Introduction

While fruit-based watches have been grabbing headlines, rock-based watches are now in their third iteration. We tore down our first Pebble more than two years ago—so long ago, in fact, that we didn't even know how to score it. So how does the latest Pebble stack up to the pile of wearables released in recent years? Let's open the Pebble Time and find out.

Full disclosure: Pebble provided us with an early Kickstarter backer unit, and let us pick their engineers' brains throughout our teardown. Keep an eye out for some insider tidbits in our analysis.

Are you wild about wearables? Spend some teardown time with us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

This teardown is not a repair guide. To repair your Pebble Time, use our service manual.

Image 1/2: Low-power, 1.25-inch, 64-color, LED-backlit e-paper display Image 2/2: 6-axis inertial measurement unit, compass, ambient light sensor, microphone
  • The official tech specs don't reveal much, but that's okay because we've got plenty of daylight to finish this teardown. Here's what we do know:

    • Low-power, 1.25-inch, 64-color, LED-backlit e-paper display

    • 6-axis inertial measurement unit, compass, ambient light sensor, microphone

    • Bluetooth 4.0

    • Lithium-ion polymer battery with a battery life of up to 7 days between charges

  • Apart from the e-paper display, what sort of technological whizbangery makes for 7-day battery life in a modern smartwatch? We're about to find out.

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Image 1/3: The back of the smartwatch is adorned with several markings, along with the port for the charging dock. Image 2/3: This [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=os0F4-XFf6w|feels like the first time|new_window=true] we've seen a smartwatch that boasts a water resistance of 30 meters. Increased water resistance often means sacrificed repairability. Hopefully, Pebble has taken the time to work repairability into the equation. Image 3/3: That [https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Apple+Watch+Teardown/40655|other watch|new_window=true], that we tore down a few weeks ago, seems to [http://9to5mac.com/2015/05/11/apple-watch-waterproof/|fare pretty well with water|new_window=true]. It seems that Pebble is the only company with the stones to tout their 30 meter resistance outright.
  • The Pebble Time features a color e-paper display.

  • The back of the smartwatch is adorned with several markings, along with the port for the charging dock.

  • This feels like the first time we've seen a smartwatch that boasts a water resistance of 30 meters. Increased water resistance often means sacrificed repairability. Hopefully, Pebble has taken the time to work repairability into the equation.

    • That other watch, that we tore down a few weeks ago, seems to fare pretty well with water. It seems that Pebble is the only company with the stones to tout their 30 meter resistance outright.

  • The Time includes a proprietary USB charging cable with magnetic connectors (silver contact points) coupled with charging contact points (gold contacts).

Err.. Re: 'First time seen'... What about the Pebble 'Classic' and Pebble Steel, they were 50m.

Justin Cobb - Reply

Image 1/3: While they're roughly the same size, and serve somewhat similar functions, these displays take radically different approaches: Image 2/3: The minimalist, 144 x 168, 64-color, Gorilla Glass-topped e-paper screen on the Pebble stays on all the time—without compromising the battery. Image 3/3: On the other hand, the Apple Watch's touch-sensitive, sapphire-covered, 272 x 340 display is pretty, but also power hungry—so it  spends most of its time switched off to conserve power.
  • We're all about comparing apples and oranges, so we start off by seeing how the Time relates to another smartwatch we have laying around. This 38 mm Apple Watch Edition will have to suffice.

  • While they're roughly the same size, and serve somewhat similar functions, these displays take radically different approaches:

    • The minimalist, 144 x 168, 64-color, Gorilla Glass-topped e-paper screen on the Pebble stays on all the time—without compromising the battery.

    • On the other hand, the Apple Watch's touch-sensitive, sapphire-covered, 272 x 340 display is pretty, but also power hungry—so it spends most of its time switched off to conserve power.

  • Another immediately noticeable difference is in the weight. At 42.5 grams, the Time clocks in at well under half the heft of the 93-gram Apple Watch Edition.

  • Our hand model also notes that the Pebble's band feels a bit softer and more comfortable. Which is more durable? Only time will tell.

  • Did we mention there's a price difference? There's a price difference.

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Image 1/3: Bonus, the Pebble Time has a microphone! Image 2/3: Swapping bands is a breeze; simply pop the metallic pegs off the posts and swap. Pop and swap. Image 3/3: Customizers take note: The Time is compatible with a plethora of industry-standard 22 mm watch bands. Go wild.
  • Unlike the current batch of smartwatches on the market, the Pebble Time does not have a capacitive touch display. Instead, it relies on good ol' fashioned buttons (up, down, and select).

    • Bonus, the Pebble Time has a microphone!

  • Swapping bands is a breeze; simply pop the metallic pegs off the posts and swap. Pop and swap.

    • Customizers take note: The Time is compatible with a plethora of industry-standard 22 mm watch bands. Go wild.

  • With both bands out of the way, we proceed to remove the display with the help of our iOpener.

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Image 1/3: Open, uh, sarsaparilla? Uh, open Saskatchewan? Open, septuagenarian? Uh, open, saddle soap? Open, sesame! And with that, the front bezel (includes the glass) surprisingly separates from the Pebble Time. Image 2/3: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdQY7BusJNU|Time after time|new_window=true], we've seen displays fused to a device's front glass—a process that makes for thin displays that are nearly impossible to repair. Good news everyone! The color e-paper display is '''NOT''' fused to the front glass. Image 3/3: Now that we've sliced open the waterproof seal, this Pebble won't be splashing around any time soon—although some say that [https://youtu.be/zrzMhU_4m-g?t=1m27s|very small rocks|new_window=true] float in water.
  • With a minimum amount of heat applied to the front bezel, we use an opening pick to pry along the perimeter of the Pebble Time.

  • Open, uh, sarsaparilla? Uh, open Saskatchewan? Open, septuagenarian? Uh, open, saddle soap? Open, sesame! And with that, the front bezel (includes the glass) surprisingly separates from the Pebble Time.

  • Time after time, we've seen displays fused to a device's front glass—a process that makes for thin displays that are nearly impossible to repair. Good news everyone! The color e-paper display is NOT fused to the front glass.

  • Now that we've sliced open the waterproof seal, this Pebble won't be splashing around any time soon—although some say that very small rocks float in water.

We had already sort of inferred, that some the display area on the JDI display they used, was hidden/masked in order to give the same size screen and resolution as the classic Pebbles. But after seeing exactly how much of it you're losing - it makes me sort of wish for the whole display to have been used/exposed for PebbleOS 3.0 and SDK 3.x apps, and instead display "classic" apps in a partial screen with a border. That would have helped reduce the bezel complaints too. :-(

Protonus - Reply

somebody knows what is the name of the Adhesive, glue used to seal the pebble time steel?

garyok - Reply

Image 1/3: No time for origami here. We're happy to see that the display cable is only folded in half once. We quickly spudger the display connector from the motherboard and move on to the battery connector. Wait, where is the battery connector? Image 2/3: No time for origami here. We're happy to see that the display cable is only folded in half once. We quickly spudger the display connector from the motherboard and move on to the battery connector. Wait, where is the battery connector? Image 3/3: No time for origami here. We're happy to see that the display cable is only folded in half once. We quickly spudger the display connector from the motherboard and move on to the battery connector. Wait, where is the battery connector?
  • We use a spudger to lift the display from its housing and are momentarily reminded of the cable wrangling that we had to perform in a recent teardown.

  • No time for origami here. We're happy to see that the display cable is only folded in half once. We quickly spudger the display connector from the motherboard and move on to the battery connector. Wait, where is the battery connector?

It's awesome that the buttons are on the mainboard now, and not on the ribbon cable anymore! They also look to be actual micro-switches now, instead of mylar dome switches. Both changes should eliminate inconsistency in button feel (between identical watches), and increase button life (buttons wearing out/sticking/getting mushy, seemed to be one of the more common RMA issues, as is common with mylar dome switches).

Protonus - Reply

Image 1/3: With its comparatively limited color range (64 colors) and brightness, this display doesn't "pop" in the same way as some other smartwatch screens—but it has the distinct advantage of being always on, and of being fully visible in direct sunlight. Image 2/3: If you just want to know the time, it's there. No need to flick your wrist or squint at the display. However, there's also a manually-activated LED backlight, meaning there are still times when the display might be hard to read without a little brightness boost. Image 3/3: Pebble tells us this is a low-power, memory-in-pixel LCD. Through a microscope, we can see how the color trick is handled—different sized subpixels mix to create color.
  • We go in for a closer look at the e-paper display, which in itself does a great job encapsulating the design choices and trade-offs of the Pebble Time.

  • With its comparatively limited color range (64 colors) and brightness, this display doesn't "pop" in the same way as some other smartwatch screens—but it has the distinct advantage of being always on, and of being fully visible in direct sunlight.

  • If you just want to know the time, it's there. No need to flick your wrist or squint at the display. However, there's also a manually-activated LED backlight, meaning there are still times when the display might be hard to read without a little brightness boost.

  • Pebble tells us this is a low-power, memory-in-pixel LCD. Through a microscope, we can see how the color trick is handled—different sized subpixels mix to create color.

So is it actual E-paper that uses E-ink capsules like Amazon kindle, or low power LCD?

dennis97519 - Reply

it is an LCD-Memory screen

LTPS tech made by JDI

http://www.j-display.com/product/pdf/LPM...

Garmin uses it on the Forerunner 920XT

in HOLD mode the screen still needs power, but a mere 0.13mW

for comparison in full refresh it takes 4.292mW

the battery holds 0.57Wh so it would hold the screen content for ~4384 hours or ~26 weeks

even at full refresh rate it would be running for ~5.5 days

but that is the display only, the MCU has to wake up to refresh the screen, the sensors need to be polled and the radio takes some power too.

But the screen itself is pretty much the lowest power option they could take :)

DooMMasteR -

The Kindle uses a technology called electrophoretic display which is produced by E Ink corporation while Pebble's screen uses another display technology from Sharp called Memory LCD. They are using different technologies but both classified as e-paper display(Electronic paper display).

piking -

piking is mostly right, but e-ink is rarely, if ever, referred to as e-paper

adcurtin -

adcurtin Yes,the term, E Paper, is actually quite confusing since it is a collective term for mutiple technologies to achieve the same purpose. E Ink may be rarely referred as E paper as your understanding but it is definitely one kind of E Paper display technoligies based on definition of E Paper. That's also why somebody confuse Pebble's display with E Ink display.(E Ink is the first kind of E Paper technology so people always think E Paper equals to E Ink which is not always true.)

Conclusion: Pebble's display is E Paper but not E ink display.

piking -

Image 1/3: A quick flick of the spudger painlessly frees the U-shaped motherboard. Image 2/3: No adhesives or [https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Apple+Watch+Teardown/40655#s93693|soldered-on cables|new_window=true] here. Image 3/3: No adhesives or [https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Apple+Watch+Teardown/40655#s93693|soldered-on cables|new_window=true] here.
  • To remove the motherboard, we need to disconnect a couple connectors and take out four Phillips #00 screws.

  • A quick flick of the spudger painlessly frees the U-shaped motherboard.

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Image 1/1: ST Micro [http://www.st.com/web/catalog/mmc/FM141/SC1169/SS1577/LN1806/PF255427|STM32F439ZG|new_window=true] 180 MHz ARM Cortex-M4-based MCU
  • We've chipped away at this Pebble—now let's have a look at the motherboard. Front-side ICs include:

    • ST Micro STM32F439ZG 180 MHz ARM Cortex-M4-based MCU

    • Spansion S29VS128R 128 Mb, 65 nm MirrorBit Flash

    • Texas Instruments CC2564B Bluetooth and Dual-Mode Controller

    • Ambient light sensor

It's awesome that the buttons are on the mainboard now, and not on the ribbon cable anymore! They also look to be actual micro-switches now, instead of mylar dome switches. Both changes should eliminate inconsistency in button feel (between identical watches), and increase button life (buttons wearing out/sticking/getting mushy, seemed to be one of the more common RMA issues, as is common with mylar dome switches).

Protonus - Reply

Image 1/1: Lattice [http://www.latticesemi.com/~/media/LatticeSemi/Documents/DataSheets/iCE/iCE40LPHXFamilyDataSheet.pdf?document_id=49312|LP1K|new_window=true] Field Programmable Gate Array
  • More ICs adorning the back side:

    • Lattice LP1K Field Programmable Gate Array

    • +14690B EWXS 9.504 AB Power Management IC; likely Maxim Integrated's MAX14690EWX

    • Linear Tech LT3009 Linear Regulator (Pebble tells us that the LT3009 is included for supplying power to the upcoming Smartstraps)

    • Bosch Sensortec BMI160 (6-axis IMU with acceleroemeter and gyroscope)

    • Freescale Xtrinsic MAG3110 3D Digital Magnetometer

    • Texas Instruments DRV2603 Motor Driver

    • The blue arrow points to the smartstrap data in/out pin; above it in red is the power in/out pin and below it is the smartstrap/charging ground pin. The red arrow points to the positive (+) battery connector and next to it in black is the negative (-) connector.

3959 chip is Apple authentication coprocessor for MFi compatibility.

rdoursenaud - Reply

The pads blue arrow points to along with the black pin are charger pins. The ones for the smartstrap are in the corners on the top side.

Alexander S - Reply

Image 1/3: This 150 mAh, 0.57 Wh, 3.8 V battery packs a bit less punch than even the smallish 205 mAh, 0.78 Wh battery we found in the [https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Apple+Watch+Teardown/40655#s93649|Apple Watch|new_window=true]. Image 2/3: That's also about ''half'' the juice of other recent smartwatches, like the [https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Motorola+Moto+360+Teardown/28891#s68745|Moto 360|new_window=true] and the [https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Samsung+Gear+Live+Teardown/27038#s66770|Samsung Gear Live|new_window=true]—but with its e-paper display, [https://getpebble.com/pebble_time|Pebble claims|new_window=true] that the Time can last up to seven days between charges. Image 3/3: That's also about ''half'' the juice of other recent smartwatches, like the [https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Motorola+Moto+360+Teardown/28891#s68745|Moto 360|new_window=true] and the [https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Samsung+Gear+Live+Teardown/27038#s66770|Samsung Gear Live|new_window=true]—but with its e-paper display, [https://getpebble.com/pebble_time|Pebble claims|new_window=true] that the Time can last up to seven days between charges.
  • It's about time we got a clear view of the battery.

  • This 150 mAh, 0.57 Wh, 3.8 V battery packs a bit less punch than even the smallish 205 mAh, 0.78 Wh battery we found in the Apple Watch.

  • That's also about half the juice of other recent smartwatches, like the Moto 360 and the Samsung Gear Live—but with its e-paper display, Pebble claims that the Time can last up to seven days between charges.

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Image 1/3: This is a [http://www.knowles.com/eng/Products/Microphones|Knowles|new_window=true] microphone, waterproofed by a membrane behind the microphone port. Image 2/3: Since the Pebble is [http://help.getpebble.com/customer/portal/articles/1831451-kickstarter-frequently-asked-questions#Siri or Google Now|not compatible|new_window=true] with Siri or Google Now, we asked Pebble what the microphone ''is'' going to be used for. They told us it's there for voice replies, and soon, voice notes. Neat! Image 3/3: We're all abuzz as we find the [http://cache.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/4/2010/08/340x_custom_1282932730695_doc_brown.jpg|eccentric|new_window=true] rotating mass vibrator soldered to the cable assembly, making replacement a tad bit more difficult.
  • The microphone and vibrator assembly is next to be plucked out of (the) Time.

  • This is a Knowles microphone, waterproofed by a membrane behind the microphone port.

    • Since the Pebble is not compatible with Siri or Google Now, we asked Pebble what the microphone is going to be used for. They told us it's there for voice replies, and soon, voice notes. Neat!

  • We're all abuzz as we find the eccentric rotating mass vibrator soldered to the cable assembly, making replacement a tad bit more difficult.

I find it very interesting that Pebble switched from an enclosed pancake style vibrating motor on the classic Pebble, to a more traditional open weight cylindrical motor. I wonder if this is to make vibration more tactile, and less audible?

Protonus - Reply

a flat (pancake) motor is going to move the weight side to side and front to back—which would slide the watch along your skin, and make it push/pull against the bands and buttons, creating noise (especially on the metal bands).

a more traditional cylindrical motor, with the orientation they're using, is going to throw the weight up and down against your arm, increasing the tactile feel of the vibration. They could cut the amount of vibration quite a bit to reduce noise and still have a stronger-feeling vibrator, and the orientation they've placed it in means the buttons will most likely rattle less.

I've never messed around with a pebble steel, but I know they tended to get loose and rattle on the regular pebble.

jordanagray93 -

Image 1/3: We asked and Pebble answered: these marks are confirmation that the rear case passed a water resistance inspection, which every rear case is subjected to before it gets to become a Time. Image 2/3: We manage to seize hold of this small c-clip securing the back button, which obligingly comes free for inspection. Image 3/3: The springy button is waterproofed by a small rubber o-ring.
  • We're running out of things to pull from this Pebble's chassis. Those quality control markings prove difficult to grasp with our tweezers.

    • We asked and Pebble answered: these marks are confirmation that the rear case passed a water resistance inspection, which every rear case is subjected to before it gets to become a Time.

  • We manage to seize hold of this small c-clip securing the back button, which obligingly comes free for inspection.

    • The springy button is waterproofed by a small rubber o-ring.

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Image 1/2: The watch band is an industry standard 22 mm band with a quick release mechanism, meaning replacement bands will be easy to source and install. Image 2/2: The Pebble Time uses standard Phillips #00 screws inside, and once you're inside, components are fairly modular and very easy to remove.
  • Pebble Time Repairability Score: 9 out of 10

  • The watch band is an industry standard 22 mm band with a quick release mechanism, meaning replacement bands will be easy to source and install.

  • The Pebble Time uses standard Phillips #00 screws inside, and once you're inside, components are fairly modular and very easy to remove.

  • The front glass and e-paper display are not fused together—the two components can be replaced independently, lowering repair cost.

  • Although the battery is tucked away under the motherboard, it is modular and removable.

  • Removing the front glass requires heat and replacement adhesive.

I think 9/10 is generous when you consider that opening the device compromises the waterproofing!

mralexweber - Reply

They didn't outright state it, but it seems the device can be repaired/have the battery replaced and sealed with fresh adhesive to be water proof to 30m again.

Harry Houck -

I would like to replace my scratched up pebble time screen and bezel ... any ideas on where to get a replacement part?

Sean Kennedy - Reply

Do you know what type of glue is best for reassembly?

timothyhuh - Reply

18 Comments

so there is no additional RAM on the PCB? just the 256k of the MCU?

that is on one hand a bummer and on the other hand a great thing

the FPGA is possibly used for motion detection stuff and the display to keep the MCU asleep while processing the data for said devices.

DooMMasteR - Reply

Good catch I missed that it has an FPGA and an ARM M4 on it. Wow. That is a freaking powerful combination!!!

RDustinB -

I would rather say that the M4 is for processing the Motion and handling data etc. and the FPGA is for driving the E-Ink Display. Personally, I dont see there any need for more RAM, as there isnt that much happening. Its rather just a Microcontroller on the board, like the Arduino, but more powerfull.

Matthias Nowak -

Thanks for the tear down iFixit dudes!

I feel like Pebble is the master at smartwatch development. This is a perfect culmination of part selection, design and execution. The battery life (even if it is normally only 60% of the maximum 7 days Pebble states) is fantastic and much easier for me to swallow than the "other" guys stating I'd need to charge my watch every single day.

Good job Pebble, you are doing it right.

RDustinB - Reply

Can you teardown the Charging Cable for us? I have the new Pebble Time and the charging cable has already failed on me twice.

Benjamin - Reply

Great to see the screen is removable - got a pebble time steel yesterday and it's already scratched (it took 3 hours and I'm very careful, no idea how it scratched, must be soft as heck). Looks like replacement screens will become available, if the time steel is a similar structure.

Alex Murphy - Reply

I accidentally took a shower with my 3 day old Pebble Time as a result it stopped working totally for 2 days then starting working but the screen is cloudy are there are moisture marks 'behind' the screen. The shower was not overly hot and i took the watch off after max 3 minutes, so much for water proof ! Battery life is not 7 days, more like 4 max. The next generation should be better I hope. Also I wish you could alter the sequence of the standard apps that comes with it, 'health' always pops up first, I want 'notifications' first. I cant see how you alter the sequence?

robertwestroppevans - Reply

Hello I am new to this site, and electronics really. I've busted my pebble time. accidentally ripping off the cover and tearing the 'e-paper', The watch still functions, as i can feel it vibrate when i receive a text. I am looking everywhere for the lcd display/e-paper, but i can not find it. I've scoured mouser.com I was hoping one of you kind and intelligent people could point me to where i may be able to buy another. Thank you for any help Have an amazing day!

Nathan Man - Reply

It seems that the display IS fused to the glass on the pebble time steel- at least the gold version is- I have pictures to prove it. The display and bezel are slightly different than the pebble time as well. The battery on the pebble steel has a 250mAH battery which is why it lasts a bit longer as well. And I have no idea how I'm going to find a replacement screen for this model as I'm not seeing them anywhere to buy.

Greg Beeblebrox - Reply

FPGA is used to rotate the e-ink display image, in order to simplify things., this due to e-Ink screen was designed to be used horizontally, not vertically. Somebody from Pebble explained it to me.

j07rdi - Reply

can i open pebble time steel like that ?

fantasy852 - Reply

where I can buy a screen?

zaksdc - Reply

I dropped my Pebble recently and broke the screen. After searching and websites such as this one, I realized that I would have to buy a replacement. Ebay had a good solution which was buy a new poorly manufactured not working Pebble which I could just use for spare parts. I used these instructions to take both of them apart. First note is that my Pebble was still working under the cracked glass and when I tried to remove the glass, it was actually fused to the screen which I guess happened when it broke. It was not able to be salvaged. The newer Pebble was easy to remove the screen as specified above except the amount of heat you should apply prior to glass removal will change how easy it is to unstick the glass top from the back. Putting all the working pieces together in one housing, it should be noted that the connection of how the glass top fits onto the back was different between the 2 so I'm not sure that my replacement will work but I'm going to try to just glue it back together anyway.

Robyn Brown - Reply

the pebble time steel has a fused screen... just giving a heads up

nntb - Reply

What a bloody shame that Pebble have closed down and sold the intellectual property to Fitbit. No more of these awesone watches. I have bought 3 Pebble Time Steels to keep me going as I find the watch indespensible. The first smart watch I have owned is the best watch I have ever had, and I have a solid gold vintage Omega, but I need regular alarms to remind me to take medication and this does the job, even when I am "off grid" for up to a week at a time, one charge before I go and I am set. Apple watch would be useless needing a charge every day. I just hope that software support continues in some respect so the watches continue to work. It would be awful if they were somehow knobbled.

jivebiker - Reply

is there anywhere you can buy pebble time round batteries?

CHRISTOPHER PERCEY - Reply

Keep your eyes peeled on reddit.com/r/pebble for a battery replacement option for the Pebble Time Round in the next few weeks.

Paul Baird -

Does anyone know where to buy a replacement switch contact point? My back button stopped working and is missing the center black dot on the metal surface. Thanks a million!

n282872 - Reply

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