But in a twist of irony that puzzles me is how much more valuable and costly mechanical watches have become. You would think that when quartz was available on mass, nobody would be interested in manual wind up watches. Could this be a storyline for smartphones? Hmmm...
Whether you wear a watch for practical or fashionable reasons, I now appreciate the evaluative criteria that is used to pick what you wear. And if you don't have or wear a watch regularly like me, you just might end up diving deeper into this universe.
Bottom line: The Pebble Steel SmartWatch is an epic failure. It's not remotely competitive in the designer watch industry or the smartphone accessory market. I don't applaud Pebble's intention to be pioneers in connecting your watch to your phone and I can't recommend it on any level.
At first I thought that the Pebble Watch is one-of-a-kind and you just can't compare it to anything. All of the ideas in my head kept causing a roadblock in that there isn't a benchmark to start from; the Pebble Watch is the genesis. It took me a while to return to earth and realize that you have to start with it's primary reason for existence: time. (yes I realize that on the other side of the fence is profit but what isn't?) This piece of hardware is meant to communicate the time to the user. And thus we come to failure point 1.
The resolution of the display is too sparse. Edges of text and graphics is like my original Epson dot matrix printer. It's monochrome because of the ePaper display and there's some backlighting but not nearly enough contrast making it difficult to read at a glance. So, the user cannot quickly tell the time despite having the option to install watch faces, of which the time told in text is my favourite (e.g. 9:12 is 'nine twelve'). It's an interesting idea to be able to customize the watch face which you simply cannot do on a traditional watch. But of all the watch faces available (not all are free), I could not find any that were eye catching or pleasingly attractive. Failure point 2.
I have a couple friends that have a thing for watches and I had no idea what they would allow me to take photos of. The first thing I noticed was how gorgeous and amazing the faces were. Sure it's in the eye of the beholder but for someone who could care less about watches, looking closely at the designs gave me a little zing of 'wow'. The Pebble Steel SmartWatch doesn't have any of that even though I think it could. Whether or not there was a design decision to use a low resolution display for a scalable business case, it's really stupid when you consider your target audience.
The Pebble leadership team didn't do their market research because the profit potential is huge. Can you guess which of the watches in this review costs more than $1000? Do you think any of these retails for more than $15,000? And are you wondering what kind of person would pay more than $1999.99 for a watch? Who would pay up to $300,000 or more? (I'll bet you're curious… go ahead and take a break to google it but exclude "Rolex" from your search results)
I tried to wear this watch for a full day and by lunch I didn't like the weight on my wrist. That's not because it's Pebble but I'm just not used to it. What I've grown largely intolerant of is a buggy device which is a product of Apple's clever engineering (to be reliable or appear functional). Unfortunately, the Pebble Steel SmartWatch I had for reviewing has some software or hardware problems because each time I clicked a button on the watch, the display would go all wonky and pixelated such that it was just crap. Even toggling between watch faces, it is a painful user experience to have things mess up. And this wasn't intermittent - it was consistent. Give it maybe 30 seconds and the display would clear up on its own so I'm leaning towards a hardware problem.
There are 4 buttons in total on the watch: a "back" button on the left side, "up", "select/forward", and "down" buttons on the right. There is a learning curve of about 1 - it's super simple and intuitive. You can consider the watch face the home screen. Up or down will toggle the watch faces. To move into the settings, you push the middle button on the right side and you are presented with a simple menu.
From here, you can control the music player on your phone by playing/pausing, next and previous song. My personal opinion is that this is redundant as my set of headphones has all those controls and more (i.e. volume, mute, snap a photo, activate Siri, etc.) - and I'm not being sarcastic when I say its a waste of space.
You also have notifications available to you to scroll through messages. Again, it's a waste of space and frankly a function that I could not imagine anybody making practical use out of. The experience of reading a text message or email is best on the smartphone itself.
There's an alarm function that'll cause the watch to vibrate at the selected time. Thinking about it, why would that be useful when it's quicker and easier to set an alarm on my smartphone? Now, just so you know there is no "syncing" of an alarm set on the smartphone and the Pebble - but wouldn't that be neat? You would see the alarm notification message on the watch as you would with all notifications setup on the phone.
Pairing the watch to a phone is super easy and painless. There is a free app to install on the phone that administers watch faces and other applications. This is perhaps the feature that I most despise (yet understand) because there are thousands of Pebble apps that standalone on the watch. The "good" ones require a companion app installed on the smartphone, and they are not free even though they should be. I understand that developers need to make a living and I'm griping about something that costs less than my lunch meal. But come on now… has anybody spent 5min with what Samsung puts on your wrist?
I was surprised to discover the bluetooth pairing didn't mess up things with my car. I'm so far behind on new bluetooth standards that I didn't know my iPhone could pair to both my car and the watch. But with my wife's 2009 vehicle simply didn't pair. The moral of the story is that should you have the Pebble Steel SmartWatch, you are required to purchase a new vehicle. That's a good deal, right?
The irony in my sharing this has to do with the recent media attention in Ontario with distracted driver fines. You could get a ticket for looking at your phone that's resting in a cupholder or on your lap. At what point will cops determine your level of distraction when looking at your watch? I'll just wait till there some class action against Pebble for not blanking the screen when a user is driving. Sounds ridiculous but if you haven't guessed, my review reflects the impracticality and orphaning of the Pebble Steel SmartWatch. Put this watch against anything wrist-worthy to realize why it just doesn't make sense.
Take for example a watch that you have to plug in. Pebble claims once a week but it really depends. My experience has been a solid 3 days before needing a charge and this, in my opinion, is good considering I get notified of everything and I would be moving in and out of range frequently. But the magnetic, proprietary charging cable causes me frustration especially considering I have to pay $30 for Apple's Lightning cable. Why couldn't we all use one standard and see the light? The reason is profit and I get that. And I come full circle to questioning Pebble's business model because watches have incredible margin potential.
And one last thing I have to complain loudly about was the watch band. It's not using the standard 2-pin design such that you can pick one from the store and attach it. It's tough to explain in words so just check the photos to see how utterly moronic it is for Pebble to do such a thing... but I get it, anything to keep the customer in your own store.
By now it should be clear that I'm simply not a fan of the Pebble Steel SmartWatch for so many reasons. The best way I can communicate this is through the attached photos. Functionally, it's a watch that can tell time so it did marginally pass the test. The core hardware provides a display that lacks resolution and contrast which doesn't make sense for something that the user actually needs to look at. In our world of "retina" and 4k, the collective standard is high definition and the Pebble either needs to wait for Samsung or Xerox to release better ePaper or just 'kickstart' their own. Battery performance is acceptable but I already use both of my power outlets for my phone and tablet; I don't want to have to worry about charging up my watch.
Form-wise, the design attempts to position itself as high-end but fails due to its lack of quality in materials and precision. Words can't do this justice. It just doesn't have the look to cause someone to trade in their 23yr old Casio for the Pebble, nor the style appeal to add it to a collection of great time pieces. I'm not critiquing Kickstarter but I feel obligated to review this gadget as a watch and compare it appropriately. My gut tells me that Pebble's competitive research may have focused too much on this: (it's an iPod on a $20 plastic band)
The Pebble Steel SmartWatch is priced at $229 USD and is currently backordered.
It was so difficult to give the Pebble Steel SmartWatch a rating as a watch or nifty accessory like headsets so here's the deal: 0.01am out of 5 Howies (If you're saying 'That doesn't make sense!' then you fully understand this review).
- It can save you up to 3sec of time compared to pulling out the datasource (aka Smartphone) - and time is money, which means you'll be a fraction of a bitcoin richer.
- Wearing it will raise your sophistication appearance up a level.
- The added dead weight will even out the muscle mass between your arms.
- Being waterproof, you could finally fulfill your lifelong goal of reading a tweet from inside any fishtank.
- This watch will bring you that much closer to actually being Michael Knight.
- You'll have to clear space in your closet for this watch next to your HD DVD player and talking fish.
- Your electricity provider will be glad you're increasing their profits and adding one more load to that already overloaded outlet by your bed.
- This will decrease the quantity of time your significant other holds your hand, even if your significant other is yourself.
- It will become very clear to you who really benefitted from this Kickstarter.
- South Koreans have another reason to laugh at you.