Smartwatch startup Pebble unveils new color screen model

Apple isn’t the only company that will debut a smartwatch this spring. Industry veteran Pebble announced Tuesday that it too has a new watch in the works.

Dubbed the Pebble Time, the new watch is designed to be an improvement on Pebble’s previous devices. Unlike previous models, the new watch will have a color screen and a microphone. It will also feature a thinner case and a new interface. Pebble plans to start shipping the watch in May for a retail price of $199.

“We’ve worked hard to make Pebble Time a fantastic watch,” company founder Eric Migicovsky said in a video introducing the new device.

After relying on crowd funding to launch its first watch, Palo Alto-based Pebble is again seeking donations from the public to complete work on Pebble Time. The company launched a Kickstarter page for the watch on Tuesday, promising to ship the new watch to anyone who donates $159 or more. Less than an hour after the page launched, Pebble had already raised more than $1.2 million — more than double its $500,000 goal.

“Pebble was first brought to life by 69,000 backers and people who supported our vision three years ago. We could not think of a better way to share our new watch,” Migicovsky said in a statement.

Previous Pebble watches used a black-and-white e-paper screen, similar to the ones used in Amazon’s Kindle e-readers. That gave it much longer life than other smartwatches on the market and, unlike them, allowed it to have an always-on display. But the monochrome screen looked decidedly old fashioned compared to bright and saturated displays of Pebble’s competitors.

The new watch will be more colorful, featuring a color e-paper display. Pebble is promising the new watch will continue to have an always-on display and will retain much better battery life than its rivals. But the new watch will only be able to display 64 colors, which is a small fraction of what can be displayed by a typical LCD or OLED screen used in other smartwatches.

Pebble Time owners will be able to use the microphone in the new watch to send short voice text, email and Facebook messages, at least when the watch is paired with an Android-based smartphone. With an iPhone, users will only be able to send voice messages in response to Gmail notifications.

The new watch will be 9.5 millimeters thick, which is about 20 percent thinner than previous models.

Like previous Pebble models, but unlike Apple Watch and other smartwatches, the Pebble Time lacks a touch screen. Instead, users will interact with it using physical buttons on the side of the watch. The new interface is designed like a timeline; users will push a top button to view past notifications and information and a bottom button to see upcoming events.

Photo of the new Pebble Time smartwatches courtesy of the company.


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