Fun With the Pinetime

When Pine64 announced the Pinetime, it was quickly clear to me, that I want to have one. I was already looking for an affordable and usable “smartwatch” to use with Gadgetbrige.

But let’s start from the beginning. Why would anyone want to have a smartwatch? I didn’t put it in quotes by accident, I don’t think they are that useful to most people. We all stopped wearing watches when we got phones, because you just don’t need to look at a watch that often, that the quick grab in the pocket for the phone is too much effort. It’s mostly luxury item now, at least if you ask me.

With smartwatches also came fitness bands, which are much more useful in my opinion. They vary from fully-fledged devices with GPS that can work without a phone to simple screens with a bluetooth connection. The Pinetime is more one the later: it has basically zero features and a very weak processor. It has a heart rate sensor, but at least at the moment, that one isn’t that useful. I go jogging about twice a week, and I usually listen to my Spotify Discover Weekly while doing that. When I want to know the name of a song, I have to look on my phone, and that is really annoying, especially since my screen doesn’t work properly if my hands are sweaty. It would also be cool to see some stats while jogging, and I’m sure an integration with for example OpenTracks is possible somehow.

But enough of the jibberish, let’s take a look at the hardware. It could have a littler larger screen-to-body-ratio and maybe and OLED instead of an LCD, but for a first revision I think it’s pretty good, considering it’s a community project.

For some odd reason, if you only want one Pinetime, you can only buy a non-sealed version at the moment. No problem I thought, I can just seal it myself! After waiting five weeks for it to arrivey, so much went wrong. I first tried to seal it with silicone, which didn’t stick enough. Alright, then hot glue. Didn’t work either, cooled of too fast. Luckily, I still had some epoxy from my father around. It’s so old, that there still is a price tag in DM (the Germany currency before the Euro) on it. But it worked! At least, until I tried to power the watch on. It would work anymore. After unsealing it again, I noticed that the battery cables broke. After soldering again, and sealing it again, it wouldn’t power on again! So I unsealed it again, measured the battery voltage, expecting my soldering job was not particuraly good, I was surprised that this wasn’t the problem. I shorted some contact by accident, and the watch resetted and worked again. Still no clue what happened there, but I just sealed it again and it finally works.

Let’s take a look at the software now. I’m using InfiniTime, the default OS for the Pinetime. It is really, really still in heavy development. As I said before, the Pinetime basically has zero features right now. No automatic activation of the screen when shaking your hand to look at it, not alarms, a slow and inaccurate heart rate sensor, etc. There is also wasp-os, which looks a bit more polished and has more features. While it can be flashed OTA, I haved resealed my watch enough for now. The great thing is about it being still developed, that every couple of weeks, you’ll get new features down the road. And because the development is open source, you can start coding your own applications. If I have too much time I’ll look into writing a companion app for OpenTracks, but it’s not on my priority list right now.

To connect the Pinetime to your (Android) phone, you want a companion app. The most sensible option is Gadgetbridge, which is only availbable on F-Droid. I installed it, tried to play some music (really the only interesting feature of the Pinetime right now), but it didn’t work. After searching for a while, I found out that the issue was due to a change of UUIDs, so I opened a PR for Gadgetbridge. But it still didn’t work, because I messed up the UUDs. One PR later, it finally works.

Overall, it’s quite exiting to have a new gadget and really see its development. For just 30€ it is quite fun if you like hacking around a bit.