- Consumer Electronics & Personal Gadgets
Review Pebble Steel Smartwatch And The New App Store - Wearable Match Made In Heaven
Did you follow that - now famous - Kickstarter campaign back in 2012, where Pebble Technology aimed to crowd-fund $100,000 for a new waterproof smartwatch with an e-ink display and some sensors?
If you did, then you know that the $100,000 were past by after 2 hours and the new company has been hitted by a pile of money more then 100 times larger. That record setting campaign ended with a staggering 10.2 million dollars.
Pebbles smartwatch concept seeks to extent a smart phone rather then replacing it.
What the Pebble watch does different
Pebble Technology did what so many competitors in the wearable market couldn't.
They found that reason why people would care about "another" device to carry around. They did it by following the advice, Steve Jobs gave back in 2010 at his famous keynote to introduce the iPad:
"In order to establish a new device, it must do one thing better then any device that already exists."
Pebbles approach is therefor quite different to the rest of the pack. Pebbles does not aim to compete with your smart phone and try to replace it by doubling all the functions a modern smart phone has already. Other firms tried this approach, but couldn't convince customers, as they where not able to see any advantage over what they have in their pockets already.
On the hardware side of things, Pebble put their attention on a long lasting battery runtime, practicality by being waterproofed and easy readability of the e-ink display in bright sunlight.
On the software side the creative group around the founder and CEO Eric Migicovsky found THE killer feature. What could a wrist worn display (aka watch) massively improve in our day-to-day situations?
Be polite and socialable towards others!
It is the fact that every time you receive a notification you need to pull out your phone from your pocket, jacket or bag to satisfy your curiosity. Just to learn that the last "pling" was an advertising email, which is not really that important. Besides you just showed your friend or business partner that he/she is less important than the phone. Peeking at the little watch display on your wrist is much less intrusive in any kind of situation you may find yourself in. And if this notification is really important, you can still apologize - with a proper reason this time - why you need to interrupt and pull your phone out right now.
The first edition of the Pebble smartwatch allowed their customers to see incoming emails, text messages, phone calls and allowed them to change tracks of the current playing music on the phone.In addition to that you could change the watch faces to match your current mood or social environment.
The new Pebble Steel
The first watches were shipped in 2013.
At the CES in 2014 Pebble Technology announced a new model. This model does not succeed the original Pebble watch, but represents a second option for buyers who do not like the "sporty" look of the plastic model.
As the name may already suggest, this edition is CNC machined from stainless steel. It comes with a gorilla glass surface which should protect the display from most scratches. Furthermore the California based company throw two wristbands in the box. One made out of steel in the same color of the watch casing - in black matte or brushed stainless. The other is a black leather band.
The engineers were able squizze the same inerts of the first edition into an even smaller housing. Being smaller & thinner and looking way more professional, the Pebble Steel makes their owners looking less like a dork.
In fact if one does not pay to much attention to the Pebble Steel, one may think this is just a normal watch, which allows it to be worn even in a business setting, while enjoying the extra features over an ordinary watch.
The nicer make and better materials demand a higher price, though. The sporty first edition is still available for $150, while the newer model asks for $249.
The new Pebble App Store
Everyone has to decide for themselves, whether the Steel is worth the premium.
The new App Store on the other hand is a no-brainer!
Pebbles move, to open their watch for 3rd party developers via a SDK in 2013, was a smart one. This head-start allowed them now to introduce an App Store - for Android and iPhone - at the Las Vegas event, which is already filled with almost 1,000 apps.
This new centralized app shopping place will support the fast growing customer base in a big way.
The best watch apps as of today
It is to assume that the pebble App Store will follow the other App Stores which went live in the last years: It will grow fast!
You have to keep in mind that the watch can "only" carry 8 apps at a time. But the App Store improved things a little bit, as it has now a feature called "Locker". In this locker you have all apps at hand and can easily exchange the once you want to have on the watch at any given time.
Below follows a list of some of the more interesting apps for your existing or newly ordered Pebble watch.
There are already quite some apps like PebbleCamera, Pebble Snap and PebbCam, which allow to remote control your camera.
For example, if you are one of the sporty amateurs who’ve got a GoPro, you might be interested in the companion app. With it you can start/stop photo and video recording, change shooting mode, settings, and display what you would usually see on the GoPro’s screen.
Pebbles is not really made for highly sophisticated games, but if you pick something with simple controls and game play, you might actually enjoy a game or two. There are free versions of oldies, like Asteroids or Pebloid - an Arkanoid clone.
On the Go
Big names recognised Pebbles capability and the need to jump on early quite quick.
So it is no wonder that names like Yelp, Foursquare and Starbucks are present.
With "Yelp for Pebbles“ installed, you can shake your wrist and get some recommendations for nearby places without pulling your phone out.
Having Foursquare on your watch, lets you check in close by locations with the push of a button.
And if this location happens to be a Starbucks you can pay your latte with PebbleBucks.
Who doesn’t know this situation: You are about to leave home and can’t find your phone. While there are specific location trackers for that, you can also use RingMyPhone to "call" your phone from your Pebble smartwatch.
Tourist from out of town are easy to spot.
They pull out their phone every few meters to check their position on the map and where to turn next to get to that sign seeing spot.
That kind of hassle and embarrassment has an end now.
Just use PebbGPS, it shows you a map on your Pebble and even includes directions. As a frequent traveler, this is one of the best use cases for a smartwatch I can think of. It is easy to use, saves precious battery on my phone, because I don’t switch that big display on, every few seconds, it saves me a lot of typing (PIN anybody?) and lets me appear more like a local and a less vulnerable victim for thief’s.
You might also want to have a look at Pebble GPS & Map and Maptastic for comparison.
Just like in the travel area, known sport brands are ready for the next revolution.
Runtastic Pro, RunKeeper, Let's Muv and Movable are some of the offers to point out, when it is about motion activity tracking on your wrist.
A bit more special - but quite intelligently using the fact the Pebble is waterproof - is „Sailor“. This app displays bearing, distance and speed to the next buoy or mark.
If you are not only active yourself, but also want to know what's going on in the rest of the sports world, then the ESPN app is for you.
And as I wrote before, this way you appear as an example of good behaviour in front of your family & friends at social events or business partners at meetings, when quickly glancing at the latest score of your team.
Home automation is the other big thing coming right now.
And Pebble apps are here to assist you. Huebble commands Philips Hue lights from your wrist.
With Leaf you can set the temperature of a Nest thermostat without leaving your couch.
The Plex App, lets you control your TV, when it is equipped with Plex video.
And Kronos does the same for your Sonos music system.
The new Pebble Steel is the first smart watch, which puts attention on style and fashion. I think this was a very clever move by Pebble Technology and will ensure them to grow in a fast pace.
But it is also fair to keep the Pebble classic with the low entry price for the ones that like the sporty look. Especially as these buyers get the same inner values and apps.
The App Store will help attracting new customers as well, as the collection of today's apps are surely not the end. Companies like Pandora and Mercedes-Benz announced already their apps for the Pebbles smartwatch.
Huebble - control Philips Hue from your Pebble watch
What is your preferred Pebble watch?
© 2014 TheAndy