As mentioned above, there are a small handful of third-party compatible apps, but they load separately and hook in individually. A notifier app I found on Google Play allows a larger set of compatible apps to display on the Pebble, and a second app sends GPS-acquired high-tide information to the watch, but has no settings for hourly updates or anything, really, other than one-button "Send to Pebble" functionality.
These third-party apps don't seem integrated with the main Pebble app, either, lending a bit of a grassroots-fragmented, hobby feel to app discovery.
For iOS, the Pebble's feature set is surprisingly limited at the moment. You can connect via Bluetooth to receive notifications, which right off the bat means text messages/iMessage and incoming call info. The Pebble vibrates with a solid buzz, but doesn't have any sounds or tones. Caller ID info appears on the watch face, and you can choose to accept or ignore a call (ignore sends to voice mail). You can't literally answer the call on your wrist like you can with the Martian Passport; this is just a physical button to initiate calls, like the remote on a headset.
It amounts to a wrist-mounted pager, which is what many smartwatches of 2013 are aspiring to be. That's not such a bad thing; after all, I often find my phone annoyingly out of reach or the ringtone or vibration hard to hear or feel, and the Pebble gives me better awareness of who's calling or texting in noisy, busy places.
The other functions of the Pebble are less exciting. A built-in music control app shows song and artist info and offers basic play/pause/track skipping controls for most music apps on iOS (Spotify, Pandora, Music, Amazon Cloud Player, Podcasts, and TuneIn Radio all work) and Google Music on Android, but no volume adjustment or advanced menu navigation. You can't browse your music library via the Pebble and pick a song. It could be useful as a remote when your iPhone is plugged into a dock, if your favorite headphones lack an in-line remote of their own, or if you're just curious what's playing and don't feel like digging out your phone.
The selection of watch faces is fun; some faces are more attractive than others. But I'm spoiled by my iPod Nano, which has 12 generally better-looking animated watch faces, in full color, no less. The Pebble's watch face gallery has some winners, but others feel hokey and low-res. It's a watch-fetishist's fantasy, though, because more watch faces are being promised from outside developers and via the forthcoming SDK.
Thankfully, the Pebble does work well as a timepiece, whether connected via Bluetooth or not. And it automatically syncs its time with your phone whenever you're paired.
What I loved, over my week with the Pebble Watch: using the Pebble as a simple watch, switching up watch faces, and being able to scan incoming calls and texts on the go and in noisy places. What I didn't love: the lack of other features...and the short battery life.
Battery life (for the Pebble, and your phone)
With that black-and-white E-Paper screen, you'd expect some truly excellent battery life; instead, the Pebble's rated for "two to seven days" of use between charges. In my experience over a week of use, I found it closer to two than seven.
The Pebble has its own magnetically attaching USB charge cable, which snaps on much like Apple's MagSafe Mac cables or the Surface Pro's contact connector, but the magnets are weaker. I found that the cable would snap off too easily at the slightest nudge on a table. I love the "clean-attach" philosophy, especially since it helps make the Pebble water-resistant, but you'd better not lose that cable.
It's unclear when the Pebble's done charging, exactly, or how much battery life it ever has left: a few cryptic indicators pop up from time to time, but with no consistency. There's no "Charge done" message when you plug in a cable, nor a little LED that changes color like on the Martian. It's a little ridiculous. I kept guesstimating my charge time, and found the watch suddenly out of charge in the middle of a birthday party. An indicator fix is promised in a forthcoming software update.
I also found that keeping my phone constantly connected (the Pebble tends to frequently ping my iPhone throughout the day asking for permission to connect, an annoying bug) drained the battery. How much, exactly, is hard to tell, but it seems to at least meet the 5 percent to 10 percent a day claimed in the Pebble's instructions.
Conclusion: Waiting on the apps
I love the initiative behind the Pebble, but its full potential isn't realized yet. The real question is: by the time it arrives, assuming it does, will the evolution of smartwatches have passed the Pebble by? To its credit, the Pebble performs its basic functions well enough, those being to a) tell the time, and b) receive texts and caller information. But that just isn't enough to elevate it to a must-have, especially when the battery requires such frequent charging.
The Pebble does a few things well right now: it's affordable, it's water-resistant, it has a variety of fun watch faces, and it can receive incoming caller ID and text notifications. But its battery life isn't as great as you'd think. Its uses are limited. Apps still haven't arrived yet that take advantage of the Pebble's magnetometer, accelerometer, and other sensors.
In a few months, maybe the Pebble will be a programmer's playground, a tinkerer's device, and an app-curious watch-lovers' paradise. It's hard to tell with developers and SDKs. If you're a developer who knows how to program, you might be interested in the Pebble. But the average consumer might just want to wait and see what else comes down the pike.
Currently, the Pebble is a little bundle of potential more than a real killer product. But that's the kicker: it depends on whether you believe in that potential, because a lot of what could make the Pebble great isn't here yet. At the moment, it just isn't mature enough for most people to embrace it. With more apps, that could change. Apps will be what make the Pebble rise to fame or sink into obscurity.
Final impression for now: clever, but not as amazing as its Kickstarter sales pitch.