Smartwatches

Pebble Time Round review: Incredibly thin watch, pretty thin value proposition

Pebble Time Round review: Incr...
Gizmag reviews Pebble Time Round, a razor-thin smartwatch that costs too much
Gizmag reviews Pebble Time Round, a razor-thin smartwatch that costs too much
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Pebble Time Round on wrist
1/10
Pebble Time Round on wrist
Pebble Time Round is only 7.5 mm (0.3-inch) thick
2/10
Pebble Time Round is only 7.5 mm (0.3-inch) thick
Gizmag reviews Pebble Time Round, a razor-thin smartwatch that costs too much
3/10
Gizmag reviews Pebble Time Round, a razor-thin smartwatch that costs too much
In a world that now includes the Apple Watch's digital crown and the Gear S2's rotating bezel, Pebble's four-button setup feels clunkier than ever
4/10
In a world that now includes the Apple Watch's digital crown and the Gear S2's rotating bezel, Pebble's four-button setup feels clunkier than ever
Pebble Time's display looks good in direct sunlight, but lacks the luster of rivals with AMOLED and IPS displays
5/10
Pebble Time's display looks good in direct sunlight, but lacks the luster of rivals with AMOLED and IPS displays
Pebble Time Round has a stainless steel case
6/10
Pebble Time Round has a stainless steel case
As its name suggests, this is the first Pebble with a round display
7/10
As its name suggests, this is the first Pebble with a round display
The three buttons on the watch's right side: up, down and select
8/10
The three buttons on the watch's right side: up, down and select
Once more advanced watches get builds this thin, we'll line up on Day One
9/10
Once more advanced watches get builds this thin, we'll line up on Day One
Some pros and cons to Pebble Time Round
10/10
Some pros and cons to Pebble Time Round
View gallery - 10 images

Pebble has been something of a pioneer in smartwatches, blowing up Kickstarter with its original Pebble watch back when wearable tech wasn't much more than a concept. The company's latest smartwatch has one killer feature, but its pricing puts it in the Bermuda triangle of smartwatches.

Pebble's watches keep things simple. Notifications, music control, timelines and a decent collection of third-party apps – with voice dictation thrown in to give just enough of a nod to the higher-tech smartwatches it competes with.

That sounds like a great recipe for a budget smartwatch. Sell these suckers in the US$100-200 range and you have one hell of an alternative to pricier watches that sometimes struggle to justify their fancier tech and longer lists of features.

Unfortunately Pebble insists on pricing its 2015 watches in the $200-300 range, which has them breathing down the necks of more advanced rivals like the Gear S2, Apple Watch and Moto 360.

Pebble Time's display looks good in direct sunlight, but lacks the luster of rivals with AMOLED and IPS displays
Pebble Time's display looks good in direct sunlight, but lacks the luster of rivals with AMOLED and IPS displays

You could argue that Pebble gives anyone all they really need out of a smartwatch (though you could take that a step further and say nobody needs a smartwatch at all right now). But when you can get better screens, smoother input methods and other nice perks like voice assistants for just an extra $50 or so, why not splurge for the more powerful device?

Pebble makes quality products that are still priced like it's the only smartwatch in town.

Pebble Time Round is only 7.5 mm (0.3-inch) thick
Pebble Time Round is only 7.5 mm (0.3-inch) thick

Pebble Time Round has one badass killer feature: it's an incredibly thin smartwatch. At just 7.5 mm (0.3-inch) thin, it puts in perspective just how beefy other smartwatches are. It's like strapping a Thin Mint to your wrist.

When a device is that svelte, there's a subconscious reaction that makes it that much more impressive when it does something smart. Put a big and clunky geek-watch on your wrist and it had better have a time machine or money printer hidden inside to make it worth your while. But when something is so light and thin it feels like a kids' toy, suddenly simple smartwatch business like notifications and voice replies seem amazing.

Once you get past that initial reaction, though, Pebble Time Round's status as a $250-300 watch sounds pretty thin as well.

Pebble Time Round on wrist
Pebble Time Round on wrist

Its "e-paper" display (not to be confused with e-ink, this one is a backlit LCD) is color, but not the kind of full-color AMOLED or IPS screen like you'd find on its rivals. It also isn't a touchscreen, so you're left navigating with four physical buttons on its side. Going from the Gear S2's awesome rotating bezel or the Apple Watch's digital crown to Pebble's four button setup feels a bit like going from your current smartphone back to an old Moto Razr flip phone. There's a better way, and this ain't it.

Again, if all of this was in a $150 watch, it would be much easier to digest. But for $50 less than the Gear S2 and Moto 360 – and $100 more than the Asus ZenWatch 2 – then why bother?

Pebble Time Round also loses one of the last-remaining advantages of other Pebbles: insane, often weeklong battery life. I have no problem dropping a smartwatch on a charger every night, so as long as it can make it through a full day with no issues (as all of today's tier-one smartwatches do) I'm not too worried about anything beyond that. But weeklong battery life is still a nice bonus, and it even opens the door to things like sleep-tracking.

But, unlike the O.G. Pebble, Pebble Steel and Pebble Time, this Round model only lasts a couple of days. That's the same as the Gear S2 and Huawei Watch – watches that feel much more advanced than Pebble's. Yet another strike against Pebble Time Round in the value proposition department.

In a world that now includes the Apple Watch's digital crown and the Gear S2's rotating bezel, Pebble's four-button setup feels clunkier than ever
In a world that now includes the Apple Watch's digital crown and the Gear S2's rotating bezel, Pebble's four-button setup feels clunkier than ever

As you may remember from the rectangular Pebble Time, the company is now building its software around a timeline UI, where you scroll up from the main clock face to see recent past events and down to see future events. If you're a heavy user of your smartphone's calendar app, this can be a convenient way to lay out a smartwatch UI.

Unfortunately not everyone does that. I rely much more heavily on Google Now or Siri reminders than I do calendar entries, and Pebble's timeline doesn't include those. In fact, when paired with an Android phone, you won't even get notifications for Google Now reminders or contextual alerts.

The timeline UI is a great idea with one flaw. It assumes we all organize our digital lives in the same way.

As its name suggests, this is the first Pebble with a round display
As its name suggests, this is the first Pebble with a round display

Pebble Time Round is the company's best-looking watch since Pebble Steel, and the most comfortable smartwatch we've strapped on to date (not that any of the others have been particularly uncomfortable). Once the Apples, Samsungs and Huaweis of the world start cramming more advanced tech into watches that are this crazy-thin, we'll have something truly special on our hands. And if Pebble Time Round cost $100 less right now, that could also be something special.

But at $250, Pebble Time Round is a pretty cool watch that just doesn't give us enough of a reason to get excited about it. Nothing special here, apart from its wafer-thin build.

Some pros and cons to Pebble Time Round
Some pros and cons to Pebble Time Round

Pebble Time Round is available now, ranging from $250 for leather band models to $300 for steel band versions. For more on its longer-lasting and rectangular sibling, you can hit up Gizmag's Pebble Time review from earlier this year.

Product page: Pebble

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12 comments
MarylandUSA
My Sony Smartwatch 3 (SW3) is just as thin, lasts just as long (1.5 to 2 days), and delivers the full Google Wear experience.
Dan Parker
Save your money. In 10 years they'll be giving these things away with a Happy Meal.
RobertRoss
Is it water proof? All of the Smart watches miss the boat on this. None are worth anything until they become waterproof. Even the activity trackers do not get this.
Tom Mav
Interesting article. Well pointed out that no one really needs a smartwatch right now. The Steel version is a better fit for me, primarily due to battery life. Works with Runkeeper, tells me the time and date, lets me know when JLaw has texted me, etc. Don't really need a phone replacement on my wrist. Forgot my phone the other day and actually kept breathing all thru the day, but that's another story. As far as price, everything is relative here. Looked at the Apple site, and they offer a US$17,000 model to the Sheeple. Imagine that's flying out the warehouse...
Rocky Stefano
The only reason that watch costs more is because of the fact it's thin. You always pay more in material handling, tooling and assembly when dealing with components in wafer thin formats.
MarylandUSA
@RobertRoss, regarding waterproof smartwatches, allow me to quote Wareable.com: "The SW3 ups the ante when it comes to waterproofing. All the other Android Wear models, aside from the Asus ZenWatch (which can only manage an IP55 rating), are IP67 rated – meaning they can last 30 minutes in water at a depth of 1m. Sony's effort has an IP68 rating, so you can go double the depth for double the time without damage, which will hopefully enable swimming features in the future."
JonathanSmith
I don't know what the author installing about, I get Google Now reminder notifications on my Pebble all the time. You just have to enable notifications from the Google App in the Pebble notification settings...
maxgrp
it looks pretty but cheap with poor resolution of the round screen. It loses connectivity with nearby iphone all the time and letting you know about it with annoying buzz every few seconds. And forget about using it as the fitness/running monitoring device - it simply not supported by any of the mainstream apps - Endomond, MapMyRun, Strata... And yeah if your Facebook friends are sending your message in some other than english language then you wont see anything readable on the screen, it just not supporting any languages as Russian for example. Verdict: useless and pretty annoying piece of hardware on your hand. Oh, and forget about getting any support from the Pebble - they don't even have a customer service phone number (!) and they would never acknowledge their product sucks. Look for some other wearable tech somewhere else.
ChrisKoons
​Very cheap watch. I ordered one and am in the process of trying to return it. It doesn't do much at all. For $250 you do not get very much of a smart watch at all. Why is there a wide ring around the outside of the display? If that ring was not there the display would be alot bigger. I am in the process of trying to get my money back. Their HORRIBLE customer service will not answer my questions in the mutiple emails I have sent them. There is no phone number to call. I HIGHLY recommend that you DO NOT buy this watch.
timmyd
I bought the original rectangle Pebble Time for my wife and found that it is hideously large on her :0 So I now have it. I wanted to get my mom something nice for Christmas and got the Pebble Round 14mm. It was a HUGE task to get it paired with an iphone. I could pair it with my droid no problem, but the iphone was a different story. The included directions are worthless. They have 2 different apps and you MUST use the Pebble Time app for the Pebble Round watch (not stated anywhere on quick start guide). I could only get it paired with the iphone after updating the watch via my Adndoid, restart the watch, and FINALLY it would pair with the iphone.
Wanted to get my wife a solid black 14mm Round but they don't make this. I did not realize until reading this review that the Pebble Round battery only last 2 days - real bummer! To track activity and sleep, it would be much easier to just wear a garmin. Glad I read this and I will look for other options for my wife. I do think my mother will be happy with this as it as it will mostly be used as a text and call notifier since she often does not have her phone on her body like the youngsters do :)