Thursday, June 12, 2014

Pebble power

To be honest, I’ve been a bit of a “wearables” sceptic. I gave up wearing a watch about ten years ago – a sort of two finger salute to being driven by the mechanics of time. So, when wearable computing started to be ‘the next big thing,’ I was like, “nah, don’t need it”. But then I got a “Pebble” smart watch to try out and I realised that I have needed one for quite a while.
I have two use cases for this wearable – when I am at home and when I am in the car. At home I seldom have my phone on my person – I usually leave it someplace and then fail to hear it when I get a call, message, email etc. When driving, I want to know whether the call is worth pulling over to respond too without fumbling in my case or pocket for the phone. The Pebble addresses both these needs and, in addition, becomes a general first-line interface for the phone, meaning that I pull out the phone to check it far less often.

The phone talks to the Pebble via Bluetooth (in my case, Bt v4 on the Pebble and Bt v3 on the phone). The connection seems rock solid, and reconnects seamlessly when the Pebble has been out of range from the phone.

Out the box, the Pebble has only basic functionality and I quickly added two key apps – “Notification Center” which replaces the Pebble’s limited notifications with any notification that the phone and its apps are able to generate. And secondly “Wristponder” a $2 app that can send canned SMS messages from the Pebble (useful in meetings or when driving). Both these apps have an Android component that lives on the phone. A third app “Pebblets” provides a calendar, calculator, timer, weather, stocks, and RSS feeds and lives solely on the phone.

Being the size of a watch it has a very limited interface but enough to read short email messages, texts and check the weather. The canned messages feature of “Wristponder” is brilliant for acknowledging texts or providing limited information like “running late be there soon” without having to stop to type the message on the phone.

Pebble works with iOS and Android devices (but not Windows Phone or BlackBerry) and costs US$150 in its basic form (shown above) and US$250 for the ‘Pebble Steel’ version. If you thought that Pebbles were for skimming across the pond or providing interest at the bottom of a fish tank, then this Pebble might make you think again.

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