Pebble Time Steel One Month On


I don’t think you can write a review of a device like a smart watch or smart phone until you’ve had a little time to use it. So although I got my Pebble Time over a month I’ve not wanted to write a review of it until I’ve had a chance to put it through it’s paces.


I personally don’t like the look of the regular pebble, it looks too plasticky, so I was disappointed when the Pebble Time was announced that there wasn’t a Pebble Steel analogue, of course it didn’t take long for Pebble to announce the Pebble Time Steel.

The watch may not be to everyone’s taste, but personally I like it, it looks like a watch, and for the most part it doesn’t have the “Oooh is that a smartwatch” aesthetic that the Apple Watch and the regular Pebble have.


As a Kickstarter backer I got the leather and the stainless steel strap, I’ve tried both and although the leather strap is really comfortable, I didn’t find the steel strap to be very comfortable, it’s possible that I removed one too many links when I was resizing the strap, but it just didn’t feel as nice.

That brings me to my first qualm about the stainless steel strap, although it’s easy enough to get the leather strap off I found it quite difficult to get the stainless steel strap onto and off the watch. Also although the number of links on the steel strap was rather generous, you needed a tiny screwdriver to remove the links to shorten the strap, and it would have been nice to have a small screwdriver in the packaging.


The buttons on the watch have a nice feel to them, although I get the feeling that the watch was designed with only right handed people in mind. Although I am right handed I’ve always worn my watch on my right hand rather than my left hand, and the buttons didn’t feel like they were in the right place to use on one’s right hand.

I’ve taken to wearing the watch on my left hand, which is going against 35 years of habit, and for the most part it’s been okay.

There are a total of four buttons on the Time Steel, one on the left which functions as a back button in most cases and three on the right which normally function as up, down, and select buttons. It’s a paradigm that works quite well and it’s relatively intuitive.


The big new feature of the Time series is the colour e-ink screen, this is the first consumer device I’ve seen with a colour e-ink screen and to be honest I’m quite impressed. The refresh rate is good enough for animation, and the display is probably on par with a GameBoy Advance. You can play games on this, and the refresh is not noticeable, I don’t know how many colours the screen supports, or what the refresh rate is but for a wee screen on my wrist it’s more that good enough.


This is is my first smart watch, so I had not idea what to expect from the UI, I new that pebble had added something called Timeline to the OS but I had no idea how to access it. I found navigating the UI to be relatively straightforward though, it helps that the afore mentioned buttons almost always do the same thing, the once caveat to this being one app where going back required a long press on the back button rather than just a press, so I didn’t think to use the button for anything other than back.

The menu is just a list of options and apps, which you install from the phone app, and selecting an app and using it is fairly straightforward.

It took me two days to discover that clicking up or down opened my “Timeline” though, I probably could have read a manual, or watched a video on using the pebble, but I didn’t so I didn’t know this.


The core functionality of the Pebble Time is as a watch, and as a notification system for your phone, it does both of these tasks quite well. This is not a fitness watch, although there are some apps that have some fitness functionality, it’s not what the watch is designed to do.

That said, how useful that watch is depends on your phone, basic functionality like showing you notifications and your timeline works fine regardless of whether you have and iPhone or an Android phone, however, I found that the ways to respond to a notification on Android were much richer than on iPhone, where you could just dismiss the notification.

I was actually quite impressed with the fact that I could dictate a text message to my phone in response to one I had just received, and confirm the message on my watch before sending it. You can’t do this on an iOS device, I dont’ blame Pebble, I blame Apple for not opening up the API for this though…

One thing that the Pebble Time does, that I doubt either Android Wear or Apple Watch can do though is the ability to pair the watch with two devices, with two different operating systems at the same time. The use case for this is probably quite narrow, but if you have an Android phone for work and an iPhone as your personal device then it can be a godsend.

When I tried it I managed to pair an LG Leon and an iPhone 5S to my Pebble Time, and the Leon used regular Bluetooth while the iPhone used low energy Bluetooth. I did have to manage the watch from the Leon, as for some reason I couldn’t manage it from the iPhone, but that wasn’t the end of the world.


The battery life on the Pebble time is nothing short of amazing, although I never got the reported 10 days, I usually got at least 5 days use out of the watch, and I lived safe in the knowledge that ever if I woke up to a 10% battery warning that I could probably get most of a day, if not a whole days, usage out of the watch. Compare this to my other half who have to charge her Apple Watch every night and for some people that is enough to justify the Pebble.

There was one day where I left an app (Pixel Miner if you must know) open and it drained the battery in a day and a half. That being said, when the battery died I discovered that the Pebble Time goes into a super low power setting that just tells you the time, this lasted for a day and half so if your smart watch runs out of juice you can still use it as a watch for quite some time before you have to find a charge cable.

Apps and Watch Faces

The Pebble Time has the advantage that it’s backwards compatible with all the old Pebble watch faces and apps, so it already has a vast library thats waiting to be used, a lot of which is in black and white though so you don’t get to make as much use of the lovely screen, although there is a growing number of really nice apps, some of them have more polish than others.

There also doesn’t seem to be as much of a drive for corporations to publish apps for the Pebble, it’s mainly Silicon Valley companies where an engineer has blatantly thrown together the app in his spare time. For exaple I have apps for Swam and Yelp but not for British Airways which would be useful.

The selection of watch faces is vast, many of them actually require explanation on how to read them though…

I currently have Nyan Can on my wrist, and it animates when the light comes on, although I can’t change the date format from US format which is annoying.


There are also a number of games available if playing games on your wrist is a thing you want to do, including a version of Flappy Bird which is actually not terrible, and a fake Pokemon game.

It’s also really easy to write your own watch faces, within 20 to 30 minutes of loading up the developer kit I had written my own watch face that told the time and a little message which is quite cool:


Overall Opinion

Overall I’m quite happy with the Pebble Time Steel, it lacks in some of the features that the Apple watch has, so I can’t send my heart beat or drawings of penises to my friends who also happen to have the same watch (Apparently this is what people with Apple watches do…) but it tells me the time, and allows me to keep my phone in my pocket and just check my wrist for notifications. Also the battery lasts for ages, so I don’t need to worry about it running out of juice at the end of the day.

While a smart watch is never a must have device, it is a nice to have, and I’ve found that for the most part the watch has helped to curb my bad habit of receiving a notification on my phone and accidentally opening Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or any of the other millions of distractions on my phone. I can glance at my watch, decide whether or not I need to do anything and just go on with whatever I was doing which is really liberating.

I think I’d like the watch more if I had and used an Android phone more often, because the options for interaction with your phone on iOS seem hamstrung, which is a real shame.

If you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comment, I’m willing to try messing about with the watch to answer most questions.

Why Don’t More Phone Manufacturers Make KeyBoards/GamePads?

Sony patent suggests an Xperia Play with dual keyboards, it's slidingly slidable

I saw this post on Engadget about a Sony Patent for a phone that had both a QWERTY Keyboard and a Gamepad, I’d love that. I blog from my phone, and I’ve also tried writing on my phone (I think this was during last years NaNoWriMo) so I’d love to have a QWERTY Keyboard that allowed me to see more text and type faster. I also play a lot of casual games on my phone and I’m not 100% sold on touch as a means of control for some of them. Particularly platformers, you just need a D-Pad and Jump buttons and shoe horning them onto a touchscreen is irritating, this is why I’ve not really played FF III on my iPad, it just hurts the pads of my fingers to play it for any amount of time.

If you aren’t going to include on on the device at least sell an addon that allows you use one externally. If I had an iPhone I’d probably have one of these things:

Although the orientation of the buttons would annoy me a little, keyboards are not meant to be a grid…

I guess now Android has support for USB controllers, but as far as I can tell no one is making them… I was to emulate classic games on my phone that is more powerful than the computer I had 10 years ago god-dammit!

There is this Gametel Portable Games Controller for Android but it’s ugly as sin:

Android Phone Review Template…

I loved this template for an Android phone review that Stephen M. Hackett of 512 Pixels put together, unfortunately it is so true.

I am a big fan of Android but apart from there being more space on the device I don’t see any reason to upgrade my Android phone, the features are creeping in but too slowly for my liking.

  • The screen is better, brighter and bigger than on previous devices.
  • It’s thin, but not iPhone-thin.
  • The OEM’s Android skin isn’t awesome, but in some places, it could be.
  • The new launcher comes with lots of widgets that do things.
  • 4G is cool, unless you like battery life. But damn, those 28 seconds of browsing are fast!
  • The camera software still sucks.
  • Also, FRONT-FACING CAMERA! Note: This can be swapped for “3-D!!!!” if the review requires it.
  • While Android is open, there’s lots of crapware on this phone.Hello, VZContact Manager FREE!
  • This may be the best Android phone yet, but if not, just wait a week or two.
  • The current version of Android lacks some polish, but the next version of Android will be the one to have, we promise. It’s going to rival iOS. Granted, this phone probably won’t ever get to run it.

I’m looking to upgrade soon and to be honest I’m kind of stumped as all the high end Android phones on the Market seem to be exactly the same phone with a slightly different shell…

So much so that I’m debating going on an 18 month fruity holiday to see what it’s like on the other side of the fence and to allow the platform to differentiate it’s self a little…

I think that choice hinges on what Apple announce on the 4th and on what the new Nexus Prime handset has to offer, although I doubt there will much difference between the Nexus Prime and the current Galaxy S II, I do like the idea of having a phone whose name is part Blade Runner and part Transformers.

Get Over It… Apple Doesn’t have a Patent on Shiny.

A friend posted a link to a rather trollish “article” about how the Android UI is a copy of the iPhone UI, this is probably sparked by the recent Apple lawsuit against Samsung, I’ll agree that Samsung’s custom UI is similar to Apple’s but to be honest there is only so much you can do with a mobile interface. Here is the image that forms the main content of the article:

They both have a grid layout, that seems to be the main similarity in the UI, I’m not sure what the issue is here… A grid UI is a fairly common layout for icons in both mobile and desktop operating systems.

The original Apple Newton used one:

Comparison between Newton OS UI and iOS UI

The Palm Pilot used one:

There is a reason for this, people have fingers and a natural method of arranging things that people are going to interact with with those fingers is a grid, even pre-PDA we were using grid layouts for things that people had to touch:

So yeah, grid layouts, they are fairly old, get over it. The mobile UI design industry is also very incestuous, for example Palm has poached designers from Apple who have subsequently been re-poached back to Apple, Google have also poached Palm employees and I’m sure more of that happens all the time.

As for the Spring board at the bottom, that’s a Samsung thing not an Android feature, it’s not in stock Android though it does feature in a few of the custom skins available for Android, but to be honest it’s not dissimilar from any other shortcut bar/menu out there, it’s hardly innovative. In fact it’s very similar to a task bar with shortcut icons in it which apparently dates back to Arthur on the Acorn released in 1989.

The Springboard is just a shiner version of the the shortcut bar at the bottom of that page, so unless apple has a patent on making things shiny, I’m not entirely sure where they are going with this…

As an addendum here is an article which compares the Symbian UI to a whole bunch of other UI’s all of which use a grid layout…

Is choice a bad thing in consumer electronics?

I’ve been thinking about getting a tablet PC for some time now and I’ve been humming and hawing whether to get an Android tablet like the Motorola Xoom, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, or whatever one is getting the most media attention at the moment. My other option is to get an iPad 2; now I was initially skeptical about the iPad when it launched, it lacked several features that I thought were “essential” at the time, was too expensive, and was locked in Apple’s legendary walled garden etc.

As time goes on however I’m warming to the iPad, those essential features don’t seem so essential, the price although just as expensive seems to be the same as all the other tablets on the market, plus the iPad seems to be the only one that is available subsidised with a data tarrif in the UK. As for the walled garden… I have to admit having used an iPad it’s a really nice garden. I mean it’s no garden of eden, but… I’m going to stop that metaphor before I start talking about being chucked out of the garden for eating an Apple.

Anyway, I look at the Android landscape and it’s constantly changing, there are countless articles that compare the “best Android tablets” on the market, but by the time you read the article it’s already obsolete because bigger better more powerful tablets have been released.

Don’t get me wrong, I think this is awesome, I really like the Android ecosystem and I love my Android phone.

There is an implicit “but” in that last sentence though, the “but” is that my top of the line HTC Desire was obsolete 3-4 months after I got it, I’m not looking at all the cool Tegra2 powered smart phones with envy. Okay it’s a year later now, and my phone contract is nearing an end, but I wanted a Desire HD when that came out, and there has been phone after phone that I’ve thought hey that’s pretty cool I want that.

Before I went Android it was the constant Stream of Nokia phones that filled me with envy, not sooner had you bought a new Nokia phone then they would release a new one with a slightly better screen, slightly enhanced camera, or one cool new feature. They just kept on coming, no manufacturer should make you regret buying one of their products, but that is how I’ve always felt with phones, there is always a better one around the corner, so how long do you wait?

This is where I think Apple may have stumbled onto something, with Apple you know where you stand, they will without fail release a new iPhone every year, and it seems that this policy is being extended to the iPad. this new phone/Tablet will provide an incremental upgrade to the previous one, so if you are a gadget whore you will want to get the latest and greatest but if you aren’t it’s okay if you skip a generation. This works well with the 18-24 month contracts that carriers are pushing these days, you can comfortably buy on release date and be happy with your phone/tablet for two years before it’s time to get the next iteration.

Apple also subscribe to the Highlander “There can be only one” strategy, all iPhones are created equal, the only difference is the size of the solid state drive, you don’t have to worry about getting the one with the better processor or the one with or without GPS or Bluetooth, or WiFi or whatever other sparkly feature, they all have the exact same features. The same applies to the iPad except that you have the choice of 3G or not, although arguably if you wanted a non 3G iPhone you can get an iPod touch (Don’t call it an iTouch, Apple employees hate that).

So yeah, from a consumers point of view there is something comforting in the knowledge that there isn’t going to be a bigger better badder, more sparkly phone/tablet coming out in a months time to make your once shiny but now quite dull one look like a turd with a touchscreen.

From a manufacturers point of view Apple’s iPhone team have a year to focus on building the best possible iPhone they can without being distracted by releasing half a dozen different other phones in the interim, they have one product one live version of the OS and one dream (okay I just like having things in three’s because it sounds better they probably don’t have one dream).

Whether or not I get an Android tablet or an iPad 2 is still up in the air, I’m probably going to play the waiting game a little longer, but how much longer? I don’t know.

The iPad: I Take It Back It’s Actually Pretty Cool

I’ve been a stark opponent of the iPad, I think as part of my Android advocacy I was blinded to this device and tarred it with the same brush I tar the iPhone. Initially I think the heinous price was my main issue; although I still think that the device is ridiculously expensive. I’ve still got some issues with missing features, notably the lack of an SD card slot.

However I’ve had a chance to play with Avarinne’s new iPad and I have to say I’m impressed, it’s not an oversized iPhone/iPod Touch, it’s a netbook without a physical keyboard running a sleek UI. The device its self is wonderfully thin, the screen is bright and crisp, and the battery lasts for ages.

Apps wise I have to admit that the apps available for the iPad knock the pants off anything that’s available in the Android market, not for functionality but for sheer polish. Many, note: not all, Android apps look like someone cobbled them together with gaffa tape in an evening from code they found on a tutorial online, while the fact that anyone can release an app to the Android market is a good thing it does mean that a lot of dross gets through, people even post their hello world applications to the market, sometimes opting to charge for them…

As much as I disagree with Apple’s review process, it does separate the wheat from the chaff, and I think because of this the wheat is overall of better quality. Also the fact that the iOS has Apple’s backing means that there are an awful lot of “Official” versions of games available, like Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne and Scrabble. All of these should be on the Android market none of them are.

I don’t know why they aren’t I think Android has the hacker community hooked, but it’s yet to convince big business that it’s a viable platform. Maybe they don’t want to take the risk of developing for a platform where people are used to getting everything for free? Maybe it’s the fact that it’s a lot easier to pirate Android software because you can install software that hasn’t come from the market? Maybe it’s the fact that despite the fact that Android is supposedly gaining market share over the iPhone, people who buy iPhones buy them because of the apps and people who buy Android phones buy then because they are what the guy in the shop recommends they get as the latest whizbang gizmo, so they don’t even bother to explore the apps.

It’s not like Android users don’t download good software when it is released, when Angry Birds was released for Android, so many people downloaded it that it brought down the servers of GetJar. With any luck that will prove to people that Android users are willing to download software. The problem is that they were all free downloads, Angry Birds on Android is add supported, so no one bought it.

I think that’s one of the major issues, Android users have a sense of entitlement to free software, if they can’t get it for free they don’t bother, or they pirate it. I’ve only bought one game on my phone, Avarinne has bought 2 and a live wallpaper. Contrast this with the fact that within minutes of getting her iPad Avarinne had bought several apps and was merrily playing about with them?

Are apps easier to find on the iPad? Are they better? Are they easier to buy? I don’t know. But do know that I am impressed with the iPad. I wouldn’t pay £600 odd pounds to get one outright because I never have that kind of money lying about, but I would consider paying £199 and then a monthly subscription for data to cover the cost, it just so happens that both Three and Orange have just announced that exact deal. £25/a month for 15 Gig internet on Three and £27-£25/month on Orange (Depending on whether you have an existing Orange contract) for just 1 Gig. Both at however 24 month contracts and you end up paying £200 more than you would have for the iPad had you bought in in store, that £200 is £40 less than you would have paid for £10/month contract for data though so it is a case of swings and roundabouts.

One of the things that stopping me from going for it now (Aside from the fact that I’m broke) is that I keep hearing rumours of an iPad 2 coming out possibly as soon as February, no doubt it will be more expensive and will have a slew of features that the current one doesn’t, I’m banking on:

  1. An SD Slot, possibly also a USB.
  2. A front facing camera for FaceTime
  3. A slightly better screen, I’d love it to be a PixelQi but thats doubtful
  4. A Faster (Dual Core?) processor.
  5. Slightly better battery life (I’d reckon 12-14 rather than current 10)
  6. HDMI mini out, or mini display port (Apple like Display Port)
  7. Better Support for mobile networks in the US which no one outside of America cares about.

Lets see if I’m right…

Googlemail to Gmail switch has repercussions for android users

At some point in 2007 Google ran into some legal issues which meant that they couldn’t use in Europe. because of this when I registered a new Gmail account to use with my Android phone I was assigned an address rather than an address. I still received messages send to but as far as Google were concerned it was googlemail address.

Last month Google sent out a message to anyone with a googlemail address saying that they could switch their accounts over to, which I like many others did. That’s where the problems started. My email works fine, as it always has, however I noticed that for some reason my phone refused to sign into Google Talk, fair enough I never use Google Talk so I just ignored that error message. a while later I noticed that I couldn’t download anything from the Android marketplace. I assumed that there was a network issue as I could quite happily access the market, search it, and queue apps up for download. Only they would never get past the “Starting Download” phase.

It turns out that whatever authentication Google uses seems to have thrown a tizzy because I was no longer but now I did a quick hunt and found a support thread which told me what I already suspected. I’ve now switched back to googlemail rebooted my phone and its started downloading a ton of updates so it’s fixed.

Google now have a warning on the page that allows you to switch stating:

Android users: If you use an Android device and change your address, the following apps may not connect properly: Google Talk and Android Market. The current solution for this is to change back to, or do a full reset of your Android device and use We are working on resolving this issue as soon as possible.

This would have been useful to know when I switched, but I guess better late than never. If only there was a way to register for an update so I knew when it was safe to switch to Gmail again.

For anyone else who experiences this problem bitter wallet have compiled instructions for how to fix it (I’ve not tested them I haphazardly found the options myself and fixed it but they look about right):

In order to refer Gmail back to

  • On a computer, log into your gmail.
  • Click Settings (top right)
  • Click Accounts and Imports
  • At the bottom, next to ‘Change Account Settings’, click on ‘Google Account Settings’.
  • On the opened page it will tell you near the top whether you have a gmail or googlemail address.
  • Go back to the previous page, next to ’send mail as’ there is a small ’switch to gmail?’ link, click this.
  • Then, click the link that says ‘go back to googlemail’, then on the next page click the next button to confirm (I think it’s the big blue button).
  • Then click on the ‘Google Account Settings’ link from the earlier step, this should now confirm you are back on a googlemail account.

I hope this is useful to someone.