Pebble Health Update Hands-on

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Pebble is getting serious about improving the fitness tracking abilitiesĀ of its smartwatches. The company recently updated its Pebble Health app, which brings auto run/walk tracking, new graphs in your activity summaries and a Smart Alarm feature to wake you up during the right sleep period. I tried out the new tools and while I liked the improvements, I felt underwhelmed by the presentation.

The new health-related updates are available only on the Time series of smartwatches, which includes the Pebble Time Steel and the Pebble Time. All Pebbles will get the rest of the updates, which brings text messaging for iPhones on AT&T and Verizon, as well as the ability to send a preset response to incoming calls.

MORE: Our Favorite Smartwatches for iOS and Android

As with other Pebble updates, version 3.12 downloaded automatically on the phone and synced to the watch (in my case, the Pebble Time Round) in a matter of minutes. You’ll see a progress bar throughout the update, and after that the watch looks basically the same as it did before.

I was fascinated by the graphs, which showed my activity and sleep patterns, in the new Health tab when I opened my Pebble app on my phone. The charts show how many steps you’ve taken throughout the day, and tells you the distance you’ve traveled, calories burned and time spent active. But I soon became flabbergasted as I tried to figure out how to see more info, such as when my more active periods during the day were.

Many Pebble owners have complained about the Pebble Health step counter’s inaccuracy, especially when it comes to running. When I tested the updated system on my Pebble Time Round, Pebble Health was relatively accurate in counting the steps I walked, saying I’d taken 420 steps when I counted 400.

However, when I was sitting at my desk typing for about 10 minutes, the wearable registered me as having walked about 20 steps. After I trekked to my bus stop from a Park Avenue bar (which Google Maps says is a 1.2-mile journey), the watch buzzed and congratulated me on taking a long 30-minute walk. “Didn’t that walk feel good? You walked for 30 minutes and burned 118 calories. You’re a walking machine,” my Pebble told me.

The update is supposed to let you get a notification, timeline pin and data on your phone’s graph after your run or long walk is complete. The walks or runs show up as shaded bars within your activity charts, which was confusing at first. Tapping each dark bar brings up your distance traveled, calories burned and steps taken during that period.

While Pebble Health’s new update is a step in the right direction, sports enthusiasts are still better off with a dedicated fitness tracker, which is more accurate at measuring different activities.