[For any non-Pebblers reading this, I ask that you watch this less than two-minute video primer before proceeding…]
So last week my Pebble Time Steel was the sudden recipient of a major software update—seriously, I had no idea this was coming, as the new Pebbles aren’t due in Canada until mid-October. Anyway, my verdict on the new OS is that it delivers a very Apple-like experience. And that’s not a compliment; what I mean is, the new software seems designed to necessitate a new hardware purchase, because it’s made my current hardware much worse than it was before.
I’ll go through the new features step by step, in the order that they are demoed in the video above.
Pebble Health and the Timeline
Pebble’s Health app now has a hard-coded shortcut via the top-right button, which sounds great until you realize that you can no longer access your past Timeline. I can think of at least two Pebble apps adversely affected by this—Pebble’s own Sports (formerly ESPN), which shows scores from your favourite teams in your Timeline, and Feed the Timeline, which does the same but with news headlines. Want to check the scores from last night’s game? Get caught up on world events? Well, there’s no longer a shortcut for that; you’ll now have to go into the apps themselves.
I’m guessing Pebble made this choice to woo potential Fitbit customers. But if you see Pebble as a smartwatch first and fitness tracker second then you’re going to have a bad time, starting now.
For some reason Pebble has decided to mimic the notification cards from Android Wear. I find their execution to be pretty terrible, for a couple of reasons. First, because Pebble watchfaces are so many and varied, full-screen notifications make a lot more sense, as the newer, smaller Quick View version is likely to end up masking critical information on your watchface, anyway.
Also, notifications are now a lot more intrusive. Do I need to know that it’s sunrise or sunset? Unless I’ve been challenged to a duel I don’t think I do.
This is better, only because full-screen cards have been replaced by a list that fits four apps into each screen. App Glances? Sure, has potential, I guess…
Now you can customize each of your Pebble’s four buttons with a custom long-press action. A center-button Pebble Health shortcut wouldn’t have compromised the Timeline UI but hey, what do I know?
Stability and Compatibility
I still use Foursquare’s Swarm for check-ins, even if it’s no longer cool. Guess I don’t have to worry about that any more, because launching this app on the 4.0 update consistently crashes my Pebble. It got so bad that the watch was unceremoniously dumped into Recovery Mode while I was out doing errands over the weekend. Hey, what kind of watch is that? A broken one, shut up.
Before the 4.0 update I was ready and willing to pony up for a new Pebble 2 this fall, and a new Pebble Time 2 after that. But now? Now I’m honestly wondering if I really need a smartwatch on my wrist at all…