An interesting product announcement from Pebble today.
In Pebble Time Round, Pebble seems to have found a productive reason to exist in a world full of increasingly sophisticated wearables: “Let’s just make a normal-looking wristwatch.”
“Normalcy” it’s a daring idea. It’s way more wild than Lexus’ hoverboard, and if the product video represents Pebble Time Round accurately, it also seems to consume a lot less dry ice.
Nobody’s achieved that in a device that checks off everything on the expected list of smartwatch features. Almost all Android Wear watches are too big for people who lack a thick, man’s wrist and a certain amount of derring-do when it comes to style. The 38mm Apple Watch looks fine on slender wrists, but its design still calls attention to itself as a gadget. And tiny fitness bands that receive phone app notifications don’t do the cool stuff that makes Android Wear and Apple Watch so attractive.
Meanwhile, despite the talent and resources available to Apple and Google, neither of those two companies have nailed down a great answer to the question: “What will this do for me beyond phone notifications and fitness monitoring?” Which isn’t to say that those are the only features that Google and Apple devices are delivering, but I think they’re the only truly successful and universally compelling ones so far. So while it’s true that Pebble’s app library is merely “pretty good” compared to Apple’s and Google’s, hey, that might be good enough for Pebble to compete.
But Pebble Time Round starts at $249, thus giving up Pebble’s price advantage. It’s what you might expect to pay for Android Wear devices and not terribly far away from the $349 entry point of the 38mm Apple Watch. So, hmm.
It’s still something fresh and welcome. Time Round is a thin (7.5mm) and small (38.5mm) smartwatch with a color display, a stainless-steel case, two days of battery life, and real smartwatch features. It works with both Android and iPhone and it isn’t (I use this term gently and with love) inherently sexist, like all of the clunky smartwatches out there.
The round watchface is another interesting data point. Almost all of the new Android Wear watches that have been released or announced recently have round faces. At this point, the jeers of people who insist (and demand!) that round screens are inherently bad designs for devices that display data are being drowned out by the sheer volume of round devices. There’s so much momentum behind this form that just this week, the consortium that develops and approves standards for the Web published a First Public Working Draft of a set of standards for detecting round screens and laying out content inside them.
I love round smartwatches. I don’t think they’re inherently superior to square ones, but the round displays of Android Wear devices frustrate any app developer who thinks of a smartwatch interface as just a smaller phone screen. “Round” forces a user interface design that’s simpler and more intentional. After wearing these devices daily for well over a year, I’ve come to appreciate that both of those things are important in a watch app.
I find round screens just more fun. Also, a square gadget on your wrist screams out to your cousin “I was checking the Cubs score all through your wedding service” as you deliver your congratulations and a $50 Outback gift card during the reception.
Preorders for Pebble Time Round are live now at Pebble.com and they’ll ship sometime in November.