For all anyone knows, Apple might never release a wrist-mounted phone accessory. But if you must stay one step ahead of something that still doesn't officially exist, the Pebble is your only choice. This crowd-funded, open source designer smart watch blew up Kickstarter, with nearly 70,000 backers handing its creators over $10m to bring timepieces into the 21st century. Nearly a year later, the first Pebbles are rolling off the production lines. So is Pebble the first must-have smart watch, or just another geeky gadget that promises Dick Tracy and fails to deliver?

Minimal design

Black, white and primary colours, distinctive eco-efficient packaging and slim, minimalist design – the Pebble doesn't so much nod to Apple as bow down in homage. Jony Ive might not approve of the chunky buttons or slightly clumsy curved case but neither does this look like something cobbled together by three 20-somethings – as it was. The strap is plain, comfortable rubber (it's removable), the waterproof body is light and elegantly proportioned, and even the 10mm depth doesn't feel too thick.

READ MORE: Pebble Steel review 

E-paper screen

E-paper displays rock. The Pebble's is nothing short of awesome. Like the Kindle's screen, this is incredibly crisp and clear, especially in bright sunlight. The modest 24,000 pixels are plenty for displaying digits, watchfaces and text. An accelerometer automatically flashes on a backlight as you shake your wrist, which is great for hands-free time-checking but can also be occasionally distracting when you're just moving your arms about in the dark.

Custom clocks

The left button brings up a menu of three built-in watchfaces (you can currently download two more from your smartphone app). The 'Text' face is certainly the coolest, spelling out the time in words that smoothly slink in from one side, but if you don't like the others, a little patience is all that’s required. Pebble's OS is open source and dozens of apps and watchfaces are just around the corner.

Power and problems

Of course, the first genuinely smart watch is far from perfect. There are interface hiccups that annoy – such as a back button that doesn't take you all the way back to the watch face, and a very occasional Bluetooth lapse that meant we were at one point left unconnected from our phone for a few hours without realising it. These should be easily fixed in firmware updates. More worrying was a battery life that was less than three days, instead of the promised week, with the watch displaying a low battery icon then shutting down seconds later. Oh, and as an aside, the magnetic USB power cable feels like pure Apple.


It's easy to see what the Pebble is missing – the ability to reply to messages, voice recognition, better battery life. But that's only because it already delivers so much. Not just the first essential smart watch for smartphones, the Pebble is a classic timepiece in its own right.

Stuff says... 

Pebble Smartwatch review

This probably won't be the last smart watch you buy, but it should be the first. An impressively timely debut