Ongoing Pebble Issues

Update: Check out my more recent update on my Pebble experiences too.

Anybody following along here will know that I have been having intermittent connection issues, as well as bluetooth audio interference issues, with my Pebble smartwatch. But more than that, I have been having issues with their customer support. Not to mention having their Chief Evangelist accuse me of whining, and then block me on Twitter. Great way to treat your customers. Guess she doesn’t want to actually hear from real users. 

On October 17, I was given this answer by one of their support folks:

We well received your logs, and will review them thoroughly and have a reply by Tuesday. Thanks for your patience.

That was a Friday. By the next Friday, October 24, I had still heard nothing other than another canned response on a different case number because I submitted more logs through their app and it generates a new case each time suggesting I upgrade to iOS 8.1 (which I had already done, and which has made no difference).

In response to asking what was happening, I got a response on October 29 saying the response I had received about iOS 8.1 was because of bugs Apple had fixed (which, according to today’s email were related to phone calls, not text notifications).

I submitted more logs over this past weekend since I saw the connection loss issue twice more, and sure enough I get another pointless response:

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 ā€œiā€ > 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

In particular, killing the Pebble app & then immediately hard rebooting the phone seem like redundant steps to me. Step 5 I assume refers to the buttons on the watch, though that is far from clear too. I have also done all of this, and more, in the past and it made no difference (obviously, at the time it fixes the connection, but it will still fail again at some point in the future).

Other Bluetooth Devices

When I expressed my dismay at yet another IT style reboot everything response, I get back a reply including this statement:

If you are able to connect to your Pebble the only reason your Pebble should be losing connection would be if you are using other Bluetooth devices, or in a place that might block Bluetooth connections, are you currently using any Bluetooth headsets or speakers, or connecting to your car’s audio system?

Sounds like using any other Bluetooth device might disrupt the Pebble (not to mention the fact that the Pebble will disrupt any headsets you dare to use). And yet, I can use my Fitbit and listen to music on my A2DP headphones or the car audio system without those having issues. It is only when the Pebble is introduced that problems start. This weekend, when I experienced the issues twice, only the Fitbit would have been connected since I didn’t drive my car, nor did I use my bluetooth headphones.

Pebble’s Problem

I understand the problems associated with embedded software very well; I have spent much of my career in the embedded space, and currently work in the mobile software space. That doesn’t excuse not taking ownership of issues though. Or, if the issue is a limitation imposed by iOS (or Android, or Bluetooth), then at least make it clear that it won’t get fixed soon, if ever.

The primary use case for a smartwatch is to enable notifications to be received without needing to look at the paired phone. If that is not reliable, then the watch is of limited use. Right now I am constantly checking whether I am missing anything as I no longer trust the watch to notify me reliably.

The Pebble hardware, despite not being as flashy as the Apple or Android watches, has some distinct advantages, not least of which is the battery life, but hardware alone is not enough, and Pebble’s software is still not there.

6 thoughts on “Ongoing Pebble Issues

  1. My experience with Pebble has been very similar. I have intermittent connection issues and so still have to check my phone often to see if I have received texts, because I can’t trust the pebble to be reliable. I have a disabled parent and need to be able to check on them often, but my workplace doesn’t allow phone use at my desk. Pebble seemed like the ideal solution, but due to these issues it is sadly lacking. Combined with their terrible customer support, it has driven me to needing to pay more for the apple watch if I still want to be able to (reliably) check on my mum. I am also now a very outspoken total anti-pebbler. I have proudly put off at least ten people from buying one and will put off as many more as possible. Not because of the unreliability of the product, but their refusal to acknowledge or take ownership of their problems boils my blood no end. They don’t deserve their success and I hope that the company get the backlash that they fully deserve.

  2. Nicola, I would say they have been better recently, but their support organisation was definitely a weak point. Most of the responses suggested that any issues were my problem to work around rather than something they should be fixing. They do need to take more ownership of their problems if they are going to survive.

    Following my hard reset of the watch though it has not had any connectivity issues for months. Even after software updates, which seemed to be triggers for the bad connectivity issues starting in the past. If you still care, it might be worth a try. Essentially factory reset from the menu and then the three button hard reboot. Pair it back to your phone and the Pebble iPhone app will reinstall your watch faces and apps.

  3. I appreciate the suggestion, but I’m a little hesitant to try a factory reset as my pebble was bricked when I first took it out of the packaging. It kept cycling through recovery mode and Pebble refused to respond when I asked for my money back. It took me three days to get it working, and all I got from Pebble all this time was stock responses with totally unhelpful ‘try turning it off and on again’ cut and pasted info that didn’t even relate to the issues I was having.
    It makes me angry even looking at the watch and the thought of going through that again fills me with dread! They have made a mortal enemy of me for life, I’m afraid šŸ˜‰

  4. I can understand that. The annoying support responses were the biggest source of frustration for me too. Did you get your Apple watch? The battery life is what puts me off there. I really don’t want another item to charge every night.

  5. Not yet, have to wait for pay day. I’m going to miss my text watch face though!

  6. Yes, that was one of my favorites too. Recently I have been using a variant of “Modern” though. Hopefully, Apple will wise up and allow people to develop new watch faces at some point.

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