I’m going to pitch this as a comprehensive, but not exhaustive, review of the Pebble Time Round. I’ve been using it for a bit more than a week but before I write about how I like it, let me give you the rundown about why I wanted it.
I like Fitbit and Misfit- have owned and used both. While they both eventually incorporated a timekeeping modality into their devices, the devices are…less than asthetically pleasing. Misfit gets points ahead in this department – slim, round, two taps had the time flash on the device. Fitbit bands…don’t work for me. In order to really functional, the activity/timekeeping device needs to be something I can wear everywhere. The Misfit was my best option (for looks) until Pebble.
No one who knows me would tell you that I’m real fashionable, but I’m just fashion-conscious enough that even the original Pebbles aren’t my jam. They’re boxy, square and like all the other smart watches on the market- they look like smart watches. Also, I was still experimenting with what I do and don’t want to know throughout the day- how many features on these things are important to me?
- I want an alarm (vibrating) because it’s less likely to wake my husband. Having the possibility to modify the alarm to work with my sleep pattern would be ideal.
- Step counter, obviously.
- Ability to sync with other apps I’m using
- Having the ability to control the music on my phone so that I don’t have to get it out of my flip belt while working out would be helpful but not a deal breaker.
- Notifications- I want some but not a lot
- IT NEEDS TO LOOK LIKE A REAL WATCH
The last one is the most important to me and the Pebble Time Round is the only smartwatch out there that qualifies. So when the Time Round dipped below $199 on Amazon, I was ready to pull the trigger. My logic is thus: I would spend $150 on a watch I really liked, so $180 for something I love that does everything I want is saleable. Also, I had a giftcard, so it actually came in under $140 for me.
This is what the watch looks like with the screen illuminated. This is a pretty basic watchface with a black background. When it’s not illuminated I can still see what time it is. There’s a function where this will automatically illluminate based on the motion of your arm but I don’t use it. I press the little button on the left. It’s quite thin and the watchface is sized similar to most men’s watches. The watch looks sturdy- stylish but not delicate. Replaceable bands may also be purchased to further customize the look.
The watchfaces are interchangeable and controlled by either the buttons on your watch or via the Pebble Time app on your phone (it works with Android and iOS). I fiddled with it a LOT in the first day which brings me to the point which most online reviews talk about – battery life. The battery life isn’t tremendous because it’s such a thin device. That said- it’s pretty easy to get 2 full days. This doesn’t sound like much, so let me talk about the charging. The cord which comes with the Pebble Time Round has a USB end and a magnetic charging port which lines up with the back of the watch. It takes between 15 and 30 minutes to charge. That’s it. Really. So I’ve typically charged it while I’m in the shower or as I’m in bed reading before I fall asleep. It’s surprisingly a non-issue for as much as I’ve seen it discussed in reviews. Maybe I’ve become accustomed to needing to charge my phone dailyish, but it just hasn’t been on my radar as a problem.
The device comes preset with native apps, including alarms. These work much as you’d expect, you set the time and the watch vibrates. I downloaded a free Gentle Wake app which works with my sleep pattern to wake me up AROUND the time of my alarm but when I’m already naturally stirring and therefore close to waking up on my own. It has varying alarm vibrant patterns, snooze functions and different ways of disabling/shutting off but I’ve gone with the basic ‘buttons on the watch’ option. I used it for the last week and it was flawless. There are several apps available which I’m looking at but this does great for me.
As a step counter it works great. It’s pretty close in accuracy with Google Fit (my primary tracking app) though I didn’t bother comparing it with the Misfit. I like that I have access to all my activity data but that it’s not right in front of my face. You can also add apps that prompt you to get up and move based on time or activity as well. I haven’t felt the need to branch out into that area yet. It also can differentiate between walking/running which is helpful with some of the workout apps I use.
As I mentioned above, it syncs with everything I need it to. While I’m working out, the Round automatically picks up my music player and, from the watch screen, I can bump into the next song, back up, etc. Super handy and not super cumbersome.
When you’re setting up the Round on Android, the Pebble app will prompt you to install Android Wear. Let me tell you that you ONLY need this if you want notifications from Google Hangounts. If this is not your primary or secondary text communication, you don’t need Android Wear. It connected imperfectly with the Round and will look like it’s trying to connect constantly- this is okay for Hangouts functionality but I found it unnecessarily annoying. I also burned a lot of battery time the first day trying to figure out what the hell was going on with it and, ultimately, whether or not I needed it (no).
Notifications are a personal thing, so keep in mind that your mileage may vary here. My phone is kind of ever present but with the job I have now, I can’t always have it out. It’s pretty commonly in a pocket or a bag. What I love about the Round is that I can see who’s calling me while the phone is on silent in my bag (it vibrates like the alarms). I can dismiss the call and/or text the person from my watch using canned responses if I’m in a meeting. If I’m not in a meeting, I can use the watch to voice a text (which is kind of sweet and very Six Million Dollar Man).
I get text notifications (if I want). Most of my friends aren’t huge texters and I chose not to have an alert when a text comes in (vibrate). I can check all my notifications at any time with the touch of a couple of buttons and, frankly, if there’s an emergency someone is going to call me- not text.
There’s also a pretty sweet tea time alarm app which you can customize for something like 8 different kinds of teas. It seems random, but as a non-coffee drinker it’s been pretty helpful. There are a lot of apps that you can use and enable notifications on- TripAdvisor is probably the next I’ll experiment with.
All of this brings me back to battery life for just a moment- expect that the more you’re fiddling with the apps and setup components you are going to get way less than 2 days battery life in your first day or so. This week I plan to use a watchface which incorporates the weather and I’ll see how much that affects battery usage. Having a very active watchface (some of them are SERIOUSLY animated) will, I imagine, use more battery life.
On the device, there are specific settings you can adjust. I keep the backlight on and only have one background app (Battery Plus). I have kept the motion enabling on but shut it off today because I don’t really use it. I leave the ambient sensor on, have the screen at a medium intensity and 5 second timeout. I have the Quiet Time set to on from midnight to 8 but it will allow phone calls (I’m on call for work regularly).
The device does NOT have a touch screen. I purchased a set of screen protectors mostly because I have a habit of scratching watchfaces.
All in all, I really love the Pebble Time Round. I was glad to see it drop to a price point I find more reasonable and it has every feature that I want in this specific type of device. This was about as custom tailored to my needs as I could hope for and it does every thing I want a smart watch to do (and probably more things I don’t want it to do). If you’re going to be away from a charging port for several days, this is probably not what you’re looking for but it also worked with my battery recharging device- so it’s not like you can’t take it on the road.