Health & Fitness

Pebble 2 Fit and Smart, Now with Heart Rate

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Fit & Smart

The Pebble 2 is the second incarnation of the venerable Pebble smartwatch. Introduced in 2012, the original Pebble (now called the Pebble Classic) raised more than a $1 million in a Kickstarter campaign from April to May 2012. By the end of 2014, it had sold more than 1 million units. In 2015, Pebble launched Pebble Time and Time Steel on Kickstarter, raising more than $20 million with more than 75,000 backers.

This time around, the Pebble 2 has raised more than $12 million via Kickstarter on the strength of more than 66,000 backers. There are positive things about the Pebble 2. However, the real question is will the improvements be enough when stacked up against the competition?

Summary

The wearables market is heating up. What really turned people’s minds was when Apple released their smartwatch in 2015, selling more than 10 million by the end of the year. Since then, even those smartwatches which were released earlier than 2015 have gotten a boost in sales. Whereas Apple has been trying to hog the upscale market, other manufacturers are trying to fight it out in the below $200 market. Of particular attention goes to Pebble. The third generation Pebble 2 is an improvement over the Pebble Classic and Pebble Time.

However, it has been relying too much on Kickstarter to fund its initial sales. For the third straight time, they launched their product on Kickstarter, with a deep discount for the backers. Even if this is their third product on Kickstarter, Pebble was still able to exceed their goals, with more than 66,000 initial orders. These orders are expected to ship starting October 2016.

Since it was first introduced, there has been a cult following for the Pebble. It is an intriguing watch with a design which works. The problem is that the rest of the industry has greatly advanced since the first Pebble Classic came to market. The Pebble 2 might be a case of too little, too late. Nowadays, a smartwatch is expected to deliver a lot more than just good looks, and a dedicated watch function. It should also be able to communicate with a smartphone, as well as function with its full feature set even without a smartphone.

Our Score:
Pros
• More fitness features
• Affordable smartwatch
• Supports iOS and Android
• Battery life is around one week between charging
• Water resistant to 30 meters.
• Always on display
Cons
• Does not have GPS and WiFi of its own.
• No touch capability.

Pebble 2

At the heart of the Pebble 2 is an ARM Cortex M4 processor. Display is via an always on e-paper screen. It does not have a touchscreen, but the navigation is the same as the Pebble Classic: done through the use of buttons. It is slightly larger than the Pebble 2, it has more functions on the screen, and it has more fitness oriented capabilities. However, time will tell whether it will continue to improve as a smartwatch or it will evolve to compete against fitness wearables in the under $200 category.

Considering that Pebble is a privately held company, the sales figures are pretty impressive. However, they cannot depend on Kickstarter launches forever. In the case of the Pebble 2, the product itself is trying to do a lot of catching up to do. What started as a smartwatch in Pebble Classic, has shifted focus to a fitness wearable in the Pebble 2.

It now has an optical heart monitor and an accelerometer. This gives it the capability to track step counts, and sleep. Possibly due to changes in the case, it has a lower water resistance rating of only 30 meters, compared with 50 meters in the Pebble Classic. These new features make it within the range of capabilities for fitness wearables like Fitbit, Jawbone, and Misfit offerings.

For fashion, it looks like a late 1960’s watch which would go well on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  It has a plastic build, with replaceable plastic straps, an upgraded Corning Gorilla Glass 3, and e-paper monochrome display. It also comes in five colors.

It has Bluetooth 4.1, which allows you to connect to your Android phone or an iPhone. However, there are some functions which don’t work, or are just approximations when used without being tethered to a smartphone. Part of the problem is the lack of GPS and WiFi. The apps work with the smartphone’s GPS, and information from the Pebble 2.

It does not have a music player, however, it does have a microphone. This allows the user to record memos or short notes, which can be transferred to the smartphone.

Like the Pebble Classic, the battery life is about one week before there is a need to recharge. This is done with the use of a proprietary Pebble cable. Seeing that it offers a relatively more limited feature set, the long battery life is a given. It should have a long battery life because it is not running a lot of things.

 

Verdict

The Pebble watch is an iconic design, and it shows in the latest incarnation, the Pebble 2. However, the competition has vastly changed since the first Pebble was introduced to the market. Today’s smartwatches are trying to carve their own niches. There are luxury smartwatches which function principally as good looking watches. On the other hand, there are are also fitness wearables which can also function as smartwatches. Of course, there are smartwatches from the major phone brands which try to meet all the users needs.

The Pebble 2 is trying to carve a larger niche. It is still the same watch, but with an expanded feature set. With what it has, it can further improve to be a fitness watch. However, what it cannot afford to be is remain hobbled when it is not tethered to a smartphone. It has to have more power, and more features. If it is to pivot to compete against Fitbit, Jawbone, and Misfit, it has to begin immediately before these bigger companies blot out the Pebble 2.

Official: Pebble

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