The original Pebble smartwatch raised US$10 million (about S$14 million) in 2012 on the Kickstarter crowdfunding site. This year's Pebble Time Kickstarter campaign raised over US$20 million.
The Pebble Time is a redesign of the original Pebble and last year's Pebble Steel. It is more squarish but has a nice, curvy profile. It actually looks Apple Watch-esque.
The Pebble Time has a partner in the Pebble Time Steel. Both are essentially the same watch, except the Time Steel has more stainless steel material in its case. It also has a longer battery life of 10 days, compared with Time's seven days.
Both the Time and the Time Steel use a 1.25-inch (144 x 168 pixels) always-on, e-paper display, with 64 colours compared with its predecessor's black and white.
Both retain the four-button configuration (one left, three right) of previous models.
The cheaper Pebble Time ($329) is already available here in red, black or white. But there is no word yet on the Pebble Time Steel's availability.
I was a backer of the Pebble Time Steel's Kickstarter campaign and received my unit last month. I opted for the gold version (the version tested), but it is also available in gunmetal and stainless steel.
The gold version comes with a red leather strap. The package is supposed to include an extra gold bracelet band, but it has not been delivered yet.
I thought the gold Time Steel looks like the $25,500 Apple Watch Edition with its 18-carat gold case. And it is not just me - many of my friends and colleagues mistook my Pebble Time Steel for the Apple Watch.
Apart from their good looks, the highlight of the Pebble Time and the Time Steel is their new operating system (OS). The OS uses Timeline to give users immediate access to the most important information throughout the day.
Pressing the top right button allows you to toggle through past events and the top left button lets you scroll through future events. These can be appointments, missed calls, Instagram posts, the weather, and sunrise and sunset timings.
Another great thing about the Pebble Time OS is the sheer amount of watch faces available. They come in a myriad of designs and can display weather or battery life. I had plenty of fun trying out the different watch faces.
In addition, there are apps and games that you can download. For example, you can get VoiceNote to save notes using your voice, via Time Steel's built-in microphone.
Notifications appear with vibrations, like with a smartphone. Set the smartwatch to Quiet Time to prevent notifications from showing.
The problem, though, is the really dim e-paper display. I can hardly see the display unless I am outdoors and in bright sunshine. To activate the backlight, you need to turn your wrist quite violently.
But battery life is superb for a smartwatch. In my test, the watch was constantly paired to my iPhone 6s Plus with notifications turned on, and the Time Steel lasted about a week before its battery ran out.
On the downside, the Time Steel requires its own charging cable, just as the original Pebble and Pebble Steel have different charging cables. This is irritating.
The Time Steel is water-resistant to depths of 30m, so you can swim with it. The leather strap is not ideal for aquatic conditions.
Thankfully, the Time Steel uses a normal 22mm watch strap so you can easily replace it with a rubber strap that is more suitable for swimming.
PRICE: US$249.99 (S$348), available from www.pebble.com
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth 2.1 & 4.0 LE
COMPATIBILITY: Android (4.3 and above) and iOS (8 and above)
WATER RESISTANCE: 30m
WEIGHT: 62.3g (with leather strap)
BATTERY LIFE: 5/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
Verdict: Its greatest strength is the long battery life but the Pebble Time Steel is a fairly basic smartwatch without GPS, heart rate sensor and other bells and whistles.
This article was first published on October 28, 2015.
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