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based.quest – PineTime - A promising open-source smartwatch and my experience

Posted on 24/07/2021 12:00:35

A PineWhatNow?

PineTime is a open-source smartwatch built by Pine64 and the community. It rocks a 1.3 inch IPS capacitive touchscreen and boasts a week long (yet to verify, but seems likely!) battery life and it communicates over BLE and Bluetooth 5. It has the typical features of your usual smartwatch such as step counting and heart rate sensor, ability to control your music and view notifications - all that on very low specs. It runs on a nRF52832 SoC with a 64MHz ARM Cortex-M4F CPU coupled with 512KB Flash and 64KB of RAM. It also has additional SPI NOR 4MB Flash which community software has recently taken advantage of.

Now that you know fundamentally what a PineTime is, what sets this apart is the openness of device, you can replace the firmware and bootloader with anything of your choice. You do not have to use the preinstalled InfiniTime and can install a firmware of your own choice such as WaspOS. Other smartwatches often depend on sending telemetry or constant feed of your data to a centralised server - it is convenient for sure, but it comes with a large invasion of your privacy. You are in charge of your own data, you do not need to send your data anywhere in order to access it, you can simply use open-source companion apps that only keep track of data offline.

Ok, but how nice is it to actually use?

My experience with PineTime is rather recent, I got my hands on it on July 22th, 2021. It shipped with InfiniTime 1.2.0 and MCUBoot 1.0.0 which was the most recent at the time. Setting it up was very simple, all I needed was GadgetBridge (source code) on my phone and connect it over Bluetooth. Time and date synced immediately after making a connection without a hitch. I was also pleasantly surprised with how easily the menu was navigatable - so UI/UX gets another point from me. The step counter on PineTime is also surprisingly good for a device that retails only for $26.99 - I had zero false positives when in any moving vehicle, my last smartwatch (regrettably, Garmin) got a ton of false positives constantly. The music program also worked very nicely with my phone which runs clean Android 11, found it really intuitive to use. There are a few shortcomings, though - for one, touch registering currently works via constant polling, so single taps may not exactly register or get delayed quite a bit - fortunately, this is being addressed. The next issue I had only once, woke up one morning to the watch being unpaired from my phone, rebooting the watch fixed it at cost of losing all the steps I had gotten during my morning routine - and at the time of the issue occuring, InfiniTime 1.2.0 had issues with keeping settings saved. This has been addressed by InfiniTime 1.3.0 with introduction of LittleFS.

Overall, it’s been a solid experience - as of the time of writing, I am running InfiniTime 1.3.0 with PineTimeStyle watchface (+ color picker PR applied) and I am very much satisfied. This is how the PineTime looks like.

Thanks for reading

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