My Problem with Pebble: It’s Still Too Much Work

Pebble's new apps are no easier to reach than the phone in your pocket.

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Jared Newman for TIME

I recently started using my Pebble smartwatch again after a few months’ hiatus. With the recent launch of the Pebble Appstore for iOS (and Android, in beta), it seemed like a good time to give the watch another try.

So far, my experience hasn’t improved much. Smartwatches should be time-savers, cutting down the number of times we dig into our pockets for our smartphones, but using Pebble in its current state is still more of a hassle.

I was hoping that with version 2.0, Pebble would change the way you access your apps, but it’s still the same backwards system as before: To cycle through watchfaces, you just press the up or down buttons on the side of the watch. That’s simple. To launch an app, you must press the middle button, press the down button five times to cycle through various settings menus (one of which is a redundant watchfaces menu), then keep pressing until you find the app you want, then press the middle button again.

Why isn’t it the other way around? Once I’ve picked a style of clock I like, I’m going to stick with it for a while. I don’t need instant access to a bunch other watchfaces that all serve the same basic purpose. What I really need is faster access to apps like ESPN, so I can glance at the scores instantly. If I could cycle through these apps with the same ease that I could cycle through watchfaces, it’d save a lot of time. (I realize some apps make use of the up and down buttons, so how about letting you cycle through apps by pressing the back button first, or holding it while pressing up or down? There’s got to be a way to make it work.)

For some apps, I’d rather not have to manually open them at all. Being able to buy Starbucks coffee with PebbleBucks is nice, but it’d be better if the app popped up automatically so I could pay without having to press a bunch of buttons first. Same goes with Foursquare; instead of making me open the app to check in, it should just present that option automatically after I’ve been sitting in the restaurant for a few minutes.

Pressing some buttons isn’t a huge burden, but neither is taking my phone out of my pocket. And once I’ve done that, I have access to everything, not just the snippets of information that Pebble provides. The only way Pebble erases that advantage is by providing near-instant access to information or basic functions. Right now, it’s far too slow.

Despite my grumpiness about Pebble’s current state, I’m not entirely disappointed with the purchase. I enjoy using Pebble to control my phone’s music playback in the car without taking my eyes off the road. And if I could be more committed to exercising, I’d probably love having apps like GymSets and Runkeeper. Even as a geeky-looking timepiece with notifications, $150 isn’t a lot to pay, so I don’t feel like I’ve been duped.

But overall, the time I’ve spent fiddling with Pebble in search of ways to make it more useful far outweighs the time I’ve saved, which seems to defeat the purpose. Until Pebble removes the barriers between me and its apps, I can’t see myself feeling naked without it.