When Pebble announced the Pebble Time Round a few days after my Pebble Time review, I was surprised. The Time seemed like such a solid platform to build on, I wasn’t sure what a new version of the hardware was going to do for them.
But here we are, six months later, and I’m looking at what’s the sveltest version of a smartwatch that I’ve ever seen. Now, I’m not some hulking behemoth; but the Round is the first version of Pebble that I’ve tried on that I haven’t immediately said “Oh yeah, this is for me.” Then again, I like my watches to be chunky. The Round is the exact opposite of that. It is diminutive, thin, and light. So light, that it felt a bit like a toy version of a watch. I figured that part of it was my transitioning from my trusty Pebble Classic to the Round; but that feeling never quite went away through my week’s trial. I don’t think it’s a failing of the watch as much as it is a realization that I’m not the target audience. The Round is for those who don’t want to have a hunk of hardware on their wrist.
But while we’re talking size, we might as well address the wafer-thin elephant in the room. Because of that slim case, battery life takes a big hit in the Round. It’s still measured in days, but just barely; and then only if you aren’t a power user. Don’t expect to Pixel Mine all day long and have your Pebble Round still ready for the evening. I understand the trade-offs when you’re shrinking hardware; but battery life remains one of my most beloved things about my Classic (which is currently averaging about a week or more per charge). Though I do appreciate that the latest OS update brought with it a host of Power Notification alerts to give you a more real-world estimate of how much battery life your Pebble has before you’ll have to recharge. No trying to parse what 17% battery life means here.
I should also note, if you’ve stayed away from Pebble because of the stock bands, there’s no need to worry. The Round comes with a silky-smooth black leather band that’s absolutely perfect – no awkward rubbery plastic here.
The Round’s screen is crisp and bright. The responsiveness of the software is impressive – obviously reducing the size of hardware didn’t impact processing speed. I was also lucky enough to have the latest big Pebble OS update drop during my trial. This turns the Time into a bonafide fitness tracker. No more need for add-on apps (which is good, because the Misfit app never did quite work right for me). I found the step and sleep tracking to be fairly accurate (though my steps spiked through the roof when I went to a concert with the Round, all that clapping netted me a whole lot of “steps!”). Hopefully more interactive options will be enabled as Pebble’s health platform evolves. I’d love to see active reminders to get up and move around come to a future iteration. Oh, and the Health app isn’t coming to the Classic – if you want to use Pebble’s in-house health tracking, you’ll need to upgrade to the Time or Round.
Since I’m on AT&T, I also got to try out the new Voice Response feature for iOS. This lets you go all Dick Tracy on your wrist: when you get a text message, you speak into the mic, the watch translates that to text, and you can send it off as a text message. This is all without taking your phone out of your pocket. Is the voice to text translation perfect? Far from it; but I haven’t come across a voice-activated system yet that has anything but 50/50 accuracy. If you need it, it’s a great feature to have and it’s nice being able to do so without plunking down the big bucks for an Apple Watch.
Between Apple and Pebble, the latter has the more rational approach to smartwatches. Rather than trying to cram a computer onto your wrist, Pebble has made a smart platform that feels familiar and respects the traditional place of watches in our daily lives: quick, micro-bursts of information. If you’re in the market for a smartwatch, I’d highly recommend trying out Pebble before anything else. Between the Classic, the Time, and the Time Round, there are a wide variety of options for all wrist sizes and tastes.