When the Pebble was announced back in 2012 I was a little sceptical. Do people really need to be that connected? Are we so lazy we can’t take our phones out of our pockets? I liked the design features of the watch (long battery, water resistance, light weight) but I didn’t think I was ready to throw down almost $200 Canadian for a novelty wrist watch. My dim view of wearable tech increased upon the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Gear. The promise of a Android system on your wrist in the form of a bulky, heavy looking, brightly coloured watch just held no appeal for me.
Over the past couple of years I’ve slowly changed my mind while keeping an eye on this quickly growing new sector of the hardware market. My phone usage habits and the recent drop in price of the Pebble prompted me to re-think the idea of a wearable device and so I dropped $119 on a Pebble watch to see what all the fuss was about.
I don’t usually pay too much attention to packaging but I have to admit I love the tiny little box the Pebble arrived in and the way everything was packaged so neatly inside. It reminded me of the way the Kindle was packaged and so easy to unbox and start using. The watch itself feels easily just as light weight as my treasured Casio Calculator CA53W watch although the watch face itself sits a little higher on the wrist. Very soon after opening, the watch was powered up and I was able to load apps and watchfaces from my bluetooth connected phone using the Pebble app. So far I have no complaints over the range of apps and how easy they are to configure. I won’t go into much detail about individual apps but I will call out a couple of my favourites so far:
Roku Remote – I’ve used this a few times instead of getting up and hunting for where the kids may have stashed the remote.
Google Authenticator – This is much more convenient way for me to access my 2FA codes for Google and Lastpass and will also work if I’m not in possession of my phone. I don’t like to think about the possibility of my phone being stolen but should that ever happen I’d be able to access my accounts easily from the nearest internet enabled PC/Device using the codes on my watch.
Tea Steeping Timer – All too often has a cup of Green Tea been ruined by over-steeping. No more is this the case!
There’s also a crap tonne of apps for the exercised inclined folks out there. Most allow easy access to data while running, cycling, swimming, etc so you don’t have to go digging in your sweat pants pocket.
In addition to these apps I can choose a watchface from one of the thousands available online. I can also remotely control my music/podcasts/audio books using the built in Music app. This may sound like a first world problem but I do find it annoying to dig my phone out of my pocket to pause my audio when one of my kids comes in to ask me something. I’m usually telling them to go and ask their mum most of the time but it’s nice to have my audio paused while I do that. I can now pause my music by pushing a couple of buttons on my watch even while I’m doing the dishes because look….how cool is this???
Another built-in app is the notification system that allows me to take a quick glance at incoming email and “Dismiss”, “Archive”, or “Display on my Phone”. I can also do that with SMS and, with the beta firmware installed, Google Hangouts. For SMS and Hangouts I can choose a template reply such as “OK”, “No”, “Sounds good”, “LOL”, “On my way” and a bunch of others including emoticons.
The main things I like about ereaders is the crisp, glare free, easy to read display and the amazing battery life. Both of these features also shine with the Pebble. The screen is very readable in daylight and a quick shake of the wrist will light the display in darkness. The battery life is insane. I’m 4 days into my first charge and I’m still at 60%. That’s also while I’ve been playing around configuring it, don’t forget.
I only have a couple of gripes with the watch. The first one isn’t really too much of an issue with the functions as it is with the design. I can’t speak to the comfort of the Pebble Steal but the strap on the basic model is a little uncomfortable, at least for me. I can go most of the working day without noticing it but by mid-afternoon my wrist becomes a little sore and I find myself taking it off. It’s due to the bulky clasp, guard and thick material used for the strap. I was considering returning the watch because of this but that was before I had really dived into app market. I’ve now opted to go with a different strap.
My other complaint is that I had to tinker a fair bit with the watch to get the auto replies and notifications working the way I wanted them to with Google Hangouts. I had to install the beta firmware and phone app and it’s all good now. It looks like these features will show up before too long for all other users.
I got the watch knowing I could return it to Futureshop for a full refund within 14 days. Aside from the comfort issue with the strap I haven’t really considered doing so. I’m pretty sure I’ll be sticking with it and exploring more apps from the Pebble market place. The company have hinted at newer hardware out later this year which initially made me second guess purchasing the current model. However, any future device has still not been officially announced and would likely be more expensive than the current watch. There’s also no guarantee I’d like the direction they go with the newer hardware so I’m happy to go ahead with this first generation version. All in all I’d say the watch is a good buy but I would issue this word of caution for anyone considering it: It’s a passive device. That’s one thing that I think helped me to wrap my head around getting one. Don’t expect it to change your life as much a smart phone or tablet has. This is not something to occupy you the way a those devices do. A phone or tablet is something you go to to use, play and create with. A wearable is something that merely delivers data to you and doesn’t offer many input capabilities but that’s ok. That’s the way it’s meant to be and I think the devices that will be successful in this area are the ones that manage to walk that line well.
**UPDATE: My wrist must have become accustomed to the strap as I’ve had no issues the past couple of days.**