Pebble's latest smartwatch gives up too much in order to achieve its small size.
The small, circular watch is the first of its shape from the company. Just like its Time siblings, the Pebble Time and Pebble Time Steel, the Time Round features a color e-paper display and runs the company’s latest OS, complete with a timeline feature for keeping tabs on upcoming appointments, weather, and sports scores.
Pebble Time Round was available for pre-order in late September starting at $250. Pre-orders will begin shipping November 8, coinciding with retail availability at Best Buy BBY and Target TGT . It’s available in silver, black, and rose gold.
For the past week, I’ve been wearing a black Pebble Time Round with the 20mm leather band. I’ve tested it on both Android and iOS during my brief stint with the watch. Pebble is also selling a smaller version of the Pebble Time Round, featuring a 14mm watch band that’s designed for women.
With a housing that measures 38.5mm across, and 7.5mm thin, the first thing you notice about the watch is just how small it is. For comparison, the original Moto 360 measures 46mm across at 11.5mm thick. Apple’s AAPL smartwatch comes in two sizes, 42mm and 38mm.
The downside to reducing the overall size of a smartwatch—something that’s already inherently small—is you have to make concessions. One such concession of the Time Round is battery life, with Pebble estimating (and my tests confirming) roughly two days of battery life on a single charge.
Pebble has long touted the battery life of its products as a differentiating factor when compared to its competitors. The Apple Watch has enough juice to get through a day, with most Android Wear smartwatches following suit. Pebble’s Time and Time Steel offerings provide battery life in the range of five to seven and seven to 10 days, respectively.
In an attempt to make up for the smaller model requiring more frequent charging, Pebble claims you can gain a day’s worth of use from just 15 minutes of charge time. I wasn’t able to effectively test the company’s claim, but did see a 30% jump in battery percentage in the allotted charge time.
Another downside to the smaller footprint of the Time Round is its screen size. The watch housing isn’t entirely filled with a display, as other round smartwatches are. Instead, the Time Round features a bezel around the display, making the screen roughly 25.4mm, or one inch. (The standard Pebble Time’s screen measures 1.25 in., or 32mm on the diagonal.)
The bezel adds a decorative flair to the watch, and little else. When I asked Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky back in September why the screen didn’t take up the entire watchface, he chalked it up to a design decision.
I wish the company hadn’t made that design decision, opting instead to fill the entire housing with a screen. The overall experience would have benefited from a larger display. A larger screen is capable of displaying more lines of text and valuable information at a glance, instead of the cramped feeling invoked by the small screen on the Time Round.
Outside of shorter battery life and a smaller screen, the Pebble Time Round provides the same smartwatch experience Pebble is known for: A watch that connects to your phone, putting important notifications on your wrist. On Android, those alerts are actionable, meaning you can do things such as reply to text messages using your voice. On iOS, you’re limited to viewing incoming notifications and little more.
Pebble’s app catalog continues to grow. Most recently value was added with a section for voice-enabled apps. Still, the app offering is somewhat limited right now, with most apps adding some sort of note-taking functionality.
Furthermore, not all apps are going to work with the new screen shape on day one. ESPN, for example, is in the process of updating its app (I used a beta version during my review), with Pebble telling me an update should be available by the end of the month.
After my time with the Pebble Time Round, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone looking for a smartwatch. Pebble offers a better experience, for less money mind you, with it’s $199 Pebble Time.
Unfortunately, Pebble picked form over function when designing the Pebble Time Round.
Check out the following Fortune video for an entertaining debate on the future of smartwatches:
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