The Late Adopter’s Pebble Watch Experience

I bought my Original Pebble smartwatch on 5 April 2015. There was a $10 off from it’s $99 list price including free delivery to Singapore. It took 10 days total turnover from order to arrival and the total charge was S$ 124.39 to my credit card.

Pebble WatchThe big hype from the Apple Watch’s anticipation at the time got me thinking about time and need to be spend it wiser. We have a son now and we’re not getting any younger. With this I took out my old watches and started to wear it again. Since long ago I had two watches that I hadn’t been wearing for a very long time.  One is a Casio ProTrek solar powered digital watch that I have practically stopped wearing since I quit my banking job doing application support. That unit used to have compass, barometer, and alarm – but now almost all of it’s extra functions have stopped functioning. It’s has a steel band, so I’m not to keen of wearing it so often any more for fear of it’s scratching my aluminum laptops. The other unit is an Esprit analog watch that sometimes I wear for special occasions – I’m a bit slow in reading analog clocks hence I’m not too keen on wearing it daily. But since this has a leather band which is less likely to scratch laptops, I began wearing that as my daily watch.

However every time our son wants a lift (or sometimes a few throws from his dad), my wife kept telling me to take off the watch. This Esprit unit has a steel bezel and she had a poor experience with her dad wearing steel watches while handling her younger brother as a baby – she said her dad’s watch nicked her brother’s face and it left a scar until this day. Fast forward a few decades later, this puts me in the market of another watch – preferably a plastic one.

Yes I could buy a Casio $10 “terrorist watch” – but I wanted a watch that at least can update itself. Most notably if we travel to Jakarta and such. I’m a bit OCD of time and each time I adjust a watch I synchronize the seconds as well – which takes at least a minute to do it, if not more. (note that digital watches typically drifts about half a minute a month, hence you’ll need to re-calibrate it every two months if you want it accurate). I’ve looked at some of the atomic watches but most of them are in the $200 range and I didn’t find anyone that works in Singapore or Jakarta – apparently we are too far away for any of the atomic clocks’ radio signal to reach.

Moreover I’ve been looking at the Pebble watch for a while. My ex boss wore a “jet black” Pebble Classic when he was still around last year (he moved on to other opportunities). When Pebble dropped their price to $99 late last year, I was seriously tempted to buy – but I was too stingy at the time. Pebble’s $10 drop in April and the need of a plastic watch seems to be the right combination that triggered the purchase. Like most smartwatches, the Pebble gets calibrated from the Internet – which in turn pegged to earth’s time as agreed by most humans.

Why Pebble? It’s not too expensive and readily available – as of this writing, the Apple Watch isn’t officially available in Singapore. It has about 75% of Apple Watch’s functionality (sans apps of course) with less than 25% of the price. Most important for me at the moment, it’s plastic – hence I don’t have to take it off while handling our less than two year old son.

Pebble’s always-on and sunlight-readable display makes it a true wrist watch. There’s a colleague who uses an Android wear with OLED display and it’s a bit hard to read on sunlight and the display dims to almost unreadable levels if the watch is not at a “reading angle”. Even John Gruber is slightly annoyed that the Apple Watch’s display needs to be turned on.

On the apps front I have to say that Pebble is really deficient. On one hand it’s a very limited platform – apps have only three buttons to use as input and only have a few kilobytes of memory and storage available. Then again, it’s a watch first and computer second.

I find it strange that Pebble doesn’t display appointments by default. That is, display your upcoming calendar and soon-due to-do items. However Pebble’s CEO promises the upcoming firmware will do this and older devices would be supported by the new software as well.

However showing appointments are almost as important than showing time itself – it’s what makes the those hour and minute digits relevant. Hence I’ve bought the SmartWatch+ app to show my appointments on the watch.  It’s pretty decent and also has a “find my phone” function – which is a real time saver. The app’s music remote control function is a lot more stable than Pebble’s built in one.

What fascinates me is that a few people mistaken my white Pebble for the Apple Watch. Including some techies – really; a Java developer colleague of mine asked whether that is the Apple Watch. I just replied with “yes” on all cases, feeling no need to correct their perception.

So do I like my original Pebble watch? Yes I do. It’s a practical inexpensive smartwatch that’s rather cute and not too bulky. Sure there are cheaper smartwatches even with color screens like the U8 Plus Smartwatch (Amazon) but I’m not convinced that would work well on a daily use.

But on second thought I probably should have bought the green or blue Pebble watches when they were still available instead of the white one that I have today. My hesitation was those models still has a black underside and not 100% colored. At least the white pebble matches pretty well with its black underbelly.

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