A few weeks ago, I bought a Pebble smartwatch. For one, I needed to replace my existing watch, as it was getting a bit old and scratched up, and for two, I’ve been watching the smartwatch category for a few years, and decided it was finally time to jump in.
My first experience with a smartwatch was actually back in 2008, with the Sony Ericsson MBW-150 smartwatch. This was a basic standard watch, but it had a small single-line LCD display embedded, and a companion app on your phone (Symbian primarily, at the time) would allow it to display your incoming emails or text messages.
Since then, there have been a number of entrants, but the Pebble is the most intriguing one.
So, my first impressions?
Price – the price is right – $150, or cheaper in some cases, is roughly what I paid for my other watch, which was a simple timepiece. So, worst-case scenario, the Pebble is a little bit more, and I can change the watchface at will. It’s much more than that, though.
Build Quality – the Pebble is waterproof up to 100m, which is more than enough. It comes in your choice of 5 glossy colors (I chose black) and has four rather large, clicky buttons along the sides. It’s very lightweight, but feels rock solid. The buttons click well, without being too ‘squishy’. Unfortunately, one of the ways they saved on the final cost is in the bundled wristband – it’s sturdy enough, but it’s basically a strip of rubber, and it feels incredibly cheap. Luckily, the Pebble fits any standard 22mm watchband, so your possibilities are basically limitless in terms of replacing that band with something that’s not so cheap.
Software – The Pebble is officially currently on v1.14, released just a week or so ago, but that’s not what I’m running. I went ahead and nerded out and stepped up to the v2.x beta that’s available if you’re registered as a developer. It’s not for the faint of heart – there are still bugs (hence it being a beta….) but it does add some extra features. Overall, the stock software is incredibly easy to use. Unlike some other watches, the buttons not only perform logical actions, but pretty much always perform those actions, so it’s easy to navigate the UI.
Out of the box, you’ll need to download the Pebble app to your iOS or Android device – this is how you update the firmware and otherwise manage your Pebble. It doesn’t connect to a computer at all, which is smart. The out-of-box support for notifications is probably good for most consumers – more on 3rd party apps in a future post.
So, what do I use it for?
As I like to tell people, worst-case scenario, it’s a watch that you can customize. However, I firmly believe that technology should enrich and enable your real life. Some of the ‘cool’ stuff that I’ve been able to setup already include:
1. Notifications – obviously, but with a couple of 3rd party apps, I get pretty robust notifications from basically any app on my phone. This makes it REALLY easy to look at my phone less, which is helpful in the evenings, when I’m hanging out with my wife and daughter, and when I’m at work, when I need all the focus I can get.
2. Music Control – I can control the music playing through my phone from my watch, including volume and track skip. Sounds silly, but it’s really handy. For instance, the other night I was playing Pandora on my phone, chromecasted to my TV, and was able to control this from my watch. Brilliant (and admittedly, lazy).
3. Foursquare Check-In – I recently discovered an app that lets me check-in on Foursquare right from my watch, without having to pull my phone out. Brilliant.
Overall, a few weeks in and I’m totally in love with this watch. It’s simple, yet open enough to really geek out if I want to. There’s still some hardware customization that I’d like to do – a new watchband and probably a custom skin, but otherwise, it’s great.