Way back in early 2012, the original Pebble Kickstarter campaign smashed its funding goal, and even with a few hiccups became one of the more popular smartwatches on the market. In addition to the original Pebble, the company has since released the Pebble Steel, a better looking watch but with the same hardware as the original version. As expected, Pebble has finally announced the Pebble Time, a successor to the original Pebble and the first Pebble product with completely new hardware.
The most obvious new feature of the Pebble Time is the new display, which is a full color e-paper panel similar in size to the original Pebble. By using e-paper once again instead of an LCD, the new Pebble Time also manages to have the same 7 day maximum battery life as its predecessor even with the display always on. The addition of color also opens up a number of additional possibilities for the watch, everything from album art and colored watchfaces to better looking maps or sports scores.
Another major addition is the added microphone in the watch, which can currently be used to to send voice replies to notifications using several different applications or take voice notes. Naturally, though, the real possibilities will likely be realized later, as I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a big push to get the Pebble Time to work with Google Now.
The Time is thinner than the original Pebble, but still water resistant enough for running in the rain and even light swimming. Additionally, the bezel of the watch is made from stainless steel and the lens is composed of Gorilla Glass, which should allow the Time to take on regular wear and tear without worries.
As a result, the new Pebble Time should have close to if not the same level of durability as the original, which is one of the things that distinguished the original Pebble from some nicer but potentially more fragile Android Wear watches. Admittedly, though, the design is not quite on the level of something like the Moto 360, which will no doubt be a factor for many potential buyers.
On the software side, the Pebble Time adds a new feature known as the “Timeline.” The idea behind this is to categorize all of your information not by type or application, but by time. With one click, you can either go through past notifications and things you missed, or upcoming events and information that will soon be useful. The timeline will be open to all app developers, so in theory you can get any information you want in your timeline.
Original Pebble and Pebble Steel users will not be left out, as Timeline is apparently going to be made available as an update for all versions of the Pebble. Reasonably enough, the original 6,500 or so Pebble apps and watchfaces will work with the new Pebble Time, as it appears that Pebble is working to maximize compatibility between different watch versions.
Interestingly, the Pebble Time is being launched through Kickstarter much like the original Pebble, which doesn’t seem completely necessary. The product is nearly ready and as of this writing the goal has already been met five times over. Essentially, it seems like Pebble is using the Kickstarter system as a preorder of sorts, and it appears to be working quite well so far.
The Pebble Time will retail for $199, and the current Kickstarter price is $179 (the $159 level is sold out), so there is still an incentive for users to fund the Kickstarter instead of waiting for the retail release which is currently scheduled for May. With the new Pebble Time, current Pebble prices should get even lower, and I’m personally hoping for the Steel to get under $150 so that I can pick one up as the Steel looks much better (or at least much more formal) than any version of the Pebble, Time included.
At $200, the Pebble Time presents an interesting choice for smartwatch buyers, as it certainly has some distinct advantages and disadvantages compared to Android Wear products, and it will be interesting to see what consumers value in a smartwatch. If the Kickstarter is any indication, though, there are definitely plenty of people who are interested in longer battery life and greater durability in a smartwatch, and by sticking close to its original formula, Pebble seems to have capitalized on a relatively solid section of the market.[Kickstarter]