I got my hands on a Pebble Steel recently. This is now the older black and white version of the Pebble, the latest being Pebble Time, with a colour screen. Since, I have been trying different straps, watch faces and apps.
I got the brushed stainless version, rather than the black matt one. There is some discussion on forums about if the black matt version scratches more easily, since the black matt effect is achieved via a coating on the underlying steel body. The verdict is that the coating is pretty solid for everyday use but won't stand a chance if attacked with a sharp tool. Nevertheless, I decided that the brushed steel version looked better on my wrist, and also because my watch the pebble was replacing was also a steel finish.
The Pebble Steel comes with a black leather strap, even the brushed steel version. I wanted an all steel look, so I initially went for a cheaper steel strap. The finish on the cheaper strap does not match the steel finish of the pebble, nevertheless unless observed closely the strap looks good. The problem I had with the cheaper strap was that only a few links on the strap were removable. This meant the strap was far too big for my wrists even after removing possible links and consequently there was a lot of movement. The strap is a hair puller. So if you have hairy wrists like mine and the fit is loose, I would not recommend it.
I then ordered the official Pebble strap. This is much more expensive, comes packaged in a very nice looking but hard to open box. It comes with a screwdriver and two extra strap pins in the box. The screwdriver is pointless as it is not strong enough to tackle the strap pins. The extra pins are a big bonus though, for safekeeping, as the Pebble steel uses non-standard strap pins and they are expensive to buy on their own and local watchmakers may not hold them in stock. So if you loose the original strap pins, you will have some to spare.
The official steel strap matches the steel finish of the body perfectly. Many more links on this strap can be removed, so it supports much smaller wrists. Because the strap matched my wrists accurately the fit was better and watch movement on my wrist was reduced compared to the cheaper steel strap. This meant a lot less hair pulling, however even the original strap is a hair puller. The reason is that both steel straps do not leave space between individual links and when they flex, hair peeking between the links will be caught and pulled. Overall, I found the most comfortable strap was actually the original leather one. It accurately fit the wrist without any modification and there is no chance of pulling hair. If you plan to wear your pebble at night, and there is a reason for doing so which I will discuss later, I would stick with the leather strap.
There are literally hundreds of watch faces for the Pebble and new ones come out everyday. The Pebble app on your phone will allow you to browse and download faces and it takes a while to find a face you prefer. I personally found I could divide faces into three broad categories:
- Stylistic: Look very good.
- Informative: Display a lot of useful information besides time, like date and weather.
- Quirky: Very unique designs though often hard to read the time.
Most faces I preferred are in multiple categories and I share some of my favourites here. You can find them by searching the Pebble app using their names or clicking on the links, where available.
- DIN Time by Christian Liljeberg: A clean, easy to read, watch face based on the DIN Engschrift typeface. Time can be right (or left) aligned so it is the first you see when you pull up your sleeve. This is one of my favourites, the font is beautiful, there is reasonable customisation and useful information like date, weather and Bluetooth disconnection alerts. Both stylistic and informative.
- LIMITTMM, 1TTMM, FILLTTMM, TTMMIT by Albert Salamon: Very attractive watch-faces, but most have limited or no customisation and no other information besides time. Stylistic and quirky.
- Multifunction Seven Segment by FG: Nice open-source watch face with a lot of information, including weather, sunrise/sunset, location, battery and more. Customisable and informative.
- Portal Sign by degygii: A very cool open-source watch face based on Portal video game theme. Displays date/time, battery level and bluetooth status. Stylistic, informative and quirky.
- Tag Heuer Carrera by faces: Wow. Very stylistic analog watch face with date, battery status and bluetooth.
- Minimalist Futura 3 by Yannick Breton: An analog + digital watch face with a good sprinkling of information like date, battery and bluetooth status and temperature.
- Solar Watch by Bhakterija: A quirky open-source watch face that displays solar time together with actual time. Attractively designed and calculates sunset and sunrise time based on location. Includes date and battery information.
- Nuts and Dials by BoomBoomBrucey: Auto-generated watch face that actually looks very good. Stylistic but limited information (bluetooth status and battery level, but no date).
- Number Scanner by rumo: Quirky watch face with date, bluetooth status and battery level, if you know where to look.
- Taller and Taller 2 by chops: Very stylistic watch faces with date and battery level. Multilingual too.
- Hop Picker Watch by Gregoire Sage: Quirky and unique open-source watch face with date and Bluetooth status. Easy to read.
- Illusion2 by bleem313: Very quirky and unique watch face. But very hard to read the time. If you like this, also see Refract.
- Xevo by X.adA: Stylistic watch face with bold time display visible clearly from a distance and in low light.
- Squared 2.0 by lastfuture: Stylistic open-source watch face with a clearly visible bold time/date display.
The pebble has an inbuilt vibration and accelerometer. This makes it very suitable for fitness tracking. But none of the apps on the pebble store seem to do everything I needed. So you will most likely need more than one app. Remember you can only have one fitness tracking app active at any time, so a comprehensive app is preferable, otherwise you have to remember and manually switch to the correct activity tracking app depending on what you are up to. There are some stand out apps which I discuss:
Misfit: This is by far the most comprehensive fitness app with all activities tracked and sleep monitoring. There is a free and well designed iOS companion app which syncs data to your phone. It tracks activity in the background so you can use any watch face while using this app. The Pebble app however isn't very accurate and will sometimes track activity incorrectly, especially sleep. Also, the data when transferred to the iOS companion app will often be corrected but the Pebble will continue to show incorrect data. There is a wake from sleep function in the iOS companion app but it did not perform very well for me. Despite inaccuracies, Misfit is a serious all-rounder and I use this regularly. It also allows you to set activity goals.
Morpheuz: This is a very comprehensive sleep monitoring app with a wake up alarm. The stats gathered by the app are more comprehensive and the wake up alarm more accurate. However the app requires a third party iOS app purchase to sync data to the iPhone. Without sync the recorded data on the Pebble is lost every night. I found the wakeup algorithm of this app could not beat SleepCycle on the iOS. Also the app need to be the active watch face when tracking sleep. I have gone back to using SleepCycle for sleep tracking, for now.
ON11: This is a activity tracker plus watch face. Its more accurate than other trackers in tracking activity and reports how much time was spent on any activity. However for iOS there is no companion app. For Android a companion app is available.
There are dedicated step tracking apps like Steps and Pedometer and also dedicated run tracking apps. The dedicated apps perform better than the all-in-one apps, but the downside is they only track one kind of activity and you have to remember to turn them on off depending on the activity you are up to. Most also keep data on the Pebble and so you cannot have a historic record of your activity. See I like to idea of transferring the data off the Pebble to the phone for historic records.
Besides fitness tracking I found some other apps quite useful:
- Compass: Very elegant compass for the pebble.
- Timer+: A missing feature of the Pebble is filled by this app.
- PebbGPS: Together with a paid companion iOS app this allows you to get directions on your pebble.
- PebbleCam: Again with a paid iOS app, this turns your pebble into a remote shutter for your phone camera. Very cool!
Remember there are many more apps and faces for Pebble and these are the ones that stood out for me. I'm still discovering more and I will keep this page updated with my views and findings. The Pebble is a seriously cool watch and there is so much content to choose from. I notice that the Pebble app on iOS displays apps sorted by likes, so that very popular apps appear at the top. However, there are new apps released which have no likes yet and you have to go into the new section to find them. This means often good new apps are eclipsed by old popular apps. I think content discovery could be improved overall for the Pebble app with more filtering and sorting options. Meanwhile, do share your favourites with me on the comments section.
I'll also be exploring the Pebble SDK so expect more tech articles on this soon.