Time is the latest product from Pebble, the company that literally kick-started the smartwatch trend in 2013.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME
Pebble Technology Corporation is a developer based in California and manufactures its range of smartwatches through the Foxlink Group in Taiwan. The developer raised the majority of its initial capital via the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. In the space of only five weeks in 2012 Pebble Corp. raised US$10.3 million to develop the first ever smartwatch. The watch was released in July 2013 and sold out within five days. On December 31, 2014 Pebble had sold its one millionth smartwatch.
In May this year Pebble Corp. introduced Pebble Time, the second generation of the Pebble smartwatch, and in August followed through with the release of the up-market Pebble Time Steel.
At the time of launching Time, Pebble Corp was facing a highly evolved and very competitive multibillion dollar market with the likes of Apple, Samsung, Motorola, LG and Sony all key players in the smartwatch stakes. Of course the launch of Apple’s first smartwatch in April this year was a significant landmark on the timeline.
Although Apple still remains tight-lipped about exactly how many units it sold, the tech giant did admit that the Apple Watch sold more than the first iPhone or the iPad in a comparable period. The first iPad was the better selling of these two and sold 2 million units in 60 days, according to Juniper Research. So it is estimated that the Apple Watch had sales of $US 1 billion and 75% of the smartwatch market. Now that is serious competition.
It is predicted that Apple will sell more than 7 million smartwatches by the end of the year.
Pebble is acutely aware of its new competition and the growing, crowded and highly-competitive market. In March this year, it went back to its Kickstarter roots to break its previous record by bringing down the website with its incredibly successful US$20 million Pebble Time and Time Steel announcements.
TIME: A MORE POLISHED PEBBLE
The result of Pebble’s research and development exercise is a watch that is more aesthetically pleasing for wearable technology. Time is 20 percent thinner than its predecessor, sitting just 9.5mm off the wrist. Its body is also slightly curved and is combined with a standard-sized, silicon wristband.
The screen is undoubtedly the biggest upgrade to the device. It is an e-paper screen with 64 colours you can see in direct sunlight. The user interface has also been given an overhaul with past appointments when you arrow up and future appointments when you arrow down. By tapping the middle button you can access notifications, settings and apps.
A surprising number of Pebble apps function on the watch alone, including silent alarms, Applauncher to open apps on a phone, Jawbone and Misfit step-tracking apps, and apps for music playback.
Other apps require smartphone input. This brings us to Pebble’s unique selling proposition. It can be used with both Apple and Google Android handsets, it isn’t hamstrung by brand allegiance like say, Apple or Samsung. Other core features that set Pebble apart from its more recent competitors is a longer battery life and it is water resistant to a depth of 30m.
Battery life is a big feature of Pebble’s smartwatches. Compared to the Apple Watch, which just about requires a daily charge, Pebble Time can last an entire week on one charge.
A couple of other cool features of Pebble Time is a microphone that lets you dictate text message responses. The voice-to-text translation is reasonably accurate and you are given a chance to proofread it before sending. Alternatively, this watch will let you reply with an emoji.
Last month Pebble launched Time Steel, as a more expensive, high-tech step-up version of Time. This latest addition to the line-up is aimed squarely at Apple Watch and once again uses battery life as one of its biggest selling point, going from a battery life of 7 days to 10 days.
The all-steel body of Time Steel sets it apart from Time, and it is available in either a leather or steel band, as opposed to Time’s silicone band. The best part of the Steel’s design, and the reason to consider the upgrade, is its buttons. There’s no touchscreen on the Pebble Time Steel: you need to press the metal buttons on the sides to interact. The slightly thicker body seats the buttons higher, and they’re easier to click.
Behind the Gorilla Glass that’s protecting the Pebble Time Steel, there’s an all-new e-paper display that supports 64 different colors and 30 frames per second. The always-on color screen is easy to read in sunlight and, like Pebble Time it is a major improvement over the black-and-white screen of the original Pebble.
PEBBLE TIME STEEL v APPLE WATCH
If the Pebble Time Steel and Apple Watch look alike, then that’s where the similarity ends. These are two totally different devices each with its own unique proposition. Apple Watch is more expensive and understandably syncs better with other Apple devices and apps. Pebble’s Time Steel has a longer battery life, has far better water resistance and is compatible with both Apple and Android phones.
The result is a matter of choice. Apple users will naturally gravitate towards the Apple Phone. But Pebble Time is one for the geeks – wearable technology with enough old and new advantages to appeal to the original army of loyalists and the thousands of trendoids who adopted the company through its Kickstarter campaigns.