Pebble Time Steel: Initial Impressions

Pebble Time SteelOne of the new toys that arrived last week was my new Pebble Time Steel watch. This was one I was excited about as, despite some occasional problems with my original Pebble & Pebble Steel watches, I am still a believer in the platform and decided to go with the Pebble Time Steel rather than an Apple Watch.

I’m not going to do the traditional unboxing photos, suffice to say it came presented more like a watch this time (in very retail-friendly packaging, so I expect to see these hanging in my local Target store soon alongside the other Pebble watches they carry already).

The other big change is the style aspect. Personally, I like the new style, though I do agree with some of the other reviews I’ve read that the black border around the screen seems very large on the Time. It would have been nice to see a screen that went much closer to the edges of the watch. Of course, that would have made the screen a different pixel size to the current ones which introduces a bunch of complexities for developers, but we cope with that on Android and iOS, and even on the Apple Watch.

My watch shipped with only the leather strap. The metal bands for the Kickstarter orders are on backorder and will be coming later; I believe the retail orders only come with the leather bands though.

Initial Setup

Since I already had a Pebble and watch faces and apps in my “locker”, installation and setup was a breeze. Download the new app, pair with the watch and all my faces and apps were ready to go. Sort of. On first launch each one installed, so there was a slight delay, but nothing much.

The only app that caused me problems was Leaf (the app for controlling my Nest devices at home from the watch), which, for some reason, didn’t work until I rebooted the watch. All good now, and in color too.

The new iOS app also has a nicer looking icon (in my opinion at least). The older app icon always looked a little odd to me. One note there is that the new Time watches need a different app, so now I have two Pebble apps on my iPhone.

Watchfaces

Choosing a watchface to use with the new watch, one that exploited the color screen and the anti-aliasing options to make it look better, took me a little time. The one shown in the photo is my current choice, but I am missing some of the information I enjoyed on this one so I will keep looking (or perhaps even create my own).

As before, the screen is on all the time and easily visible both indoors and outdoors, even in bright sunlight. At night, a gentle flick of the wrist causes the backlight to come on, and now this is configurable in terms of both brightness and duration, which is a nice addition to the configurability.

My current top watchfaces are:

  • TH3 by Turner Vey (the one shown in the photo)
  • Timeface One (Analog) by Alexander Liebing
  • ksmod3 by nuts0
  • Analog by DocF87
  • Tictoc by Pebble

Battery Life

My initial battery life was very poor – my watch dropped from fully charged to 60% in under 12 hours. Following a recharge though, the next day I was at 90% at the end of a normal day, and I am still at 70% going into the second day (and after a firmware update that was triggered this morning).

I will report back on how long this lasts on the most recent recharge. My old Pebble Steel managed 5-6 days very consistently with the same notifications and a watchface that did include a seconds hand.

Notifications

The new notifications has pros and cons too. The use of color, though I don’t really understand how the colors are being decided, is great, and the notifications themselves are easy to read. The process to dismiss them on iOS has become more complex however; it used to be one button press and they were gone, now it is two presses. The first press now opens a menu (more like the one that Android has always had). The options on there depend on the number of unread notifications, and the types of notification. In the case of a single notification (most of the time this is what I see), the only option is “dismiss.” When there are multiple, there is a “dismiss all” option which might be nice if you saw them fly by and know what they all are. I also saw an option to mute notifications from an app.

I would like to see the case where the only option is to dismiss the one unread notification be reduced to a single press I think (only show me the menu if there is something for me to choose from).

Timeline

It would be remiss of me to not mention the timeline feature. While I think it is certainly clever, I’m not sure how often I will use it (similar to the way I feel about many of the apps that can be installed on the watch, though I am trying a few more out now with the new watch). I do have my calendar linked up to it though, so I can scroll through my upcoming appointments which is probably the most likely thing for me to use in a timeline format (unless any of the stock apps can predict stock prices for me of course…)

Connection Reliability

This was definitely an area that caused problems with the Pebble and Pebble Steel watches. Latterly, it was mostly reliable, and when problems did arise they were easily fixed by booting back into restore mode and re-pairing with the phone.

The Time Steel has dropped notifications once for me (was showing “No LE” in the bluetooth status on the watch), and has also failed to show me incoming calls a couple of times (today’s firmware update did mention incoming calls, so perhaps this was a known issue that is now resolved).

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