Pebble SmartWatch, The Beginning of A New Era
A lot has been said lately about wearable computing. From Google’s project glass to the rumored Apple iWatch, wearables are the next revolution in computing. The only problem, project glass is in its infancy and the iWatch does not exist outside of the imaginary (probably white and beautiful) walls of Jony Ive’s secret lair. Almost every major company has laid claims that they have a wearable device in the wings, yet only one company is actually shipping one.
The Pebble SmartWatch
In April of 2012 a young startup announced an idea on the crowd funding website Kickstarter for a elegant watch with the ability to directly communicate information to and from your phone. This simple idea became the most highly funded Kickstarter project to date with $10,266,844 pledged by 68,928 people. I unfortunately was not one of those 68,928 people and due to supply constraints could not purchase the SmartWatch through Pebble’s website. However, unashamedly I wanted to be apart of this new revolution in computing and my best friend eBay came to my rescue. My name is Brad and this is my story as a sell out eBay pebble backer.
In the beginning
On a cold day in March I proudly paid a premium to take a Pebble off the hands of one capitalistic citizen, my life hasn’t been the same since. Once Pebble arrived I was surprised to find Apple worthy packaging and a beautiful device inside.
Although I am only a Kickstarter backer via proxy, this device was engraved with Kickstarter edition.
Setup of the device was extremely straight forward. With a few key presses on Pebble and in the settings menu of my phone my life immediately started to change.
Many habits in life are hard to break, pulling your phone out of your pocket to check the time, emails, texts and notifications every few minutes happens to be one of them. My smartphone over the years has become somewhat like an extra appendage. I rely on it for almost everything. My connected life revolves in some way around communicating with this device in my pocket. What I never realized, was that a large portion of that communication was incoming content. The pebble quickly opened my eyes to this realization. The moment Pebble was connected to my phone I began receiving emails and texts on my wrist. Alerted with a subtle vibration I was able to leave my phone alone and glance at my wrist. What I began to realize is that Pebble is like the secretary you see in movies that serves as a gateway to the very important individual behind the office door, she helps determine if the incoming communication is worth her boss’s time or if he should remain unbothered.
Over time pebble began to awaken me from the matrix I didn’t know I was in. No longer was I constantly staring at my phone like the zombies you see walking down the street. Instead I was apart of the real world, actually spending more time with my family and friends. I even disabled the vibration toggle on my phone and began only to rely on the vibrations of Pebble when calls or notifications came through. The beautify was in the simplicity of it all. When calls or texts came in, I would simply glance at my wrist for a split second, if it deserved my attention I would respond, if it could be deferred until later I would continue with my day. Some may argue they can do this without a Pebble simply by pulling their phone from their pocket, however I found this distracting while Pebble was almost effortless or second nature.
The Nitty Gritty
Pebble has a beautiful e-paper display (not e-ink) that is easily readable in any lighting condition. The backlight can be activated with a simple flick of the wrist via the built in accelerometer. The display is made of plastic which according to the pebble website is scratch resistant. I however found it isn’t quite as scratch resistant as what you may be used to on your smartphone. After receiving several small scratches on the display through normal use and a lot of research on how to remove them, I purchased Polywatch Plastic Lens Scratch Remover and successfully restored this precious gem back to health. I then quickly purchased a Skinomi Skin screen protector and haven’t worried about scratches since. Overall I found that the Pebble is extremely well made and comfortable to wear. In the infancy of wearables, the bar for realistic battery life has yet to be determined, however pebble fairs excellently at 5-7 days of use. There wasn’t any significant hit on the battery life of my smartphone either from having Pebble constantly connected via bluetooth. I charge my phone nightly and had plenty of juice when it came time to plug it in for the evening. After plugging my smartphone in to charge, Pebble continued to send me notifications from several rooms away.
Security has been on the minds of most technologists lately. We have seen fellow bloggers lose their entire life’s worth of photos due to a flaw in Apple and Amazon’s password recovery policies (recently fixed). We have seen popular services such as Vudu and Evernote require password resets because their customer databases were compromised. Enter Two-Factor authentication, the answer to what ails ya. Many companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Dropbox have implemented two-factor authentication to lessen these security threats. Two-Factor authentication typically has a slow adoption rate due to its inconvenient nature. It requires that you not only supply your password but also a “second factor” of verification such as a pin code texted to your mobile phone. This is where Pebble comes in. Since Pebble can receive text messages, two-factor authentication is a breeze! Now when logging into a web service with two-factor your secondary verification is conveniently sent to your wrist. It almost makes this normal inconvenience fun, almost James Bond-esk.
It’s Not All Cotten Candy Colored Rainbows and Kittens
Although the Pebble is a revolutionary device, it isn’t perfect. In fact it seems fairly beta. To be fair the device isn’t shipping to non-Kickstarter backing customers yet and backers are aware of the implied beta nature of the product. I have however noticed over the last Month and a half, significant improvements in software with each bi-monthly firmware update.
Some of the current issues are phone OS specific. iPhone users can expect several issues that are due to the closed nature of Apples phone OS. With iPhone some users are experiencing 24 hour battery life instead of the advertised 5-7 days, though this was recently addressed with a software update. There is also a bug where Pebble often asks for permission in which if you press accept, pulls you directly out of what you are doing and into the pebble app. Caller ID for phone calls often does not work but a simple force close of the Pebble app and relaunch will fix it. Notifications from non-Apple apps have to be reconfigured every time Pebble is disconnected from Bluetooth, an annoyance that is fixed for jailbreakers with a downloadable tweak. These small issues are however not enough to hinder the hope of what this device could be and will become. None of these issues occur on Android.
Cotten Candy Colored Rainbows and Kittens
The promise of this device is undeniable. With downloadable watch faces and the promise of full applications on the device, the future is bright for this one. I have tasted the sweet nectar that is wearable computing and I’m all in! I have a sense of freedom when I’m using pebble. Free to experience life instead of having my head constantly buried in my smartphone. The pebble may not be 100% perfect or have all of the features that a Star Trek lover might desire, but what it offers is a way to detach yourself from the smothering smartphone, take a deep breath and enjoy life. Pebble has recently released a SDK for creating your own watch faces with some amazing results thus far. Did I mention Pebble can run snake and tetris!! Pebble has me reading emails, texts, notifications, answering/declining calls, two-factor security mastering, and pausing/playing my favorite podcast (the cult cast of course) all without touching my greasy smartphone. My wife and kids thank you Pebble. Welcome to the future.