As one of the people who backed Pebble in their Kickstarter campaign, and somebody who subsequently upgraded to the Steel Pebble when it was launched, it saddens me to write this, but at this point I feel Pebble is going to find it hard to survive, and for two simple reasons: they don’t seem to care about software quality, nor their customers.
At a time when Google, Samsung and Apple are creating much more sophisticated smart watches, it would seem like a good idea for Pebble to keep its existing customers happy, and to take seriously any reports of problems. Instead, every problem I have reported has gone unaddressed (aside from some brush off suggestions that I un-pair/re-pair or restart the watch, reboot the phone etc). I would actually consider the hardware part to be fine, and despite not having all the bells & whistles of the others, it wins hands down on battery life (most of the time), and provides the essentials needed in a smart watch. But, the software is buggy, and the support experience is terrible, and without those aspects working well too, I don’t believe they will be able to compete.
Intermittent Loss of Notifications
Yesterday, I finally decided to try to report the intermittent loss of notifications I have been seeing for a while. Since it is intermittent, it is difficult to reproduce (I still don’t know exactly what causes it), but I had some time to experiment yesterday so I grabbed logs and I reported the problem, copying Pebble’s Chief Evangelist, Myriam Joire, and Pebble Support on Twitter. The responses I got were pretty disappointing.
[link to troubleshooting connections on their FAQ]
If the previous instructions do not resolve the issue, please try the following:
1. Place your Pebble on the Pebble charger and make sure it is charging.
2. Go to Settings > Bluetooth on your device. Find your Pebble and Pebble LE in the list > click on the blue “i” > Forget this device.
3. Hard close the Pebble app on your phone by double clicking the main iPhone button and swiping up the Pebble app.
4. Restart your phone by holding the home and lock buttons down until the apple logo appears on the screen (this should 5-10 seconds but may take longer)
5. Try pressing & holding the left + right middle + right top buttons for 40 seconds. This will put it into recovery mode.
6. It will now show up in Settings > Bluetooth as not connected/paired. Pair your Pebble (not Pebble LE) and your iPhone.
7. Re-open the Pebble app.
I replied back to that stating that the issue was not that I don’t get notifications, but rather that occasionally they will stop being sent to the watch, and without any warning of any kind. Since the watch was still in the state where it was broken I did some experiments, and discovered the following:
- App notifications and SMS notifications were not being sent to the watch
- Test notifications from the Pebble app worked fine – so the watch was still paired
- Incoming phone calls were notified on the watch (as were the test calls from the app)
I sent all of this, and several logs in response to the initial support email. The response I received back was this:
1. Make sure you leave your Pebble iOS App open to maintain connectivity.
2. On your iPhone, make sure Pebble is allowed to run in the background. That way, your internet-dependent watchfaces and apps can automatically update.
3. Link your Pebble with only one mobile device. Because you are attempting to use 1 Pebble for 2 phones, your notifications and messages will be inconsistent. Although it is technically possible to connect two phones to 1 Pebble, the Pebble is not designed for this use. This will lead to some SMS and phone calls being sent while others are left.
I have my doubts the emails I sent were even read. This has all the makings of a canned response sent to somebody who has the audacity to respond back to the initial brush off.
The responses I got from Ms Joire on Twitter were more of a mix. Initially, I received the standard “please talk to support, that’s not my job”:
When I pointed out that the issue was not the basic connectivity but rather an intermittent partial loss of connectivity, and noted that my previous experiences with Pebble support were far from satisfactory, I got this back:
Kind of surprising as a response to a customer; perhaps it is just as well she doesn’t work in customer support!
A little later in the conversation, I then get told this:
OK, so nobody else is having these issues… But wait, on the Pebble forum there is a very recent thread describing intermittent loss of notifications, and even an older one from early 2013. So perhaps I am not the only one experiencing this. Perhaps there is a real problem here. And perhaps it has existed for almost 2 years, and remains unaddressed.
Blocked & Deleted
This morning, I was planning to send Ms Joire a DM on Twitter with the response I had received from their “best support person” (her words) as an example of why I commented on previous experiences with support being unsatisfactory. Oddly though, I noticed that I was no longer following her Twitter account. I tapped on the button to follow her again, only to discover she has actually blocked me on Twitter.
Pebble’s Chief Evangelist has blocked a repeat customer for reporting a problem with the watch, and poor previous experiences with their support team on Twitter.
Not only that, but all the tweets above have been deleted, leaving just these three replies from her in the record:
Not what I expected at all. I am very disappointed in Pebble, and just perhaps that Apple Watch looks more interesting today than it did yesterday (when, coincidentally, somebody asked me whether I was considering an Apple Watch, and I answered that I was not).
For The Record
I am still experiencing the poor handsfree audio in the car and on my Moto headphones when I try to use the phone while the Pebble is paired with it. I haven’t noticed the A2DP problems recently, but I also haven’t been using the handsfree in the car because of the poor audio, and that was what triggered the A2DP interference issues (that always happened after ending a call in the car and wasn’t solved until I cycled the bluetooth on the phone).