A week with the Pebble Smartwatch

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Lost in thought and time during a long winter break in Toronto, I was staring at my watch wondering why each minute feels like an hour. I recollected reading an article about how we perceive time differently based on our environments. If we are busy pursuing something, we assume time to be running fast. If we are doing nothing like I was before writing this article, we assume time to be still. However, time always moves at the same speed. It’s our perception of time that changes. If something changes this perception, then we should stop and take a look at it. Meet Pebble… A smartwatch that created ripples in the way I see time, literally…

My source of entertainment has always been technology. Like an ‘investor’, I was browsing through the latest tech inventions on Kickstarter when I wondered what was the most successful product to come out of this crowdsourcing platform. A quick Google search showed up Pebble smartwatch, which I read a lot about since its inception. However, it failed to gather the interest of my wallet for many reasons. Like many I was probably waiting for mass adoption. Nonetheless, I bit the bullet this time to see what it can be used for.

First, most of us (typical consumers) are in the prehistoric period in terms of wearable tech like smartwatches. I used an analog watch since time unknown. I never felt the need to buy something fancy for something as simple as noticing time. The analog version did the job quite well. However, when I started seeing a flood of wearable tech in the market (read fitness bands, smartwatches, google glass etc), I wondered what behaviour could these alter and how they could improve my life. I see a huge potential in wearable technology, especially smartwatches at this stage.

Before 2007, most of us performed certain actions in our life like checking email, browsing internet, listening to music and making phone calls on different devices. It changed completely with the advent of smartphones, especially iPhone, as we started performing advanced tasks, including the basic ones mentioned above, using just one device. However, we reached a point where things are getting too complex even with larger screens. In any particular time, we are bombarded with multiple notifications, alarms, reminders or alerts. The frequency of bombardment depends on how busy one is in life. We need an assistant, a smart one, which can help us organize our lives better. This is where I see Pebble playing wonderfully. It will go down in the history books as the one that started it all like the iPhone.

2013-12-18 00.10.52 HDRI won’t bore you to death on how much a Pebble can help you organize because it’s one thing to tell what it can do but it’s something greater to experience what it is in reality. For example, while I’m writing this article on my beloved Macbook Pro, I can quickly check things like the battery status of my iPhone as it’s charging.One might ask what’s the use of this! You’ll be surprised to know how much it’s not good to overcharge your smartphone, be it the health of your phone’s battery or the power bill that you might get. It’s not a huge thing on it’s own but the Pebble can do several such small things and when you add them all, you’ll never go back to old ways of managing yourselves.

How many times have you turned on your smartphone display to see if you got a new notification, be it from someone special or from your friends. Do you know that such small activity on your phone can drain anywhere between 5-10% of your phone’s battery? Pebble helped me save that 5-10% because I can check/ignore notifications as and when they appear. One might argue that the Bluetooth connection required might neutralize this advantage. However, the connection used is low energy radio and it consumes less battery than the traditional connection. Nonetheless, the big benefit is that I look at my phone only when I need to. Just think of it… I LOOK AT MY PHONE ONLY WHEN I NEED TO… Truly powerful yet simple…

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The power of this tool was realized in a conversation with a friend at a coffee shop. This particular friend of mine hates me when I glance at my phone during a conversation. I glance out of habit than necessity. This is a habit that most of us have and one that is bad for reasons you and I know very well. With the advent of technology, the human element in the conversations is lost. Thanks to Pebble, I could concentrate more on the conversation. I can quickly glance at a notification or an alert on my wrist without looking at the phone thus avoiding the thought of being perceived as boring by the other person. Not only could it save relationships, it can improve your performance at work too. How many times has it bothered you if a member in a team meeting glances at his phone while you are delivering an important message. With Pebble, people can become more mindful of people around them. I can keep on going about things that the Pebble can help you with but I will leave it for your own exploration.

Although not everything is rosy with the Pebble. First, the screen is old school, low resolution and e-ink. This works in favour of battery life though. I recharged only once in the last 7 days. Second, the software can get some help. It works but its too basic. It reminds me a lot of Android 1.0. There is lot of potential but its going to take a while before its perfected. Google took 4 versions to get its OS right. Let’s hope Pebble can do it sooner. The recently released SDK 2.0 is a step in the right direction. Look forward to the next version of the OS which could bring some addition functionality that is much needed. Third, versatility of apps is quite basic at this stage (soon to change with the newly announced App store).

2013-12-23 20.05.44For example, you can check notifications, set alarms, and control music from the smartwatch. There areadd-ons available in the market, either through watchfaces or apps, through which you can do additional stuff like checking weather, calendar, reminders, etc. However, these add-ons are not always perfect. Occasionally, I need to open the companion app on my phone to refresh the connection. Moreover, the vibration on the wrist can be strange in the beginning but it grows on you. Even though it was weird in the beginning, I love the way Pebble vibrates to wake me up. I can confidently say that I’m never going back to waking up with a sound alarm.

Just like the subtlety of waking up with a vibration on the wrist instead of a sound near by, Pebble does a lot of marginal things that are not groundbreaking. However, if you add all of them up, the sum total is more valuable than the individual parts alone. Moreover, to know how a smartwatch shouldn’t be, look at the Samsung Galaxy Gear. It does a lot when the consumer is not ready for all of them. Pebble is a perfect introduction of a smartwatch and it strikes the right balance novelty and utility. It won’t let you do stuff on the wrist, it just helps you organize the stuff coming to your smartphone. Its the perfect organizer that each one of us should have. The only caveat is it works well for a person who needs an organizer which is most of us are.

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