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.

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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.

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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.

Conclusion

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.