows the battery remaining at the end of each day. You can clearly see that battery reduces in a very consistent way. I should point out that this is with a brand new battery in the watch. When I ran the tests before the watch was a year old so there would have been some reduction in the capacity of the battery.


Since step counting was introduced to the Pebble I have long wondered whether I could use my watch instead of the Fitbit Flex I also wear. As the end of my last review of the original Pebble I concluded “unfortunately I just didn’t get the sense that the accuracy of the Pebble step tracker was as accurate as the Fitbit” so I was keen to run the same tests as before to see if this situation had improved at all.

As before I ran the tests both over a holiday period, when we tend to walk much greater distances each day, and when I was at work. Working from home means that I don’t get as much opportunity to do the steps as I would like (or probably should). This meant that I got a good mix of long and short distances to compare.

As before the Fitbit almost always recorded more steps than the Pebble (via the Misfit app) which was, on average, out by about 8.5%. This is actually down from last year when the average was 12.5%. However, as before I was put off by the fact that I need many more steps with the Pebble in order to do my 10,000.

The ultimate test, however, is to try and work out which is correct compared to the steps I actually take.


There was one issue that I discovered that is currently being investigated by Pebble support. One of the new features of the Pebble Time is that it automatically manages watch apps for you unload and loading them as and when needed, much like Windows does with applications when it runs out of memory. This change gets round the old limit of eight apps but has an issue if the step tracking app is unloaded the steps are no longer counted. As I say this is being investigated by support presently and I hope that I can update you when they get back to me.


Since the original Pebble watch was launched the smartwatch landscape has changed significantly with many players entering the market, most obviously Apple. Being a big Apple fan many assume that I will have an Apple Watch and are somewhat surprised when I show them my Pebble Time. Had Pebble not released the Time then I would have switched to Apple but the Pebble wins out in a number of ways: price, battery life, cross platform compatibility and good third party support.

As I said before the Steel looks good and feels great on the wrist. I would have had to pay £650 more for an equivalent Apple Watch and I really don’t think it is that much better. In fact it’s not so I’ll be sticking with the Pebble.

Halo Back: Good idea, but does it work?

A while back, although in terms of Kickstarter dates it was positively recent, a project was posted that caught my eye called Halo Back. This was a glass screen protector with a difference – the bottom left area was “mapped” to the top left making it easier to click the back link on apps. That’s poorly explained but this cheesy video from the project does a better job:

Last week the Halo Back arrived and so I stuck it on. Unlike other screen protectors the positioning is quite important and so the makers have included a frame that fits over your phone and allows for correct positioning. The package also includes screen wipes, applicator and dust removers which were all really good.

I’ve never had a screen protector that I have liked before mainly because I’ve felt that they affect the sensitivity of the screen and given that the Halo was going on a 6S I was keen to find out if it affected Force Touch. Long and short of it is that it feels pretty good and force touch works as expected, which was a surprise and a nice bonus.

An obvious downside is that my olloclip lenses no longer fit and this is going to be an issue as I have to choose between the two.

However, the big question is does the functionality work as advertised? The short answer is yes, sometimes but not as often as I would like it to. Rather frustratingly the area to touch seems to move and so I have to use a swiping motion, sometime sawing backwards and forwards, until I find the sweet spot. Not a great timesaver.

Worse is that the sensitivity of the top left of the screen seems to have been greatly reduced making it difficult to use and it it virtually impossible to use the “back to” app functionality added in iOS9.

So as a screen protector the Halo Back is fine but it doesn’t deliver reliably enough in the area that it promised. I suspect that it will stay in place until the next time I want to use my olloclip lenses and then it will come off for good.

New Pebble Time Thoughts

Just thought I would put down my initial thoughts on the new Pebble Time. I’ll do a fuller review, including the same tests that I ran with the old Pebble, in a few weeks when I have captured more data.

I’ve had my steel version a couple of weeks now and it really like both the look of the watch and the new interface itself. In fact Apple seemed to like the timeline too so they pinched the idea for their watch!

When you pledged via Kickstarter the Steel variant comes with both a leather and steel link straps. However, to date, only the leather strap has arrived and the other is due before the end of October we are told.

Let’s get this out of the way right now. I hate the leather strap. It neither looks nor feels like leather. It’s more like suede and has a couple of oily stains on it already. However, I never intended to use this strap so it is only a temporary measure I hope.

Seeing the pictures of the watch on Kickstarter one thing that concerned me was the massive black border around the watch face. This isn’t as distracting as I thought it was going to be although I do wish the watch face was a little bigger but it is fine. The build of the watch is superb with the knurling on the buttons really nice and tactile. All in all a very well made package.

Along with the new watch is a new interface. The big selling point was the timeline feature where you can scroll back and forward through time looking at entries such as from your calendar, the weather and travel. This works incredibly well and while useful isn’t something that I turn to everyday. However, the animations on receiving a notification I love. Whether it is the message in a bottle for an SMS or the Snapchat or Skype logos these are fun and really great to watch (every pun intended!).

While this isn’t a huge update over the original it is a good one and I’m glad that I upgraded.

Look out for the revised battery and steps update over the next few weeks.

The developer’s iOS 9 public beta conundrum

[UPDATE – I’m being trolled by my bank! See the update at the end of the article]

The above is a conversation that I had with my bank about their iOS app and highlight, I think, an increasing issue that developers are going to have with more and more public involvement with beta testing.

I have been running iOS9 for a while now and on the whole it is pretty good but having beta software out in the wild does cause issues for developers of apps. It may not be possible to get fixes that are caused by the beta out or, as is the case for Nationwide, they simply aren’t going to until they know it is stable and released.

Apple has, in part, recognised this and has stopped those on the beta programme from leaving ratings and comments in the app store feeling, rightly, that developers shouldn’t be disadvantaged by negative comments during the test period. However, what hasn’t been addressed is how developers should handle issues during this period. Apple has a reasonably well developed process for reporting (although I can see little evidence for it being acted upon) but how do other developers deal with this?

The above Twitter exchange with Nationwide is a good example of the problem. I found an issue in their app which I felt they might welcome some feedback but the initial response was just to close down the conversation by saying that they didn’t support the app on beta versions, which is absolutely their right to do. That doesn’t help move the app forward at all and it will be interesting to see whether the app works when iOS9 is released or how soon after the release it is fixed.

To be honest I am not sure what the answer is – perhaps allow developers to decide whether their app is available on beta versions of the operating system. Could be an unpopular move if you use the app regularly. What are your thoughts on how to best handle this?

So literally an hour after I pushed send on this article Nationwide pushed out an update fixing the issue I had tweeted about. Maybe they were listening after all!

2015-09-04 16.16.29

Flattery as a form of spam

As spam goes this is pretty benign but irritating nevertheless and I have no idea how to rid myself of it.

Just recently I have started to receive messages through the contact form on our website that are allegedly related to our blog posts and they are smothering with kindness and praise for our work.

I blog quite often and I seriously appreciate your information. This article has truly peaked my interest. I’m going to take a note of your site and keep checking for new information about once a week. I subscribed to your Feed too.

When they take the above format I am not sure what they are trying to achieve whereas the following is an example of a comment that is designed to illicit a response (I never do):

With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright infringement? My website has a lot of completely unique content I’ve either created myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my agreement. Do you know any ways to help prevent content from being stolen? I’d truly appreciate it.

I am fairly certain that these must be created by a human hand as we have a captcha on the form to discourage robotic comments but the flood of them (we get half a dozen a day) is irksome. I would remove the form but it is useful for prospects and other interested parties to contact us.

The following comment is interesting and shows that they haven’t been to the site as we have no videos on the blog whatsoever!

Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point. You obviously know what youre talking about, why throw away your intelligence on just posting videos to your blog when you could be giving us something enlightening to read?

Is this a recent phenomenon that is affecting others? I certainly don’t see it on my other blogs. Anyone have any ideas how to stem the tide?

Test Driving iOS 9

Update: Almost the moment I pushed the post button Apple released beta 3 of iOS9 so I have added some things to reflect that.

So a few weeks ago I took the plunge and installed iOS9 on my iPhone, despite the dire warnings that accompanied the beta and I wanted to put down my thoughts.

Firstly iOS9 isn’t a radical departure from iOS8, in fact it feels more like a point update rather than a full update. That’s not to say that there aren’t some nice features that are included, which I will briefly cover below.

2015-07-11 15.26.02

iOS9 is here!

The first thing that you notice is just how sluggish, nay, slow the device can be with iOS9. I suspect that is more to do with this being a beta release and there is likely a whole host of debug logging going on in the background. At least I hope that is the case because if it isn’t that there is going to be real trouble when it is finally released.

Also some apps no longer work as their developers intended. To begin with the Twitter app wouldn’t switch between tabs and my banking app no longer allows me to transfer money between my accounts. Things that will no doubt be fixed when apps are updated to take advantage of the new OS.

2015-07-29 13.10.08

A little wonky

Swiping past the first page now gives a combined search and information view. As you can see from the image below there are two issues I have with the information as presented. Firstly what is a “Gas Station”? In the UK that would be my cooker! Secondly the first two news stories displayed are in languages I don’t speak, this despite my phone being set to UK English. So things like this will need to be resolved before it is truly useful.

Some localisation issues

Some localisation issues

There are somethings that I really like about iOS9, in particular the Low Power Mode which kicks in when the battery level drops below 20%. This features turns off some aspects that drain the battery and I have to day, in my unscientific tests, having this enabled makes a huge difference. So much so that I have wondered about running it full time.

2015-07-12 19.35.48

Saaaaaaave me some poooower

Other things that I like include the ability to search for an option within the system settings which is such a no-brainer that you wonder why it has taken nine iterations to include it.

There are a couple of other changes which are car related. For some reason iOS8 and my car never played nicely together and the car refused to recognise my iPhone. Now, miraculously, it has started working again and once more I can listen to music on the move.

The second change seems to be that when I now get into the car my iPhone (sometimes) tells me how long to get home. I am not sure if this has always been there or is new in Maps or is part of iOS9 but it is interesting but seems unreliable. It also isn’t much interest to me as I never use the Maps app.

2015-08-02 14.39.38

Get me home!

So all in all a positive if not earth shattering update. I am hoping that the final release will have a few of the more obvious bugs ironed out and a bit of speed added back.

A little spring cleaning

This is why you need to open up your PC occasionally and give it a bit of TLC. The pile of grubby dust above is just six months worth from our always on media server.

I got into the habit of cleaning it out regularly after it started (unsurprisingly) to become pretty noisy and given that it is in our lounge that became an issue. It is amazing the difference that a really good clean makes.

2015-05-17 17.16.50

One important thing is that you MUST NOT use your normal hoover to suck out the dirt. This is a bad idea as it certainly take up the dust but most of the delicate components too. Get yourself one of the above, a cheap USB vacuum cleaner. There are plenty available on Amazon.

I’m hoping that doing this on a regular basis also increases the life of the machine as, while it is all backed up, it would be (will be?) a real pain when it finally gives up the ghost.

Have you considered opening up your machine to clean it? Do you have any tips on how to keep your PC in tip-top condition? Let us know!

A (Very) Simple File Manager in PHP

A while back I decided that I didn’t require my iPad any more so I sold it. On the whole I haven’t missed it until this week when I needed to do some testing for a project at work. Given that this was such a short term requirement buying an iPad just wasn’t sensible but I decided sitting in the local Apple store and spending half an hour doing the testing there was! However, part of what I needed to do was to save some screenshots and get them back to my work machine, something that the restrictions on the Apple store iPads make difficult.

The solution? I decided to write a simple web app that allowed me to upload and manage images from an iOS device (actually it works for pretty much any device mobile or otherwise). To begin with all I did was allowed the upload of files and then I extended this to list the uploaded files, view and delete them and finally, to download all files as a zip.

This all sits behind a password protected page on my web server and as a quick hack works pretty well, this is what it looks like:


The server side code makes use of a number of PHP’s file handling capabilities and so I thought that others might also find this useful to see.

I have taken this as an opportunity to make my first commit to GitHub where you can see the code here. It is only there to serve as a sample, rather than a shining example of best coding practice. Hopefully it will be of some use to you.


The dio Naked Reversible USB cables

Reversible USB cables are, it seems, a lot like buses – you don’t see any for ages and then two come along in quick succession. Just last month I wrote about the Belaycord and now here is the dio Naked from moopti.

Like Belaycord this is also being offered through a Kickstarter campaign and as of writing there are just over two days before that closes. Rather than have to wait for mine to arrive (I have backed the project) moopti kindly sent me a sample to review which arrived today.

The first thing you notice is how well the dio Naked is made with metal caps at both ends and a strong braided nylon cable. However, the most striking thing is the USB plug has no boxed cover, it is just the plug itself, making it look very much like a bigger lightning plug.

Of course the advantage of this is that the cable inserts first time, every time, as you can see from the short video below:


So no more hunting under the desk or in dark corners wondering if the cable is the right way round (how is it that it NEVER is?). Now it will always be right first time. My only disappointment is that we have had to wait so long for someone to work this out.

There isn’t much else one can say about a cable other than it does what is expected of it and, in this case, saves a whole load of frustration while it’s at it. What’s not to like?

Back the project over at Kickstarter and you could have yours before the end of June.

Crapware, courtesy of Oracle Corp.

I thought that the practice of forcing useless software onto users as part of an installation had died out but apparently not by the looks of this Java installer.

That this is being foisted upon us by Oracle, who clearly don’t need the little money they must be making from this, is a surprised as I thought this practice was restricted to smaller outfits but clearly not.

If you want to help stop this practice you can sign a petition at here.