Things have changed a lot in the four and a half years since Pebble first took to Kickstarter to help fund its first device. Apple’s entered the space, Samsung has released about 200 different devices and Google has attempted to create some semblance of consistency among dozens of new players — all while fitness wearable manufacturers have continued to blur the lines of what an exercise tracker can do.
For its part, Pebble has offered up a few new lines, including the Time and Steel, butthis year’s Pebble 2 (while technically its third generation) marks the first true refresh to the company’s primary line. So, what has the company that helped launch the space done to address an ever-shifting landscape? Not a ton — and that’s really kind of the point.
The Pebble continues to be a simple piece of hardware, built around a black and white display with no touch functionality. Sure, there are some additional hardware features — namely heart rate (finally) — but in a world of ever-more complicated hardware offerings, Pebble’s taking a different approach, with an eye toward simplicity.
It’s a tough play in a world where advancement is measured in terms of bells and whistles, but Pebble’s already got a solid foundation for its long-awaited sequel, along with a few years’ worth of software upgrades. And, of course, at $129, long battery life and always-on display are nice starting points, as well.
If ain’t broke
Say what you will about Pebble’s on-going Kickstarter-based business model, but, at the very least, it’s proven that, in spite of dramatically increased competition and some trying economics, there’s still enough interest to get the Pebble 2/Time 2/Core campaign into the top three all-time campaigns for the crowdfunding site — in fact, all but one of the top four slots belong to the company (with the other secured by an as of yet largely undelivered cooler).
Fans of the first-generation Pebble will, perhaps, be pleased to know that the latest version maintains a similar form factor. There are some key differences — the new version is thinner, lighter and more durable than the original, and the company has made some aesthetic tweaks to the case, making it slightly more angular and shifting the charging pins to the rear.
The four-button layout is the same as before — one on the left, three on the right. And, once again, that’s your primary method for interacting with the device — still no touchscreen here. The display itself is 1.26 inches black and white 144 x 168 — not really worth comparing to, say, Apple or Samsung here. It’s just a completely different ballpark.
Of course, there are a number of positive hardware implications to the relatively low tech here — including the ability to be always on with little battery impact and a thinner profile. Pebble rates the battery at about a week — I found I was able to get a solid four to five days on a charge.
And while the Pebble isn’t exactly small by watch standards (it was pretty huge on my 5′ 4″ co-worker’s wrist), it’s a heck of a lot more compact than a number of smartwatches out there — Samsung’s most recent offering springs immediately to mind.