Complete guide to Rebble: We test Pebble's reborn smartwatch OS

It's Rebble Time! What works and what we hope is coming next

We're now a few weeks into a post-Pebble world. On 19 July Fitbit finally pulled the plug on Pebble features that required cloud support – we're talking app store, dictation, SMS replies and Timeline pins.

But don't cry for Pebble because Rebble is here – and when we say the gap-filling project run by Pebble devs and fans is here, this time we mean we've actually been using it. On a Pebble Time Round. And it works.

Rebble is an organisation that's providing free web services and software – there is also a subscription for some features – which will increase what you can do with a Pebble smartwatch now that Fitbit has ditched them.

Rebble was set up by ex-Pebble developers, and Pebble founder Eric Migicovsky is a fan. The idea is to try to re-instate features that were lost on 19 July. Your Pebble watch will still work now the servers are shut, but unless you switch to Rebble you will have to wave bye-bye to features that require cloud support, which Fitbit did keep open for longer than it had initially promised. So features like voice recognition support, SMS and email replies, Timeline pins from third-party apps and access to Pebble's app store and forum will now be gone.

Living with Rebble: We try out the alt service on a Pebble Time Round

What is Rebble?

Rebble was set up around the time that Pebble decided to cease operations. The essential aim was to keep the platform that powered many of its services and features live through the help of Pebble developers and enthusiasts.

In February 2018, Rebble announced Rebble Web Services, its solution to keep core elements of the Pebble ecosystem live. This included offering an app store, firmware updates and the ability to create mobile apps. The hope was to get as many of the services as possible live in time for the Fitbit server shutdown.

Now, the service is up and running it is simply a case of clicking a link on the Rebble website from your phone to switch over from Pebble to Rebble services, and it works with existing iOS and Android companion Pebble apps. That should mean there's nothing additional to download or install to make the switchover. There may be some firmware updates issued to make things go over smoothly, but these install automatically.

Living with Rebble: We try out the alt service on a Pebble Time Round

Rebble: How to set up

If you linked your Pebble and Rebble accounts before the deadline – we did – that means all your apps and watch faces etc remain. If not, just sign up for a Rebble account and start from scratch.

This is not a scary, geeky process – in fact switching to Rebble is very beginner friendly. You'll need to download the Pebble app, if you haven't already.

Then go to this link on your smartphone to either create a Rebble account or sign in with your linked Pebble account – remember, if you haven't done this already, it's now too late to link your accounts. In that case, you can still use Rebble – you just need to make a new account.

Click 'get started' to, you know… get started. You'll be asked whether you want to subscribe to weather and voice dictation – if you do you'll be taken to a page to enter your card details.

Then go to this link to switch to Rebble Web Services. Follow the onscreen instructions and press the red button – you may need to quit and re-open the app on Android or wait 15 seconds on iOS. Ignore the orange spinning wheel, it's all good. And if your Pebble watch disconnected, just re-connect it.

Then you're pretty much good to go, using your Pebble app and Pebble watch as normal. So what can you do?

Living with Rebble: We try out the alt service on a Pebble Time Round

Rebble: The best features

If you have a Pebble smartwatch, to us this is a no-brainer. Sure, it's not perfect but hey, the basic feature set is free and it's built from the same community that made Pebble great in the first place. More importantly, from what we've seen having set up our Pebble Time Round and used it for a week or so, they've done a goddamn nice job.

First up, they had to take care of the basics of what a Pebble can do. So once you've gone through the first steps on your smartphone, you can set up notifications from your smartphone as usual, as well as Pebble Health activity and sleep tracking and download apps and watch faces from the Pebble store. Notifications via Bluetooth work. Timeline works for things like calendar items but not for third party pins yet.

Living with Rebble: We try out the alt service on a Pebble Time Round

Then there's the extras that went down for users. So both voice dictation and SMS text replies work on Android – we haven't had a chance to try iOS yet but this may remain broken for reasons beyond Rebble's control. Also worth noting: voice dictation is a premium feature that requires a $3 a month subscription to Rebble, which also gets you weather. On that note, weather updates on watch faces like the very popular YWeather by David Rodriguez Rincon… work.

Pebble Health step tracking works – it's not always the quickest to update in real time but hey, that's a niggle. It's there. Rebble is also promising firmware updates in the future to keep devices up to date.

Rebble: Apps and watch faces

Here we face what's one of Rebble's biggest challenges. What will be really impressive, especially in the face of Fitbit's efforts with smartwatch devs, is when people start adding new apps to this replacement Rebble app store (via online dev platform CloudPebble/Rebble). Incidentally on the front end, it looks almost identical – it fooled us.

Living with Rebble: We try out the alt service on a Pebble Time Round

So the good news is that previously downloaded apps and watch faces appear in the lockers. You can also download new (to you) apps and watch faces to your Pebble as though nothing had happened, and that's pretty cool.

The dev support for apps in general and features like Timeline pins from third-party apps is still in question. But perhaps if Rebble really does take off, the team will be more incentivised to put the time and effort in. Especially if Rebble can get a healthy base of $3-a-month subscribers, and one dev we've spoken to suggests it may already have that.

Living with Rebble: We try out the alt service on a Pebble Time Round

Other incoming features include third-party Timeline pin support and dictation on iOS 11. As we say, SMS replies on iOS are unlikely to be available anytime soon as Rebble probably won't be able to replicate the agreements with networks.

So that's our first impressions. Overall, brilliant effort and bravo. It'll get you wearing and using your Pebble again. We'll keep on using our Pebble Time Round with Rebble and update this feature in due course.

Have you made the switch to Rebble? On Android or iOS? Let us know how you're getting on in the comments below.


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13 comments

  • klimkurt·

    I have $3 a month service works fine on my 2 Pebble Times, weather works on TTMMBRN. I have TTMM 3rd party app working well. My Pebble 2, however is stuck in boot loop. I thought recent firmware update might be the answer. I go back to it periodically to see if I can think of something different. I have loved Pebble for years (wore out 1st Pebble - pixel bleedout). The Pebble 2 just won't even let me get to settings to check on bluetooth settings


  • sorensong·

    Its funny, I was REALLY upset about the whole Pebble acquisition, but my Pebble is actually still working on legacy Pebble services as in late July (2018). weird. maybe I slipped through the cracks.

  • BigJackBrass·

    I read up on Rebble and it convinced me to take a gamble on getting a Pebble watch, something I'd previously not done because the company went under. After setup and using the watch I went back to Rebble and subscribed for a year. A really wonderful initiative; they deserve support and kudos.

  • svil3·

    What I'm really worried is if they are going to be able to maintain the pebble android app (or if they are going to develop their own from the pebble's base) in the very probable scenario when a future version of Android breaks some or all the functionality of the official app...

    • JFX·

      I don't know the answer for sure, but the Android app is Open Source, so i think they might be able to conitnue developing it. Honestly, I think the hurdle of building their own server environment to support our watches alone was a task i didn't think would happen. I don't know if you know already but there was a recent firmware update to 4.4.0-rbl!!! The last update was 4.2 wasn't it??

      If they can accomplish this much who knows what they can accomplish??

  • jade64·

    I reported a problem some hours ago when switching to RWS. Now I solved it myself. I was too close to the instructions and ignored the big button saying "Switch to RWS". Or similar.

    When I pressed that, it worked and I am connected to the world of watchfaces, apps etc. Thank you Rebble!!

  • Ællard·

    Great initiative and Great work Rebble, well done!

    Migrating to Rebble was very easy (with the links in this article) and it makes my pebble valuable again.

    Thank you

  • SAABMAN·

    I’ve had an original pebble for a few years but the dodgey display connection drove me to ditch it in favor of an Apple Watch. But I’ve just replaced that with a pebble time and switched over to rebble and all is well with the world again :)

  • ceeb·

    I have a Pebble Classic, which I love. I noticed that my regular watchfaces disappeared today (24 Aug) and so started a web search to find out why. I didn't know Fitbit had ditched support for my watch, so I'm very happy to find your article and hook up with Rebble via my Android app. Fingers crossed I get to enjoy my Pebble for a bit longer!

  • JFX·

    I have Pebble Time Steel and I've had a flawless experience switching over to Rebble!! I must also agree they have done an awesome job swtiching over from the old servers to the Rebble Servers!!

    i just got a new phone and when i installed the Pebble app, I got a new firmware update 4.4.0-rbl. There hasn't been a firmware update in ages, so i commend them in not only being able to support the apps but also to continue providing firmware support to the Pebble. I don't what's changed yet since its charging right now, but I'm definitely excited for the progress the Rebble Development Team has done since the switch!!

    Keep up the Good Work Rebble!!

  • Jmhollabaugh·

    so there is no way to get any weather on my pebble 2 without paying for it

  • Lahc·

    Thank you Rebblers for your hard work! I'm glad to pay a few dollars a month to keep my Time Steel working. It's better than ever and far better than the Android Wear or Samsung Gear offerings!

  • Rae-Jake·

    I just switched my daughters Pebble Time to Rebble and we lost the text feature. I also subscribed to the dictation and weather feature. How can I get the text back?