If you’ve been keeping up with what they’re doing over at Pebble, it’s clear this time around that they are focused on closing the gap between fitness tracker and smartwatch. The health features have always seemed like an afterthought until the recent refresh of the Pebble lineup. We are taking a look at the newly refreshed Pebble 2 and all of its baked in health-y goodness.
Pebble 2 is touted as an upgrade to the original Pebble, the smartwatch that started it all in 2013 – and rightfully so. The look and feel, as well as the black and white screen are reminiscent of the OG Pebble’s charm. Pebble definitely stepped their game up with a built-in optical heart rate tracker on the back of the Pebble 2 to monitor your heart rate throughout the day and during workouts. The Gorilla Glass screen is also a welcomed upgrade over the scratch-prone plastic from the original model. Pebble also built a microphone into the side for voice replies so you can respond to text messages and other notifications without needing to pull out your phone at all.
The body is made of poly carbonate similar to the original Pebble, but with an updated design and slimmer profile. The included silicone strap feels nice and fits with the design of the watch. The rubber buttons seemed to be the most questionable hardware choice on the watch. They have a satisfying click, but it’s somewhat negated by the squishy rubber sides of the watch. It would have also been nice to see a metal buckle. The plastic one on the included silicone strap feels somewhat cheap and it’s not very comfortable. Overall, the build quality is surprisingly nice for a sub-$200 smartwatch and we really like the look and feel of the more modernized Pebble 2 design.
For those new to the smartwatch game, Pebble 2 will receive all of your notifications from your iOS or Android smartphone. You can view and respond to most notifications via predetermined ‘canned’ responses or by voice using the built-in microphone. As mentioned above, Pebble focused heavily on health during this hardware refresh. Pebble 2 successfully brings together the strongest features of Pebble with the most popular features of today’s fitness trackers. The hardware is well executed and the software is very responsive. Animations are smooth and the huge selection of watchfaces from the Pebble App Store look good on the Pebble 2’s black and white display.
The software is where Pebble really shines, and Pebble OS 4 is great on the Pebble 2. The simple interface and fun animations really make good use of the Pebble 2’s bump in processing power over its predecessor. Navigation is also very simple with the four built-in buttons on the sides of the watch. To access your health information in the Pebble Health app, simply press the up button from the watchface. You can view your steps, last night’s sleep and your up-to-date heart rate. Pebble Health is pretty easy to access, but if you want your health information available at a glance there are tons of health-focused watchfaces out there. Timeline UI is also still very usable on the Pebble 2. You can use Timeline UI to view previous and future calendar events right from your wrist.
We will just say it – there is no dressing this watch up. Pebble 2 was designed for function first and fashion second. We’re ok with it, but we want you to know that going into it. The design is pretty one-sided, so if you like the chunky look reminiscent of a Nike+ watch, you’ll love the looks of the Pebble 2. With colors like white, aqua, flame and lime – this thing really pops on your wrist. We really think the color selection is a nice addition to the lineup, but it definitely doesn’t work too well with formal wear. If you decide you want to change up the look, the guys over at GadgetWraps have got you covered – literally. They have skins, straps and screen protectors that pair up perfectly with the Pebble 2. There are a ton of color options and glass screen protectors as well.
My biggest complaint about the Pebble 2 is in the setup process. If you’re an Android phone owner, you should be fine. Those of us pairing the Pebble 2 up with an iPhone 7 are the ones that (might) have to suffer. Once I went to pair up my new watch, I was notified in the app that Pebble has identified an issue with the pairing process for some Pebble 2 watches and iPhone 7. A fix is in the works, but the multi-step process was tedious and unexpected. I followed all the steps listed and got paired up (you’ll need a non-iPhone 7 device).
As a smartwatch, this thing is great (of course we’re a little biased here). It doesn’t miss any major features from the Pebble Time watches and it comes in at a pretty great price. After rocking the Pebble Time Round for so long, it was nice to be able to leave this thing on for a few days at a time and not worry about it dying or getting wet. As a fitness tracker the Pebble 2 does a decent job. The heart rate monitor is a welcome addition to the Pebble’s health tracking abilities, and the updated Pebble Health app fits well with the new hardware. Users can press up from the home screen to access your daily step goals and your up-to-date heart rate.
If you’ve already got a Pebble Time or Time Steel and you aren’t interested in health tracking, you can pass on the Pebble 2. However, if you’re still rocking the OG Pebble this is a significant upgrade. All of the improvements to the software and performance, plus a built-in heart rate monitor and microphone totally justify the price tag. For those looking to purchase their first smartwatch, the Pebble 2 is a great option to get started. Compared to other watches you’re getting an always-on display, incredible battery life and a waterproof watch – all at a fraction of the price. The Pebble 2 really does blend the best features of Pebble and other fitness trackers out there.
If you’re like me, you have the Pebble because you love it as a smartwatch. All of the built-in health features have always come as sort of an added bonus – until now. The Pebble 2 seems to balance those two things out. It’s a better fitness tracker than we’ve seen with the previous Pebble lineup and it’s a much improved smartwatch over the Pebble OG. Honestly, I really like the Pebble 2. The long battery life and the water-resistance were welcomed features after using a Pebble Time Round for so long.
One point of frustration has been the delays with different colors of the Pebble 2. Our concerns didn’t receive any response when we reached out via email or Facebook. Those new to Pebble shouldn’t worry though, because they usually have a pretty great record of quality customer service. In case you missed the Kickstarter campaign, you can preorder them on Pebble.com or grab one right now at Amazon(US), Amazon(UK), Amazon(DE)
What are your thoughts on the new Pebble 2? Let us know in the comments below!