My excitement about the Pebble watch had already started to wane long before the unapologetic lump of plastic and disappointment finally made its way to my wrist. I received shipment notification over 13 months after backing the Kickstarter project, yet this was preceded by numerous milestones of disenchantment. The failure to make good on the original September 2012 delivery estimate was to be just the first of many upsets. The device being available for retail purchase in Best Buy before mine had even shipped was perhaps the most bold, in that it required a decision to be made by Pebble to intentionally mistreat original backers (unlike for example OUYA, which I backed a month after Pebble and which I received only 3 months after the original estimated delivery date (over a month before Pebble), and as promised by OUYA, before they started selling in retail stores). It was at that point that I became completely disillusioned with the product and with the team, no longer anticipating the watch’s arrival with excitement, nor bothering to be offended by subsequent delays and other missteps.
When it arrived, I opened the box more out of morbid curiosity than of hope that after all this time what was contained within might make the long, drawn out trial worthwhile. For the first time in over a year, I was not disappointed. The device’s cheap appearance, pathetic functionality, and short life were completely within the realm of my expectations. The watch looks cheap and there are sort of rainbow smears under the screen that evidence glue or some other aspect of manufacturing which you would not expect to be aware of in a commercial product. The native functionality and lack of app store is feeble. While the ability exists to side-load, the out-of-box experience is pathetic, consisting of just a few watch faces and the ability to download just one more. I was not able to explore much further, since within a few hours of receipt, the e-paper display began to fail. At first, it began blinking, seemingly once per second in time with what might be expected as a logical screen refresh. After charging, the screen no longer works at all – the only evidence of functionality being the ability to trigger the backlight on an otherwise blank screen. I’d say it was disappointing, but that would have required some remaining hope for the product in order to be the case.
If a refund is possible, I may put it towards the vastly more impressive AGENT smartwatch, from Secret Labs (of Netduino fame) – whose products I have used with great pleasure and whose founder I have both corresponded with (he took the time to help me debug a project I was working on!) and met in person, and who I trust to deliver a smartwatch that will not disappoint.