- Great battery life
- Water resistant
- Feature packed
- Easy to use
- Thick bezels
- Lacks style
- No GPS
Pebble 2 review: Pebble made a name for itself after smashing records on crowd-funding site Kickstarter with its first wearable back in 2013 – now three years later its successor the Pebble 2 is here, but does it put into practice what the company’s learnt in the meantime?
Whilst the Pebble Time Round was a clear attempt at going after fashion-forward consumers, the 2 more closely mirrors the aesthetic styling of the original Pebble, with a greater emphasis on ease of use, comfort and fitness.
There are five colourways at launch, each of which toys with body, strap and bezel colour in various combinations, but the overall look is closer to that of a sports watch than a fashion item. The plastic body feels thin, light and unobtrusive on the wrist whilst its low profile means that it’s less likely to catch on your surroundings compared to other, bulkier wearables.
As comfort goes the included soft-touch rubber straps feel great against your wrist and don’t get irritating after prolonged wear, unlike some rival smartwatches and trackers. They use standard 22mm sizing and feature quick-release spring bars so you’re anything but limited with regards to customisation should the stock bands not suit your tastes or needs.
On the underside of the body lies the Pebble 2’s star feature, an optical heart rate sensor to supplement the activity tracking chops of the company’s Pebble Health software. It protrudes slightly so that it can nuzzle in between the bones of your wrist to get a reliable reading, but you don’t notice it once you’re actually wearing the 2.
As ever Pebble’s resorted to monochrome e-paper LCD technology for the visual experience on offer from the Pebble 2 and it does its job admirably. The lack of colour as on its Time range isn’t detrimental to the user experience all that much except for locking off a few apps and watchfaces that haven’t been transposed to work across both screen types.
This time around Pebble has covered the 1.26-inch screen in Gorilla Glass, rather than plastic as with the original, ensuring far better scratch resistance and general hardiness, without affecting its excellent legibility in bright environments, which is excellent.
In darker conditions, there’s a subtle backlight that isn’t particularly bright but is well suited to ensuring your Pebble 2 is still wholly legible all the time.
The Pebble 2 itself operates on the company’s now well-established Timeline OS. Navigation takes place by way of the watch’s side-mounted hardware buttons, with a press down from the watchface jumping into upcoming events from your calendar, whilst a press up (following its most recent update) now takes you into your latest Pebble Health stats.
Activity tracking is a huge part of the latest Pebble software experience and as well as native and automated walking and sleep tracking, the Pebble 2 can also track runs, calories and offer constant heart rate monitoring.
Whilst out the box the Pebble 2 may not boast as many fitness experiences as key rivals like the Apple Watch, the rich developer community has ensured that you have a host of third-parties to turn to for everything from swim-tracking (as the Pebble 2 is also water-resistant up to 30 meters) and even breathing apps to cover wellbeing.
Beyond fitness as with previous Pebbles, you can control your music, receive notifications and even respond to messages with canned responses, emojis or your voice thanks to the integrated microphone, which in practice offers reliable accuracy when converting of speech to text.
Apps from notable developers like Runkeeper and Uber are also on-hand and the wealth of offerings from the Pebble store cover everything from games to home automation. We just wish there were better ways to filter through the current catalogue, as finding the right tool for the job isn’t always easy unless you know what you’re looking for.
Installing apps from the store onto your Pebble 2 is automatic and management of the app layout falls to a simple drag-and-drop interface that’s easy to rearrange.
Pebble quotes up to seven days battery life from the Pebble 2, serving as a major advantage over watchOS and Android Wear-based rivals, which usually top out at around two days at best. In our tests, Pebble’s claim actually held true, with low power warnings kicking in halfway through day seven, at which point Timeline OS locks down the physical controls and only displays the watchface until recharging – a process which itself is impressively quick at under an hour.
Timeline OS is also a fast, fluid interface to navigate around, with the only real chokepoint being the speed of your Bluetooth connection when updating the Pebble 2 or downloading new apps from the store.
Pebble’s newest watch retains all of the elements that made its original offering so great but enjoys the benefits of a refined, more compact design, a richer app store, water-resistance and (optional) heart rate tracking.
If you want a versatile wearable that’s a smartwatch first with competent fitness capabilities stacked on top, the Pebble 2 has more than enough functionality to take on the likes of Apple and the Android contingent. The lack of GPS is its biggest weakness in this regard, a problem Pebble hopes it has sidestepped by launching the Pebble Core screenless activity tracker at the same time.
If that’s your only gripe, however, at under £100 (£99.95) the Pebble 2 covers all of the bases you’d want a smartwatch to and more.
|OS||Timeline OS 4.1.3|
|Bonus features||Optical heart rate sensor, water resistant up to 30 meters, quick-release straps, microphone for voice replies and notes|