How I Fixed a Garbled Screen Tearing Issue with My Pebble Watch
Wait a minute. What am I doing talking about a Pebble watch on a site dedicated to videogames? Well, the Pebble is sort of gaming related. Did you know there are several apps for the watch to assist you with certain console games? For example, I installed a Destiny companion app on my Pebble watch. It allows me to look at my wrist to quickly see how much “Glimmer” currency I have, how many “Marks” I have earned, and how close I am to reaching my weekly limit. It’s unnecessary, but kinda cool. That’s not what I am here to talk about though.
For the last month I have been having an annoying issue with my Pebble where the screen was getting corrupted into a garbled mess. I went online and found countless complaints on support forums describing the exact same problem. Some described it as “screen tearing” while others described it as “pixelated” or “distorted”. Whatever they decided to call it, it was all the same problem. What was everyone’s solution? It was to simply RMA it and hope they can get a replacement in a timely manner. The only problem with that is, there are many people complaining online about how long the process takes, and they often will experience the same problem again several weeks later with their replacement watch. I am also a pretty impatient guy and I don’t mind taking things apart.
When I was doing extensive reading about the issue and what caused the screen tearing, I found out it is due to a hardware issue and not to a firmware or software issue. I tried doing a factory reset numerous times on my watch and it didn’t solve the problem. Some people online were comparing notes and realized that if you push on the bottom half of the watch with your thumb while your forefinger is on the other side, the problem would go away. In other words, the distorted, pixelated, screen tearing is all because of a loose connection somewhere in the watch. I decided to try this myself, and sure enough, all of the distorted lines went away! A few minutes later I kept trying to see if the lines would come back, and sure enough they did. So what did I do to remedy this permanently? I decided to open up my watch.
I was scared of the idea at first, because I know that the watch is “waterproof” or at least “water-resistant” (so I assumed it was glued shut). I started looking up a few teardown videos and as many tutorials that I could find and it is actually pretty simple to open up. There are basically just 4 tiny screws on the back cover that are holding the back plate in place. They are “star” aka “torx” shaped, but I was able to get a snug fit using an eyeglass repair kit flat-head screwdriver. Gently pop the cover loose, but be careful not to tug too hard because the vibrating motor was glued to the back cover of my watch. You don’t want to pull on the wires going to the motor. That was about as far as I needed to go in terms of opening it up.
The only thing left to do was to find a way to keep that “pressure” on the bottom-half of the watch. I just used a few layers of electrical tape (foam will work too) to add some extra thickness so it would keep the pressure in place. I screwed the back cover back on, turned on the watch, and I haven’t noticed any distorted lines on my watch ever since! Sure, it’s not the most “technical” way to solve the problem. You probably could open it up further to narrow down the issue to a loose cable or something else, but the more you dig into opening it up, the more you might risk damaging an internal component.
If the problem somehow comes back, I’m just going to open it up and add a few more layers of tape until the problem goes away for good. I doubt I will be able to RMA it at this point since I basically “voided” my warranty, but the watch sells for under $100 these days anyway. Good luck!