The first shipment of Pebble Time watches for Kickstarter backers is set to begin today, the 27th of May. If you're among this first batch, you can expect to get your watch by mid-June. Meanwhile at CES Asia 2015 in Shanghai, regional distributor for Pebble in Asia, Leader Radio Technologies (LRT) had working units of the Pebble Time and Pebble Time Steel.
First impressions: Colour me impressed.
The Pebble Time looks so much better in the flesh than Pebble's stock product images do it credit for. I was initially put off by the thick bezel when it was revealed and wasn't too much of a fan of the pudgier square design that seemed rather retro for a digital smartwatch with funny coloured watch faces. This was something I felt the Pebble Time could not pull off successfully.
Proving myself wrong, I took an immediate liking to the Time. It is incredibly light and not in the cheap, plastic way. It actually felt solidly constructed with buttons that offered firm resistance when pressed. I expect that some might find them a tad too rigid, but I prefer this over soft-press membrane kind of buttons any day. The silicone strap for the Time would actually make it pretty much swim and sweat proof right out of the box, and it doesn't add anything to the weight of the watch.
Putting on the Pebble Time feels like one of those Swatch Skin watches. You'll barely feel it's there and the silicone strap wraps around the hand comfortably.
The Time is compatible with regular 22mm straps, but those from Pebble will feature a new spring-bar design with a little latch on one side that makes them super easy to remove and/or attach.
On the software front, the units LRT had were understandably pre-production samples, so they were running beta software. Still, navigation was smooth. The colour e-paper display was quite readable under artificial lighting, but it did feel on the dim side and viewing angles were just alright. There probably is a brightness setting somewhere, I just didn't have enough time with the unit to figure it out. The watch now lists all the watch faces that you've downloaded on the app, and if it isn't already on the Time, it will automatically load it from your phone as long as you're synced. The whole process is fast and seamless. What I was surprised with was the fact that the app store already seems to have pages of updated watch faces, apps and even games that already take advantage of the Time. Watches are still about a month away from the earliest user, so it's really good to know that the app ecosystem is already thriving.
LRT had one lone unit of the Pebble Time Steel, which is an even earlier pre-production unit, so I didn't get to play around with it much. The Time Steel looks more elegant than the Time with its thinner and shiny bezel, but not necessarily as hip. While the Time has a plastic case and stainless steel bezel, the Time Steel is stainless steel all over. The Time Steel is definitely the dressier version, while the Time is suitable for everyday wear and sports.
Besides the materials used, the Time Steel case is about 1mm thicker than the Time. It's not really noticeable, but because there's this black bar between the case and the bezel, it always feels that way. It is definitely heavier though. While both watches are technically identical, Pebble has made use of the larger case to put in a bigger battery. The official claim is 10-days of use for the Time Steel and 7-days for the Time. We will definitely put these to the test when the final products reach our labs for review.
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