Fixing the Unfixable: Pebble Smartwatch Screen Replacement

pebble1

[Colt] found himself with a broken Pebble, so he fixed it. The Pebble watch really ignited the smartwatch world with its record-breaking Kickstarter campaign. Working on the Pebble has proved to be frustrating experience for hardware hackers though. Ifixit’s teardown revealed the Pebble extremely difficult to repair. This isn’t due to some evil plan by the smartwatch gods to keep us from repairing our toys. It’s a problem that comes from stuffing a lot electronics into a small waterproof package. [Colt's] problem was a bad screen. Pebble has a few known screen issues with their early models. Blinking screens, snow, and outright failed screens seemed to happen at an alarming rate as the early Kickstarter editions landed. Thankfully all those issues were corrected and replacements sent to the unlucky owners.

The actual screen used in the Pebble is a Sharp Memory LCD. Memory is an apt name as the screens actually behave as a SPI attached write only memory. Sharp sells flexible printed circuit (FPC) versions of the LCDs to aid in debugging. For space constrained designs though, an elastomeric or “zebra strip” connector is the common way to go. Alternating bands of conductive and insulating material make electrical connections between the Pebble’s circuit board and the conductive portions of the LCD glass.

[Colt] found himself with a dead screen out of warranty, so he decided to attempt a screen replacement. He found a replacement screen from Mouser, and proceeded to remove the top case of his watch. The top plastic case seems to be the hardest part of getting into a Pebble. It appears to be bonded with a glue that is stronger than the plastic itself. [Colt] broke the glass of his screen during the removal, which wasn’t a big deal as it was already dead. Prying only destroyed the top plastic, so he broke out a rotary tool which made quick work of the plastic.  The new screen worked perfectly, but had to be held in just the right position over its zebra connector. Some waterproof epoxy held it in place permanently. The next step was a new top cover. An old flip phone donated its plastic shell to the effort, and hot glue kept everything in place. [Colt] finished his work with a couple of layers of model paint. The result certainly isn’t as pretty or waterproof as the original. It is functional though, and about $120 USD cheaper than buying a new Pebble.

Comments

  1. Adam says:

    Why didnt he sand the old glue off and use clear epoxy or clear silicone?

  2. LouLou says:

    If I remember correctly, I read that the two halves of the Pebble are actually sonic welded together to keep it water tight.

    • 12 says:

      Yeah, bread- or steakknive and gentle hits with the rubbermallet…
      For stuff i might have to open up again later i prefer e-tape instead of a clean epoxy job to close is up again.

  3. Eric Parker says:

    TIL what those silly little rubber bits are callled. Elastomeric Connectors.

  4. strider_mt2k says:

    It looks as if candy was used, which is a sweet idea…

  5. Jock Murphy says:

    FYI the link to mouse is broken …

  6. Galane says:

    “…the screens actually behave as a SPI attached write only memory.”

    So! No longer a joke. ;-) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Write-only_memory_(joke)

  7. vonskippy says:

    Wonder if he has a bandaid holding the temple of his eye glasses together.

  8. Austin Lappe says:

    So, my friend has a pebble with a cracked screen so his dad just bought him a new one for Christmas. I asked him if I could have it and he gave it to me. I was able to use Youtube videos to navigate the menus and connect it to my android phone to ensure that the internals still worked.
    I’m so glad i found this video, so I knew what to expect when taking the cover off. Also, a little patience would have served you well, I was able to pry the cover off, intact, after 3 hours of prying with a carpet knife, and progressively larger flat heads. The mouser screen is on the way and i’m so excited to get it working again!

  9. pedro says:

    he painted his hair too. dafuk.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s