Sunday, September 1, 2013
Pebble Smartwatch Review
The Pebble smartwatch is a bluetooth enabled watch with a small E-Ink display. It comes in a multitude of colors with a standard size watch band that can be replaced with any watch band of your choice. In addition to the watch there's an included USB charger that connects to the phone by magnets . The beauty of this device is it works not only for Android devices but also for iPhone, which is an important factor me. Any smartwatch I purchase has to be universal, compatible with at least all Android phones and even though I know I will never have an iPhone it's nice to know that the Pebble will work with iPhone as well as Android which covers the majority of the smartphone market.
There have been several smart watches released already but none really got it right for me. Looking ahead my only reservation with the Pebble is that there are some major companies rumored to be about to drop smart watches too. Samsung is revealing the Samsung Galaxy Gear in a few days now. Apple is allegedly working on a smart watch, as is Google. So this is an exciting time for this new genre of technology. As much as I like the Pebble watch I'm really excited to see what's coming from Google and Samsung especially and that is my biggest if not only reservation about keeping my Pebble. As the market developed there will be room for a spectrum of different smart watches balancing features and watch design. This would be ideal and address different customers needs and preferences. The Samsung Galaxy Gear is rumored to have the specs of a low end android phone including a camera. Not everyone would want or need all that in a smart watch.
The Pebble watch is very simple. Unlike many of the other previously released smartwatches the Pebble watch does not have a touch screen interface. It is navigated completely by the use of four buttons. On the left side above the charging port you have the back button, on the right hand side you have three buttons, the top button navigating one direction, the middle button is a selection button and the bottom button being a navigation button in the opposite direction (depending on the menu, navigation may be right and left or maybe up and down).
After turning on the Pebble watch for the first time you're prompted to download the Pebble app from the Google Play Store or the Appstore for Android and iPhone respectively. Once the app is downloaded it will begin the setup process connecting your Pebble with your phone via bluetooth. After that it will apply any updates that may be available. When this is over you're good to go the Pebble application is what controls and manages most the functionality of the watch as far as adding apps and new content to the device. The app allows you to show which notifications you will receive when and how you receive those and some other basic settings . By default you have the ability receive notifications from SMS gmail, other emails, Hangout, Facebook, and Whatsapp ( initially the fact that you could only receive notifications from a limited number of applications was one of my biggest complaints but since writing this I found some additional apps that add the ability to receive notifications from any other app. Check back for my updated advanced features review coming soon). The app also allows you to select which music player will be controlled by your watch (another limitation that I have found an app, Music Boss, that allows you to control multiple music apps and toggle between those music apps as well as adjust the volume. By default all you can do is pause, play, skip forward/backward, fast forward/rewind).
From the main watch face screen the navigation buttons on the pebble can be used to toggle between the various watch faces. One of the pebbles most basic features is the ability to change watch faces as well as download interactive apps, games and custom-made watch faces. You can also create your own custom watch faces. All of these additional features come from developers outside of Pebble. One of the pebbles greatest features is that it is completely open source. This leaves it open for developers to completely access its code and create applications and software that take advantage of the Pebble’s hardware. There are tons of apps and websites that provide applications games watch faces and allow for the creation of a custom watch faces. (Check out Watch Face Generator and My Pebble Faces)They're also additional apps that add new advance functionality to the watch. Developers are generally able to creatively use the pebble hardware with their software, adding completely new and robust features to the watch (many of which I did not even stumble across until the last day if my trial period. Luckily I'm getting more trial time so check back for the advanced features Pebble review).
There's no debating the pebbles innate cool factor. For any sci-fi fan, gamer, superhero fan etc. this has been something we are long overdue. It's pretty obvious how it could be convenient in some situations and at least just fun to play with. At $150 though, I'm guessing most need to justify the purchase a bit better. I was in that boat, and so far after two weeks it is doing a pretty good job of being more than just a toy. Unfortunately, I got it at a time when there are some huge competitors on the way. I am currently waiting to get a new phone until I see the next Nexus device from Google this fall and I’m really hoping that it will come along with a Google made Nexus watch as well. The Pebble has proven to me that I have a place for a smart watch and I feel very comfortable recommending it to others. I'm just going to hold off a bit longer until the dust settles a bit in the industry, as hard as it will be to take the Pebble back.
Check back for my advanced features review after I go a few more weeks with the Pebble!
Check out my video review to see more!