Pebble or Fitbit Versa

I love my Pebble smartwatch. I’m on my third one, having backed them from the start on Kickstarter. And so I was naturally quite upset to learn that Pebble closed down just over a year ago.

Knowing that the Pebble servers are due to be switched off at the end of June 2018, I feel a pressing need to look into alternatives. I’ve already bought and abandoned a Wear OS watch, and am now considering the Fitbit Versa as an alternative, but I’m torn.

A lifeline for Pebble

It’s heartening to know that a group of enthusiasts at Rebble.io are working hard to keep Pebble watches working after the servers are switched off in June. And if their efforts pay off, I could keep using my Pebble with pretty-much all of its functionality still intact.

The only problem is that the Pebble is now old technology. There’s never going to be an updated version of the hardware, and with the best will in the world the good folks at Rebble.io are probably not going to do more than keep the lights on. They’re not going to have the resources to innovate and add new features.

And that’s the heart of my concern. Pebble watches are only ever going to decline in usage. You can’t buy them any more, except for the odd one that pops up on Amazon or eBay at inflated prices. So when my current watch breaks, or the battery becomes too old to hold a charge, I won’t be able to get my Pebble repaired or replaced.

Fitbit Versa as an alternative?

So I’m looking at the Fitbit Versa as an alternative. There are plenty of good things going for it. It seems to have a decent 4-day battery life, and the fitness tracking would probably be a step-up from the Pebble. But there’s one or two things holding me back from buying:

  • It doesn’t support Spotify. Fitbit seem to have done a deal with Pandora and Deezer as their music streaming partners, and have no plans to support Spotify.
  • The screen doesn’t stay on. I would need to flick my wrist or press a button to get the screen to light up and see the time. And because its motion-enabled the watch screen has the potential to come on when I don’t want it – say in the cinema or in bed at night.
  • The smartwatch features aren’t very mature. Support for quick replies to messages is coming for Android phone users (but not iOS) later this year, but this will be limited to picking from a pre-defined list. There is no support for voice dictation of replies. Also I’ve heard that the range of watch faces and apps available is still pretty limited.

On the other hand, I like the fact that I will be able to wear it 24 hours – due to it being waterproof and having a 4-day battery life. The Wear OS watch I tried ran out of juice after a day’s usage, so I could never use it for sleep tracking.

I also like the Fitbit dashboard for viewing health tracking stats. I’m not exactly an athlete, but I do like to track my daily steps and my cycle commuting to make sure I’m getting some exercise. I used to use a Fitbit Charge HR (until it literally fell apart), and liked checking the Fitbit app and website.

So I don’t know. Should I go head and try out the Versa? I’d be interested to hear from people who are using one – especially if you have migrated from using a Pebble!

Pebble has closed

I was pretty upset to learn about the demise of the company that makes Pebble watches.

I’m a big fan of the Pebble devices, and have a Pebble Time watch on my wrist right now. I use it throughout the day to screen the numerous alerts that arrive on my phone.

I was also looking forward to getting a new Pebble Time 2 watch, but that’s not going to happen now, because all manufacturing of Pebble devices has been cancelled.

For the last 9 months I’ve been wearing both my Pebble watch and a Fitbit Charge HR. The Pebble is for my notifications, and the Pebble is for health tracking. And with the new Pebble Time 2 on the way, and with Pebble seeming to move more and more in the health tracking direction, I had assumed that in the near future I’d be ditching the Fitbit and using just the Pebble for everything.

But that’s not happening now.

I’ve been doing some research over the last couple of days to try and see if there’s anything out there that can replace my Pebble. But most of the smartwatches out there don’t suit my needs. They have a poor battery life, and don’t have an always-on display. And many of the fitness trackers can’t handle mobile phone notifications very well.

I did look at the Fitbit Blaze as a possible pebble replacement, but I don’t really like the styling and I think the functions beyond fitness tracking are very limited at the moment. That all could change, of course, in the future, as Fitbit has acquired technology and staff from Pebble. So maybe in the next couple of years they’ll make a Fitbit that’s also a decent smartwatch.

But at the moment, I can’t see any natural successor to the Pebble. It had such a unique feature set that there’s nobody even close. And there seems to be very few companies innovating in the smartwatch industry at the moment. Indeed, a number of companies have pulled out of smartwatches altogether – and even the Apple Watch isn’t setting the world on fire.

So for now, I’m hoping that my trusty Pebble Time keeps going for as long as possible.

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