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Teardown reveals Pebble Smartwatch difficult to repair

The Pebble Smartwatch may have been a Kickstarter success story, but fixing it is apparently more of a tragedy.

Online repair manual iFixit cracked open the wristwatch — literally — to get a closer look at what makes it tick.

Compatible with smartphones running Google's Android 4.0 or higher or Apple's iOS 5 and 6, the device uses Bluetooth software to push notifications of incoming calls, texts, emails, calendar alerts, social media messages, and weather alerts to the e-paper screen.

In an effort to keep water, and tinkerers, out of its screen, Pebble laid on adhesive so strong, it was impossible for the iFixit crew to separate the casing without compromising the display.

"With plenty of elbow grease and our iSesamo [tool], we get our proverbial foot in the door and start prying this Pebble open," the teardown said. "We manage to part the cases, leaving the stubborn smartwatch in only slightly better condition than if we had bombarded it with actual pebbles until it popped open."

Once unfastened, the watch pulls apart like slices of bread: The team peeled off the device's e-paper display film to reveal backlight LEDs, only three of which are required to light the 1.26in screen. Digging deeper, iFixit reported a disappointing lack of tech innards to sift through, finding only a single simple assembly, boxed in by light plastic and framed by a lone ribbon cable.

By removing the cable, iFixit was able to get a closer look at the buttons and Bluetooth antenna housed on one side, with the backlight LEDs on the other. But that one ribbon, which carries all four buttons, LEDs, and Bluetooth, makes it impossible to replace an individual component, the teardown said.

The device's motherboard and battery are assembled behind the backlight guide panel, and held together by what iFixit said is "very delicate soldering." If one of the components breaks, they will all need to be replaced as a single unit.

The individual buttons on the watch sides keep with the waterproofing, and can be popped out and replaced individually, but only once the watch is disassembled, "a feat we have not yet mastered," iFixit said.

Without a repairability metric set up yet for smartwatches, iFixit simply offered a few of its findings, pointing to positives like low power consumption, which decreases the frequency of charges and increases the battery life, as well as an easily replaceable watch band. On the other hand, the inaccessible battery limits the entire life span of the device to six to 10 years, according to iFixit's estimates.

The Pebble Smartwatch began shipping 23 January, following summer delays. To get your own watch, visit the company's website to pre-order the $150 (£99) device in one of five colours.

Image Credit: iFixit