Farewell Bangle.js 2

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  • Hi all,

    I don't mean to bash the watch because I can see it has a lot of potential and Gordon seems to be genuinely dedicated to making it work, but for me I'm calling it quits after about 9 months use.

    My reasons are:

    1. The battery life was never up to the standard I had expected. If I forget to charge one night, it will be dead before the next night. To me a watch should be able to last 2 days at the absolute minimum. Especially considering I did not have anything special or custom loaded, only the most very basic system apps to minimise issues.
    2. The charging cable is way too weak and awkward. I got around this by 3d printing a bedside table mount which holds the watch and cable together perfectly but I shouldn't have had to and it didn't help me when I travelled.
    3. It would get stuck in a boot loop every now and again and take about a day of me trying repeatedly to downgrade/reload apps etc to get it working again.
    4. I'm not sure if it was related to the boot loop but once the tape over the middle programming connections came off, they started corroding like crazy. I cleaned them a lot and tried covering them with nail polish but did not have much long term success.
    5. The button has now just stopped working. I thought maybe this was another issue that I could try to fix with updates but instead it is now just stuck on "hold button to reload" and I can't do a thing about it without a working button.
    6. The connection and app loading was always clunky. My process just to use the gadgetbridge app was to open the standalone bangleapp, connect to that, disconnect, open the gadgetbridge app and connect to that. If the battery percentage displayed then I knew it was properly connected.
    7. The vibration was not strong enough and the vibration patterns were hard to find and too limited. I ended up missing a lot of notifications. Sometimes the call notification would randomly refer to a single vibration which lasted for about 1/4 of a second, no wonder I missed countless calls.
    8. Due to all of the above I just found the whole situation very unreliable. I could never rely on having a functioning watch on a given day and that lead to a very frustrated spouse who would struggle to actually get ahold of me because I rely on my smartwatch.
    9. I never got a chance to try to get the most out of the watch (music control, maps, games, tools, etc) because when it is failing at the most basic tasks of a smartwatch, I didn't want to risk further complications or wise battery life.

    Maybe I'm just not the target customer (not a programmer), maybe I got a dodgy unit, maybe I somehow did something to break it. Either way, I was hoping this might eventually become something that I would like as much as my pebble all those years ago, but for the time being I will revert to a new version my previous watch (amazfit bip 3) and keep waiting for a worthy pebble successor.

    Farewell to you all, I genuinely hope the community and the brand continues improving, and who knows, maybe I will be persuaded to try a banglejs3 or 4 in the future. Happy to hear why I'm wrong or what I did to have such a poor experience, I'll try to remember to check back if anyone has any questions.

  • It is sad to read that, however all the reasons you mentioned are understandable. I think this watch is REALLY meant for coders/hackers/developers, and it does it really well (at least to me). I never used it as a health tracker, gps companion or any other use-cases that most of customers expect from a smart watch. I used it (and still use it everyday) as a remote control or as a wireless logger (my voltmeter sits on the lab while I get its value at my wrist and it is somehow useful), but the best I can get out of the Bangle.js 2 , and same from every Espruino devices, actually, is the ability to quickly test things related to electronics/control/programming.

    I hope you will find a watch that suits your needs. I found mine!

  • I think the Bangle JS2 struggles with a few things that make it less relevant to me as a longtime Pebble user looking for an acceptable replacement. I too have decided to let it go after continually trying it out for a week's time every 3 months or so since I got it late 2021.

    First of all, let me say that I am a big fan of all these hackable devices where there is plenty opportunity to "make it your own" in any way you can. The Bangle JS2 has potential, but there are a few things that makes it unacceptable to me as a daily driver:

    1. Weak vibration
      I could almost live with this when I just re-enabled my phones vibration. But my purpose of having a smartwatch is to also to not have to rely on my phones sound or vibration at all. So it was one of those "Ah schucks, not good, but I can probably deal with it"

    2. Low quality
      It was never any secret that the Bangle JS2 is a Chinese watch with a different firmware. And the quality is quite low compared to my Pebble.

    3. Touch-screen instead of buttons
      I had hoped this would work. Alas, it doesn't. I just prefer buttons, especially for such a small device / screen.

    4. The experience is very hacky right now and remains so
      The overall experience is not a friendly one. To me personally it's been somewhat easy to figure it all out as I am very tech savvy. But juggling Gadgetbridge versions and connecting through browsers for other stuff is not all that user-friendly. Gadgetbridge especially has been a pain for me to use - including the Bangle version. It was never stable in the connection and which messages got passed over. And I never got calls to show on the watch. So overall I just never trusted it enough to actually use it for longer periods of time.

    Thank you to the good people behind the projects involved. I am happy such projects and people exist. Eventually it can lead to great things. I know Pebble didn't exactly start out as the perfect smartwatch either. I've seen their prototypes. :D

  • I'm glad my reasons are not complete off the mark and I agree with both of you. I also consider myself quite tech savvy (just not too a programming/hacking level) and I could deal with the clunkyness of gadgetbridge, but not being able to trust that it would be operable when I needed it to be meant that it didn't work for me as a reliable daily driver. I completely understand that if that's what other people are looking for then this is ideal.

    As for the quality, I didn't really have an issue with that, other than now where the button has given up.

  • It's hard to read all this and not jump to Bangle's defense. It does seem like your experience is not ideal, and that must be disappointing. But I don't believe the BangleJS line were meant to replace Pebbles at all. It is first and foremost a programmable microcontroller you can wear. The fact that it has evolved an ecosystem that can be compared to Pebble's is quite impressive. To fault it for not achieving Pebble's equal seems unfair to me.

    The battery issue is concerning, and maybe others are having similar issues, but mine lasts over a week (admittedly with modest use). As for the button, I've read about a few having issues, yes. Gordon has worked with folks to fix or replace those.

    For me it's rekindled a desire to create simple software, experiment with rudimentary UI and learn a ton about microcontrollers and their capabilities (and their limitations).

    I believe that is more of its intended use.

  • I haven't used the banglejs2, but for more than a year I am using the bangle.js1 as a daily driver.

    Yes, before that, it was just a gadget/toy for experiments, but at the moment I found the watch very stable, batt last many days, good apps are continuously improving, and even some of them are useful for my life.

    Hardware can't be improved but bjs2 fw/software maybe requires more polish.

    I had other smartwatches before from garmin or smartthings with better look and plastics but I prefer the bangle ecosystem.

  • I agree that it's not fair to expect it to be a replacement for a pebble and that comparison was not really the point I was trying to make. I also think you are right that it's just not the right watch for me considering I was more interested in an open source, community supported watch, not a platform to learn programming/microcontrollers/UI design etc. At least at this stage in it's development I think that is the crowd it is more suited to.

    You are right that I'm disappointed because I was really excited for this watch and I can still see it's potential. But not being able to rely on a watch to actually function on a day to day basis because of issues with battery, BT connection, boot loops, button failure, clunky software, etc. That is not really an issue of comparing it to the pebble, that's just a functioning watch.

    The fact that the community does jump to the defence of the banglejs is one of the great things about it. Having an engaged community and someone capable and proactive like Gordon at the helm is what makes me think that it will end up being what I was hoping it already was. I really do hope it reaches the level of polish that it needs for mass adoption.

  • I'm going to jump to the BangleJS2 defence :-)

    It all depends what you want, and what you expect from a smartwatch. I've had several, and while the Pebble Time Steel was by far the best, the BangleJS2 comes a close second, and thanks to the efforts of Gordon and the community keeps improving.

    I won't argue every point, but recent improvements, with fastloading, hiding widgets, speed improvements, etc. have made such a big difference it's now a very usable watch, for me.

    One thing that's made a huge difference with the usability of the touchscreen, new in 2v16, is the touchscreen calibration in the settings menu. If you haven't done it yet I highly recommend it! No more stabbing around, it's now precise and reliable.

  • Wow, what a clickbait-like subject :) But I really understand what you mean. I had a Pebble and looked for a replacement. They did a really good job with their UX (hardware AND software). But they had a lot more staff to work with. If you could multiply @Gordon by 5, we would have the perfect eco system and the watch would be perfect reagrdless the hardware flaws we have :)

    My main pain points are:
    I still get things like fifo overflows or memory leaks as well as Gadgebridge errors. I know this is probably only me because no one else is complaining.

    My watch lasts about 4-5 days which is awesome compared to any WearOS or so. I know, I use some widgets and so on, but I was hoping that it would last even longer.

    App Loader:
    Same issues like Pebble had: There are more and more Apps and Watchfaces. I still don't have a good overview over the things I potentially like. Also there are some duplicates with slightly different features.

    Lack of developers:
    We have really talented people here who spend much of their free time for the community. I really appreciate that. But having a couple more full time developers would push the whole eco system. Maybe we can archive something with donations like patreon.com or so? Having only one full time developer who keeps everything together also results in Apps that don't look like "from the same mould". I also really liked that on other watches, but I understand that everyone is required to participate. So having a UX that looks like a watch with APPS instead of a blank platform on which you can start any app is a bit hard to archive.

    Well, I am actually concerned having it on while it's raining - just from reading in this forum :)

    Despite all that I am a daily user and I still love it.

  • Hi,

    I'm sorry to hear that - but I do really appreciate the feedback. It's really good to know what went wrong.

    It's interesting about the vibration strength - personally I haven't found it a big deal, but it seems pretty much every ex-pebble owner really misses the vibration power. I did try and get a bigger motor put in the newest batch, but because of the watch design the manufacturer didn't want to do it in case it caused issues by shaking the battery too much.

    The battery life is a very odd one. Out of the box with the default apps it really should have been as advertised - 2+ weeks, so maybe there was some problem with it... although if it got soaked at some point then it's possible that water damage could have had that effect on it too.

    ... obviously depending what you install/set up you can get the battery to flatten pretty quick though, and I think one thing that really makes it difficult is there's no real way to know what is eating your battery when you've installed apps.

    The boot loop thing is a bit sad too - it sounds like you've been really unlucky there. Looking at the forums things like that do seem to be pretty rare now, and obviously I mess with Bangles all day every day and haven't had any boot loops in a long long time now.

    But as others have said, I think it's important that Bangle.js isn't 'oversold' as something it's not. Hopefully as a watch for developers looking to fiddle around it's actually pretty good - but it doesn't have the polish of proper consumer hardware (but hopefully not the price tag either!).

    I'd have loved for it to be the next Pebble, but Pebble was a big company that was able to throw a ton of money and developer time into R&D, and unfortunately we just don't sell enough Bangles (or sell them for enough money!) to be able to justify that.

    For me, the whole thing's a bit frustrating too. With Espruino generally people were very happy and I was able to spend my time constantly making improvements, but it feels more that with Bangle.js there are a much higher proportion of people complaining - but maybe it's that now more people are using things more of the time? I spend basically half my day every day dealing with complaints and bug reports, but also trying to check through contributions, most of which are excellent - but maybe 25% of which will actively break things and then I have to find a way to break it to the contributor. It feels like a constant struggle just to stay in one place and it's not a great deal of fun.

    So I am sorry to those of you who who have been disappointed by Bangle.js - I really don't want to sell Bangle.js watches to people who're not going to like them, so if there are certain things I can add to the description on the shop page for example that might help to make sure potential buyers know what to expect, I'm all for it.

  • Gordon - I really admire that you are open to feedback and I appreciate you taking the time to respond and engage in this discussion which I have found very interesting. To be honest I was considering not posting this at all because I'm not really one to complain and I'm not trying to get anything out of it other than trying to shed some light to this community about my experience in the hope that it might be helpful to the development.

    As for the pebble comparisons, I completely understand and I wouldn't feel too bad about not meeting that standard considering that I don't think there are any better smartwatch offerings including from Apple, Samsung, Amazfit, Garmin, etc.

    From the sounds of it I did get unlucky as well. Maybe I managed to get water in it or something but to have poor battery, intermittent boot issues, and a broken button it seems like all the holes in the Swiss cheese lined up for me. I don't recall ever getting more than a few days battery life even as new, and I can't imagine it was due to loaded apps. I think the most custom I loaded was a different watch face and a battery gauge.

    I am sorry that you have to field more complaints and I hope that I haven't come across as an entitled and grouchy customer. I can't imagine that is particularly rewarding for a project you are so passionate about. For what's it is worth I think the vast majority of people on this forum can see how much you are invested in this and can see the work you are putting in to make it as good as it can be with the limitations you have.

  • I hope that I haven't come across as an entitled and grouchy customer.

    Wow, no - not at all! It's great to have honest, non-angry feedback. It's just a shame you didn't post earlier so I could have got things sorted for you before you completely ran out love for it!

    To be fair, I do get a lot of positive feedback about the Bangle and Espruino as well, so it is still very rewarding to work on - support just takes a bunch of time.

  • Hi!

    The funny thing is that I have the opposite experience of using Bangle.js: for me, the user experience is constantly changing for the better, which is surprising, given the limited budget of the project and the number of active developers. Bangle watch is getting better than what it was originally. And here is also a big merit of the community!
    I did not have Pebble watch, although I closely followed their fate and regretted when the project was closed. Yes, I know about Rebble and I'm even subscribed to a Discord server (which also has a channel about Bangle.js). Obviously, Bangle.js has disadvantages, but there are also advantages over Pebble (for example, open source code from the very beginning).

    I will go over the list of claims, although I will note that I am an enthusiast and am ready to put up with some problems, since there are much more advantages for me and I see a clear evolution of the project.

    1) Battery life. Without GPS, my B.js 2 watch lives an average of 5-6 days, sometimes less, and this is under load, I like to run timers and stopwatches.
    My friend's B.js 2 even lived for about a month, but this is without loads.
    By the way, my first Bangle.js model lived about 3 months from a single charge, but the screen was constantly turned off, and I only occasionally checked the charge level.
    2) I would like standardized Qi wireless charging in the next model. The wiring is inconvenient, yes.
    3) It happened that I lost the data I needed and carefully configured options several times, but serious problems were really rare + then backups appeared.
    4) Corrosion is a big drawback and a clear problem, I hope the future samples of Bangle.js 3 will be more carefully checked for such nuances. At this stage, I just resigned myself and took measures to avoid this, and so far there are no problems:
    5) I knew that the button might have problems, so I decided to use the button to a minimum and it turns out great, after installing additional apps for gestures and some settings:

    In general, in the first Bangle.js, the buttons were sometimes useful, but you can live without them perfectly.
    6) There are some nuances with downloading apps, for example, the experience is better on Linux and Android, unlike iOS and Windows. But in general, I really like that the apps are tied to GitHub and available for download from the browser, via bluetooth, some new amazing experience. My complaint: for iOS there is no gadgetbridge Bangle version, so there is superiority towards one platform - Android.
    However, this moment can theoretically scare off non-technical users, it is necessary to somehow improve stability and add support for iOS.
    7) I have no complaints about the strength of the vibration, rather I would like a different TYPE of vibration, like the Taptic Engine, instead of the current one. So that there is no characteristic rattling of the motor, although this is not critical. I don’t know about calls, but I never missed notifications, moreover, I even sometimes turned off bluetooth, because notifications even went through sleep mode on the phone! The duration of the vibro can be adjusted for messages, I set it to the minimum short, it's enough for me. In general, if you put B.js 2 on itself edge on the table, the signal will be super loud, I try to avoid this.
    8) It’s the other way around for me: now I constantly wear a watch, at bike rides, on vacation, at work, because they are almost weightless, so you can wear them for a long time without taking them off, keeping track of time and notifications. That is, in addition to smart functions, it is also just a convenient watch.
    9) Yes, I would like more interesting integrations, for example, route recording and simple synchronization with Strava. A more perfect experience with maps. Theoretically, everything is possible in the future.
    For a very long time, I recorded routes via GPS and manually exported routes for Strava, but this is tedious.

    I also want to note that I like the technologies on which all this is implemented and the idea itself: JS on microcontrollers. This is an interesting technical challenge with such limitations. Also a great community and the opportunity to participate in a really important and necessary project. This applies to Espruino in general.

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Farewell Bangle.js 2

Posted by Avatar for JustSomeGuy @JustSomeGuy