Earlier today Pebble held its first official press conference to announce that the Kickstarter-funded smart watch will beginning shipping on Jan. 23. Electronista was present at the event and had the chance to briefly try out the device.
The watch's display consists of a 144 x 168 pixel e-paper display (not to be confused with E Ink) that offers optimal performance under direct sunlight. The black and white screen was easily readable without the backlight active in the bright conference room, however the plastic coating did result in a small glare when placed directly under a light source. At launch the Pebble will ship with several different watch faces, and an in-development SDK will allow developers to create and distribute more directly through Pebble's iOS and Android apps. Pebble has also included a custom font designed specifically for the watch that is offered in both large and small font sizes. Smooth animations are also built-into the OS and run great thanks to the screens 30fps refresh rate.
The right side of the device features three buttons, up, down, and select, while the left side features a single back button and a small port for the device's magnetic charger. The buttons are large enough to be easily used by anyone, yet are not so large that they stand out when looking directly at the watch face. The magnetic charger is comparable in size to Apple's L-shaped Magsafe adapter and is capable of fully charging the watch in two hours. Pebble claims that this full charge will last up to a week of regular usage.
Pebble has also taken the time to build in several hardware components that they believe will help future proof the device. Even though the current version of the OS relies solely on Bluetooth 2.1, the watch features a Bluetooth 4.0 chip that can be activated with a future update to expand functionality. Pebble has also built-in an ambient light sensor, magnetometer, and accelerometer, all that will be accessible by developers when the SDK is released later this year.
In terms of smart watch functionality the current software offers support for displaying notifications from and iOS or Android device, including e-mail, SMS, and call alerts, as well as for full audio playback control. When listening to audio on a connected media player, full artist and track information is displayed, and the three buttons along the right side are switched into track skipping and playback controls.
While the Pebble may not offer all of the features shown in competing smart watches, it has managed to create a dead-simple interface to build off of. Everything currently offered by the device works fluidly, which makes the device easy to pick up and instantly begin using. Following the watch's launch, Pebble has committed to releasing timely updates every two to three weeks that expand functionality until all of the company's Kickstarter promises have been met.