When I first saw pictures of the Pebble Time Round, I was in awe, but skeptical that a smartwatch could be so thin and sexy. But it really is. This is the slimmest and most beautiful smartwatch on the market. To deliver on the slim profile, though, Pebble had to sacrifice battery life. Plus, the Pebble Time Round's e-color display isn't as flashy as those on the Apple Watch or Android Wear devices, and it doesn't support as many apps as its rectangular brothers. Still, looks and growing iOS functionality might be enough to convince you to get the $250 Pebble Time Round.
Editor's Note (12/7/16): After being acquired by Fitbit, Pebble is discontinuing its entire product line, and is no longer selling or supporting its smartwatches. As such, we cannot recommend purchasing any Pebble smartwatch.
Design: So slim, so sexy
Winter is coming, and the Pebble Time Round's svelte frame alone, which makes it compatible with coat sleeves, might secure the watch a place on my wrist. At just 7.5mm (0.29 inches) thin, the Round is the only smartwatch I've tried that fits under my winter coat's snug sleeve.
But the reasons the Round reigns do not end there. The rose gold frame and white leather band (14mm) combo that we received looks so classy and gorgeous that I was dressing up to match the watch. This is the first smartwatch I've tried that is so pretty that I couldn't bear to take it off.
On the right of the frame are three buttons, while one sits on the left of the face. These provide the main method of navigating the Pebble's interface. The watch uses a standard buckle that's easy to close and adjust, and our unit's rose gold buckle and 14mm band were the perfect size for my petite wrist. Bands are swappable, and you can get 20mm options (with the corresponding case).
Because it's rated for splash resistance up to IPX7, the Time Round will survive stray drops of water from rain or when you wash your hands. However, unlike with the Pebble Time Steel, you won't be able to submerge this watch or wear it in the shower.
At just 0.99 ounces, the Pebble Time Round felt like a feather on my wrist; I barely noticed it was there. It's lighter than the 2.19-ounce Pebble Time Steel (with leather band), the 1.76-ounce Apple Watch (polished stainless steel case in 42mm size) and the 2.46-ounce Asus ZenWatch 2.
At 1.49 x 1.49 x 0.29 inches, the Time Round is smaller and sleeker than the Apple Watch (1.5 x 1.3 x 0.41 inches) and the ZenWatch 2 (1.95 x 1.6 x 0.37 inches).
Display: Always on, but blah
Compared to the colorful touch screens of the Apple Watch and Android Wear watches, the Pebble Time Round's 180 x 180 e-color display is dim and dull. It's easy enough to see in bright light, though, and I like that the always-on display means I will always see the time on the watch without having to lift a finger.
The watch face's diameter is 1.5 inches, while the screen's diameter is just 1 inch, meaning a third of the face is bezel. That feels like a waste of space and overwhelms the display, which is somewhat small.
The e-color display is clear enough to show off the pops of color in the watch's interface and faces, but the hues can be washed out when the backlight is on. You'll need the backlight to illuminate the screen in the dark, but having the device's ambient sensor enabled can prevent the light from coming on when you need it.
Pebble OS: Very simple
Compared to Apple's watchOS and to Android Wear, Pebble's simplistic operating system feels like the smartwatch equivalent of a flip phone. But the lack of complexity isn't a bad thing, especially for those intimidated by lots of options. Instead of swiping through multiple pages of icons or apps, you'll navigate the Pebble's nontouch interface using the four buttons surrounding the watch face.
Press the top and bottom buttons on the right side to navigate through notifications and apps, while the center button selects the option you land on. The button on the left acts as a back button. You can also program the watch to launch specific apps when you long-press the up and down buttons on the right
Like Pebble's other smartwatches, the Round supports the company's Timeline, which lets you see your day's activity in chronological order. Pressing up shows you events that occurred earlier in the day, while pressing down shows you what's coming up. Different apps can contribute to the time line. For instance, the Weather app adds daily sunrise and sunset times, and the Checklist app adds your reminders.
Another new feature is Quiet Time, which is easily activated by pressing the back button from the home screen. Like a do-not-disturb mode, Quiet Time keeps the watch face dimmed and vibrations off until you end the mode.
Pebble also offers basic activity tracking via the Misfit watch app. After you sign into or create a new Misfit profile, the app will tap into the smartwatch's existing accelerometer to get your steps, distance, calories burned and sleep, and display weekly summaries on the watch face.
As with the other Pebble Time watches, you can speak commands into the Round via its built-in microphone. Just 11 apps are compatible with the mic right now, including Notes, Magic Dict-8 Ball for asking about your future and Watchie-Talkie for Pebble to Pebble communication.
I loved the convenience of adding items to the Checklist app just by speaking, and dictating notes for later reference in the Notes app.
The Time Round's mic and voice-recognition system were accurate during my testing. It correctly interpreted that I asked, "Should I run for president?" despite an episode of Friends playing loudly on my TV. (The ball told me to "Ask again later," presumably after I had gained some political experience.)
Text Replies: Android good, iOS Improving
When paired with an Android phone, Pebble Time devices let you respond to texts and emails with a canned message or voice reply. Pebble recently released a Text Reply for iOS feature that lets some iOS users respond to SMS messages from their watches.
Only available to AT&T iPhone customers for now, the new update lets you reply with a pre-defined response or dictate an answer. Pebble says it is working with carriers to bring the feature to users both in the United States and abroad. In addition, the feature works only with SMS messages, as opposed to both emails and texts when paired with Android devices.
MORE: How to Use Pebble Time to Reply to iPhone Texts
Pebble and Third-Party Apps
Pebble's app menu is accessible by pressing the center button from the watch face. In addition to Settings, Notifications, Music, Alarms and Watch Faces, third-party apps that you've downloaded will show up here as well, and you can reorder them via the Pebble app on your phone.
While more than 8,000 apps and watch faces are available for the regular, rectangular Pebbles, only 90 apps and 275 faces have been optimized for the Round. You won't be able to use the other apps and faces until they have been updated to fit the Round.
The biggest apps that are currently available for the Round include Uber, which lets you call for cabs from your wrist, and Swarm by Foursquare for checking into places. Pebble says that other big names working on optimizing their interfaces for the Round include Yelp and ESPN.
Pebble sacrificed a long-lasting battery to give the Time Round its sleek silhouette. Unlike the Time Steel and other Pebbles, the Time Round is rated for just two days of endurance instead of seven to 10 days. This claim held true during my testing. I took the watch out on Saturday morning when the device was at 100 percent, and by midnight Sunday, the Time Round was at 5 percent battery.
Other watches, such as Apple Watch and Android Wear (ZenWatch 2) last about one to two days on a charge.
As with the Pebble Time and Time Steel, the Time Round will likely last longer when connected to an iPhone, since the iPhone uses Bluetooth Low Energy rather than regular Bluetooth as on Android devices.
Running out of juice isn't a huge problem with the Pebble Time Round, thanks to how quickly the device charges. I got from 0 percent to 100 percent in just about an hour. By comparison, the Apple Watch takes 1.5 hours to reach 80 percent, and another hour to reach 100 percent.
Our Pebble Time Round came with a white, 14mm band that looked perfect on my dainty wrist. You can also get the 14mm band option in Stone Leather, Flame Red Leather, Silver Mesh, Black Mesh and, my favorite, Rose Gold Mesh.
Those looking for a broader strap can pick from 20mm options in Nero Black Leather, Nubuck Brown Leather, Silver Link and Black Link.
The Mesh bands cost $30 each, while the Link straps cost $50. Pebble doesn't yet offer the leather bands for sale separately.
Because of the smart accessory port on the back of the Pebble Time, Time Steel and Time Round, these watches support what Pebble calls Smartstraps. These are bands that can potentially host components such as temperature sensors or external batteries, to expand the watch's functions and endurance. No Smartstraps are available just yet, but Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky said he expects it may take until April 2016 for the bands to hit the market.
This is one of the few smartwatches I've reviewed that I've wanted for myself. The Pebble Time Round's stunning good looks alone make it worth considering. But its attractiveness only gets it so far. Its battery life, while on a par with Android Wear and the Apple Watch, is far less than that of other Pebble smartwatches; it runs fewer apps, and its display is smaller, dimmer and less colorful than those of its competitors.
If you just want a more full-featured smartwatch, check out the Asus ZenWatch 2, which puts Android Wear on your wrist for a starting price of just $130. But if you're primarily interested in getting smartphone notifications on your wrist and want to keep better tabs on what's happening each day, the Pebble Time Round has plenty of appeal.