Why People Still Love Pebble Smartwatches

Simple can be good

Key Takeaways

  • The simple, reliable Pebble smartwatch is still going strong years after it was discontinued.
  • A community-run software project recently released an updated app to keep Pebble watches functional on newer devices.
  • Long battery life is the biggest draw for many Pebble owners.
Someone wearing a Pebble smartwatch.
Ramin Talaie / Getty Images

The Pebble smartwatch is long gone from store shelves, but somehow refuses to die.

A group of diehard Pebble owners love the watch’s simplicity and long battery life and work to keep the timepiece and its software going. A community-run software project recently released an updated app to keep Pebble watches functional on newer devices.

Pebble lovers say it’s worth the hassle of dealing with older technology. 

"With archaic technology inside, it still does everything I need," Pebble owner Charles Duffield said in an email interview.

"I can control my music or take a call when my phone is locked in a waterproof hatch. It has a timer. It lets me read my messages, pushes calendar events, and tells the time. And even after all of these years, I still get 4-5 days out of a charge."

Sometimes, Less is More

Pebble was one of the first smartwatches at its launch in 2012. But the company shut down in 2016, so its fanbase rallied around to keep their favorite watches working without a central server.

The latest release of the Rebble software that supports the Pebbles now lets them work with the newest Android and iOS phones. 

Long battery life is the biggest draw for Pebble owner Steve Brecht, he said in an email interview. 

"Knowing that I don't have to charge my Pebble daily makes all the difference," he said. "I have often traveled 3 or 4 days without taking a charger with me without worrying. That said, just for battery maintenance, I will usually top it up every day or two." 

Brecht also loves Pebble's primitive screen. The watch has a 1.26 in, 144 × 168 pixels black and white memory LCD using an ultra-low-power transflective LCD that lacks lighting.

"Backlit LED screens are very difficult to read outside without turning up the brightness," Brecht said.

"Also, I was constantly hiding my watches while in a movie theater as the backlight was far too bright and unnecessary. In a dark room, the Pebble backlight is more than enough, and out in the sun, the black and white screen is the perfect solution."

The More Buttons the Better

Shawn Joseph has used a Pebble since 2017. He now owns a Pebble Time Steel, and has no plans to upgrade to a more recent smartwatch.

"One major feature that literally no other manufacturers seem to have is 100% button controls," he said in an email interview. "This means that I can use the watch without blocking the screen, and I can control music playing on my phone without looking at the watch."

Reliability is also a draw for many Pebble owners. Most of the time, people refer to an Apple product when they say something ‘just works.’ But in his case, Pebble owner Benjamin Liles says it about his watch. 

A closeup of a Pebble watch on someone's wrist with automotive displays in the background.
Peter Davidian / Getty Images

"Every other watch I've tried has problems staying connected to my phone," he said in an email interview.

"In the years that I had Pebble watches, I had problems once, and it was a bad app version that was quickly fixed. I never had to worry about the watch not notifying me about something."

Liles says he also likes Pebble’s operating system’s simplicity, which offers fewer features than many modern smartwatches. "I'm not looking for a second phone," he added.

"I want a watch that most of the time just tells me what time it is and can show me notifications from my phone so I don't have to get it out of my pocket."

Duffield said he’d be open to finding a modern replacement for his Pebble, but doesn’t like current models. 

"Some companies are getting close, but no one has quite stuck the landing well enough to justify moving on," he said. "There always seems to be an unnecessary trade-off made, most likely a case of marketing over-engineering. I'm unsure if anyone other than a startup could actually pull it off."

Don’t despair if you’re craving a Pebble. You can still pick up a used Pebble watch on eBay for about $50, or you can score a new one on the site for around $100.

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