A fortnight with Pebble: a 2-week review

Its's here! #Pebble

A post shared by Chris Webb (@webby37) on

Ladies & Gentlemen… introducing my new buddy, Pebble. As you can see, I’ve been waiting for this little guy for a pretty, pretty, pretty long time:

Screen_Shot_2013-03-01_at_1.23.11_PM copy

When I bought into Pebble, my first Kickstarter, 10 months ago, I was excited about the idea of a Bluetooth watch that would connect to my iPhone (that I didn’t own yet) and notify me of messages and emails with only a peek at the wrist. I was also interested in the idea of getting in on the “ground floor” of a pretty neat concept (smart watches) that few other companies had successfully ventured into. When funding a Kickstarter, you’re not only purchasing a product—you’re buying into an idea. Over the last year, Pebble has sent out 33 emails to backers, chronicling the challenges they’ve faced in making a quality product, the intricacies of going from an idea to a factory to a wrist, and the little bonus adjustments they’ve found they’re able to throw in unexpectedly (Waterproof! Bluetooth 4.0! Eric is a smurf!). It’s been a fascinating process that I’ve enjoyed being a part of, and honestly, I’m so excited to have been in the loop, the watch could be so-so and I’d still be pretty pumped about what I’d receive.

So when, 3 weeks ago, I got an email from Pebble letting me know that my little friend was on the way, I audibly cheered. (They apparently did, too.)

I didn’t do an unboxing video—they’ve been done to death, and when you see how little is in the box, you’ll get the pointlessness of chronicling the experience.

However, after getting the thing out, letting it charge for 30 minutes, popping it onto my wrist, pairing it with my iPhone, and updating the software… wow. Pretty cool. Email notifications buzzed my wrist, not so hard that I felt like I was being electrocuted, but still enough that it got my attention with more gusto than just my phone, in my pocket. I could walk down the hallway from my classroom, through a few doors and walls, and still be notified of iMessages sent to me by other teachers. I pretty quickly tested Pebble’s ability to change songs I was listening to on my iPhone—in fact, getting really fancy, I streamed my music off my iPhone to my classroom Mac Mini’s speakers, and then used Pebble to skip songs—and I was pretty excited to see how responsive it was. Nifty.

And the watchfaces? How can I even begin to choose my favorite. Fuzzy Time‘s concept is my favorite, but the font for Text Watch is so handsome. And Big Time, my first downloaded watchface… daaang, boy. Loving the style. Some of the other watchfaces are pretty cool, too, but until the SDK is released, we’ll have to wait for Pebble’s new faces to get in new faces.

Pebble + NATO band

That’s the big disappointment for all Pebblers, at this point—is the lack of an open SDK. Once that’s available, there will be the ability for people to make watchfaces and apps and all kinds of other cool “smart watch” things. I know Pebble’s talked about getting it out there soon, but until then, you’ve got to lower the grade of the product by at least one letter. I’m personally not a huge fan of the watchband, either, and I might eventually swap it out for one of those cool NATO bands. For now, it’ll do, but I was hoping that the band would be more sillicone-y & rubbery; as it stands now, it’s just a plastic thing. Not bad, but something I think I’ll eventually replace.

The big problem with having a Bluetooth watch is, obviously, the Bluetooth draining the battery. I already have to charge my iPhone every night, but with the Pebble, I’m finding that I have to either top up my battery at some point during the day or charge it as soon as I get home. I’m constantly slammed with emails at work (via two email accounts), so the iPhone’s push feature is working hard on a daily basis. Similarly, with Pebble, I’ve heard that the battery should last about a week—up to this point, I’m probably having to charge once ever 2-or-3 days. I’ve heard rumors that, strangely, the battery’s life gets better as you use it more, so I’m hoping that eventually extends my life a bit more, but for now, it’s still a bit shorter than I’d hope.

I hope this isn’t coming off as negative at all, because truly, in owning my Pebble for less than 15 minutes, I was already relying on my wrist to check up on iMessages and emails over my iPhone or iPad. It’s so fantastic to just glance down, take a peek, and know if I need to respond, delete, or let the message just sit. Email triage is a lot easier when I can just peek down at my wrist and determine what my reaction is to the message.

All-in-all, I’m still so excited about Pebble. The whole process was so long and involved that I’m thrilled to advertise for this cool company. As the SDK opens up and the ability to stream turn-by-turn directions and weather forecasts to the watch, this will be a product that I’ll increasingly depend on in my every day life.

Other fleeting thoughts:

  • hugely prefer answering my phone via my watch than with the on-screen buttons; however, it’s annoying to answer with the watch and to still put the phone up to my ear. Here’s to the dream that Pebble will allow you to eventually answer a phone call straight to speakerphone.
  • Coolest. Charger. Ever. Pebble’s got a USB charger, but it’s in a similar vein to Apple’s magnetic laptop chargers (i.e. non-invasive), and it just snaps on cleanly and fits right into place.
  • The e-paper screen looks good in the dark and excellent in the sunlight. Bright, contrasty, and easy-to read at an arm’s length.
  • It’s light. Very light.
  • iOS is weird with it right now, and sometimes my phone and Pebble seem to forget about each other and I have to reintroduce them. I’m expecting an update will come soon that cures that.
  • Never underestimate how cool it is to glance at your wrist to see a text. Nifty.
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