Pebble Time with Michael
This is Part 1 of a two-part article. Part 2 appears here.
The purpose of this article is to provide a brief overview of of the key features of the Pebble Time (and, of course, the upcoming Pebble Time Steel) smartwatch, along with a set of tips on how to make the best use of this watch. It’s primarily written for prospective and new Pebble Time owners, but more experienced users may also find a tip or two of value here. Please feel free to add any additional tips you would like to share in the comments section below this article
The E-Paper Display
The Pebble Time has a display that is unique among currently available smartwatches. It uses an E-Paper technology which provides a color display that actually looks best in very bright light. Virtually every other personal electronic device uses a screen technology that washes out the image under bright light. It’s actually startling when first using the Pebble Time and seeing just how great the screen looks in bright sunshine – a condition that renders the typical phone, tablet, or personal computer screen completely unviewable.
The downside of this technology is that it becomes less viewable as ambient light decreases. There is a backlight included with this watch that can be activated by a quick shake of the wrist. Alas, it’s really not all that bright and stays on only very briefly. This is a byproduct of enabling the great battery life provided by the Pebble Time – vastly better than any other smartwatch currently on the market. You should expect 4 to 7 days usage between charges of the Pebble Time. Also, even with the limitations of the E-Paper technology’s ability to display information in low-light conditions, I think you’ll find the watch’s display to be completely useable under virtually all lighting. I certainly do, and the truly amazing battery life it makes possible far overshadows any limitations of this technology.
Note: The brand new version 3.2 firmware addresses the backlight issues I mention above. I’m going to be publishing an article devoted to this update and all it offers sometime next week right here on pebblestuff.
More than anything else, your Pebble Time is a watch. It should provide you with the current time, and do so in a way that’s readable in a variety of lighting conditions. It’s also nice if the watch face you have on it is visually attractive. Finally there are some additional items that a watch face can display that are really handy to have readily visible to you.
The watch face shown in the picture is my personal favorite. It’s DIN Time, and is available from the Pebble App Store. The Pebble App Store is accessible from the Pebble Time application that needs to reside on your phone in order to use this smartwatch. The Pebble Time phone application is available for the iPhone from the iTunes App Store and for Android devices from the Google Play Store.
The Pebble Time phone application allows you to search the Pebble App Store for both watch faces and apps. There are literally thousands of watch faces available in the Pebble App Store that can be installed on your Pebble Time by downloading them with this application.
My favorite watch face not only displays the time in a manner that’s visually attractive to me, even under relatively low-light conditions, but it also displays some very handy additional items. These include the current battery level of the watch, the current weather conditions and temperature, and the current day of the week and date. These are the minimal additional data items I like to see on any watch face I have on my watch. I also use the Tally watch face when I want a more traditional look for my Pebble Time. Tally also displays the same data items as DIN Time.
The next feature of the Pebble Time that I’m going to discuss is its Timeline. This is the feature that makes the Pebble Time truly unique compared to previous Pebble smartwatches. It’s accessed from the watch face screen by pressing the Top and Bottom buttons on the right side of the watch. Pressing the Bottom button shows you future Timeline items, while pressing the Top button shows you Timeline items in your immediate past. When displaying either past or future items, pressing the Top and Bottom buttons changes the currently selected items and scrolls the screen up and down, as needed. Pressing the Middle button expands the the amount of information displayed for the currently selected Timeline item.
Items are entered into the Timeline in a variety of ways. First of all, Sunrise and Sunset entries are automatically created for each day. Next, the most common way further entries are created is by the automatic syncing of events from your phone’s calendar to the Pebble Time. This is controlled by the phone’s Pebble Time application “My Pebble – Calendar” settings. There you can specify the calendar(s) you want to have automatically synced between your phone and your Pebble Time.
There are other ways to get items entered into your Timeline. Some Pebble Time apps will automatically put entries into the Timeline. One example is the ESPN app. This app will put information about games played by your favorite teams into the Timeline for you, and even include final scores after each game ends. The MyTimeline Tasker Plugin, reviewed by me in a two-part article here and here, can also be used to post entries into the Timeline. Finally, there are applications in the Pebble App store that enable you to manually create Timeline entries on your phone and have them pushed into the Timeline. A warning though – I’ve tested a few of these apps myself and haven’t found any that work completely reliably.
I find the Timeline to be a wonderful way to quickly check my planned activities for the next few days and really enjoy having this feature on my smartwatch. I’ve also written this article in which I discuss some additional ways to get useful information into the Timeline and make the most effective use of it.
Finally, here’s a quick tip regarding the Timeline: If you select either of the automatically entered Sunrise and Sunset entries in it and then press the Middle button, you’ll see an up-to-date weather forecast for your current location. That’s a very handy but relatively unknown feature of the Timeline.