Eric Stewart: Running Off At The Mouth

A Day With The Pebble

by Eric Stewart on Nov.03, 2013, under Technology

Back in the day, I used to wear (and still own, somewhere) a Timex Datalink watch.  I liked having my information on my wrist, but I got away from wearing a watch because, as cell phones become more prevalent and smarter, the need to have that information (which could easily become dated) on my wrist became less important.  In fact, because of my typing position (especially on a laptop), it actually became annoying to wear a watch (something that still is an issue with the Pebble, but I’ll get into that).

As my career progressed through the various technology jobs I’ve held, it’s become something of an annoyance to have to pull out my phone to look at text messages.  While I’m not that popular among my friends to receive texts enough for it to become a problem, I do tend to get a fair number of texts from monitoring systems.  In addition, there are times where pulling out the phone to look at the caller ID or a text message is accompanied by a “Why did I bother?” feeling.

Enter the Pebble.

The Pebble, to put it simply, is a remote display of your smart phone (Android or iPhone).  It connects over the phone via Bluetooth, and has an e-paper (black and white) display.  By default, it’s a watch with the ability to choose between different display faces.  But it also has the ability to display new text messages, caller ID, and emails.  It vibrates as a notification; this can be so convenient enough that one review noted that it was possible to put the phone into silent mode all the time, yet still get the notices you’d need.  In addition, there are apps available for the Pebble to extend the functionality – more so if you’ve jailbroken your iPhone.

So … what do I think?

Well, it’s big.  Almost too big for my girly wrist.  And it’s good that it takes a standard wrist watch band, because I’m thinking of replacing it with a simple Velcro band.  Other than that … well, it’s only been a day.  I’ve spent money on Smartwatch+ (an iPhone/Pebble app combo), which has some nice functions (or will have, when the weather check functionality is fixed) for even non-jailbroken iPhones.  My biggest critique, though?

The Pebble has, as one of its sensors, a 3D accelerometer.  Thing is, the API for this is not available to developers yet.  If it were, then an app might be available for the Pebble that would take the place of a Fitbit (I recently purchased a One) or Jawbone Up.  Both companies should be keeping an eye on this, because once  access to the Pebble accelerometer is available, they could sell a reasonably pricey app for it, and people wouldn’t need two devices to perform the functions of both a smart watch and an activity tracker.

Another warning: since it frequently communicates with your phone via Bluetooth, it’s likely to have a noticeable impact on your phone’s battery life, especially if you use apps that up the communication frequency between your phone and the watch.

At $150, it’s reasonably priced for what it does (or hopefully will do in the near future), but it is by no means a necessity.  The five to seven day battery life (if it holds up) is respectable.

The list of things of what the Pebble can’t do might be long but, in my opinion, you can make the list as long as you want if you’re willing to nitpick.  Got the money to blow?  Don’t have a car payment?  Current watch not doing it for you?  You might take a look at the Pebble.


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