PROS / The Pebble 2 has one of the longest-lasting batteries in a smartwatch.
CONS / The watch isn’t a very good fitness tracker.
VERDICT / If you want a smartwatch that is simple, works with both Android or iOS, can get wet and has killer battery life, the Pebble 2 could be the smartwatch for you. However, it’s screen is grayscale, it doesn’t track fitness well and its voice recognition doesn’t work as well as other watches.
Pebble became a pioneer of smartwatches after a successful Kickstarter campaign, but almost five years have passed since then. Now, several big players in tech are releasing smartwatches of their own.
We have always admired Pebble’s approach of simplicity. Pebble proved that you don’t need NFC, a barometer or LTE to make a great smartwatch. The previous Pebble watches had three standout features: the ability to effectively relay notifications to your wrist, waterproofing and a killer weeklong battery life. Now, the Pebble 2 is the first Pebble watch to have a built-in heart rate monitor.
Like the Pebble Classic, the Pebble 2 is housed in a polycarbonate case and features a 1.26-inch, rectangular black-and-white ePaper display. The watch lacks a touchscreen and its display isn’t as bright as other smartwatches. However, the e-ink display reduces glare outdoors and lengthens the battery life. Plus, the screen is Gorilla Glass so it doesn’t scratch or scuff easily. The battery life for this watch is impressive, too. We were able to get six days of use. It works with both Android and iPhone smartphones.
The Pebble 2 is very inconspicuous – you can’t even tell it’s a smartwatch. It’s much thinner than the Classic, but still isn’t as small as the Pebble Time Round. Like other Pebble watches, this one is water-resistant – up to 30 meters – so you can wear it in the pool or in the shower. Its rubber wrist strap is adjustable, comfortable and easy to clean. We like that you have several watch faces to choose from in the app store – some analog and traditional and others digital and more playful.
The Pebble 2 uses the same Timeline OS that is in other Pebble smartwatches, and you interact with it using the three buttons on the watch’s side. It also has a built-in microphone. Although you can’t use it to take calls, you can respond to text messages using your voice. We found that the voice recognition wasn’t as strong as Android Wear and Apple smartwatches.
The biggest change in the Pebble 2 is it works as a fitness tracker. Unfortunately, it is limited to runs, walks and “general” workouts that just monitor your heart rate. Other smartwatches have several presets for various cardio workouts – including walking, running, cycling and rowing – but not the Pebble.
We used the new smartwatch to track a workout at the gym. It helps you reach your target heart rate during exercise, and you can use it to time your workouts. We thought it was cool and convenient that you can switch your song and adjust the volume of your workout playlist from the Pebble without having to take your phone out of your pocket. The watch syncs with your Apple Health and Google Fit accounts to track your steps and total calories burned. The Pebble Health app isn’t as comprehensive as competing health apps, some of which are available for a similar price as the Pebble 2.
We love rooting for an underdog, but the Pebble 2 just isn’t a wise choice if you are in the market for a smartwatch. The only thing it really has going for it is impressive battery life. It doesn’t track workouts as well as the competition, its voice recognition falls behind and its display is grayscale and seems outdated. It’s nice the watch finally has a built-in heart rate monitor, but this new addition shouldn’t justify a purchase when there are better smartwatches and fitness trackers available around the same price point.