If you follow Apple or even technology somewhat closely you are probably aware of the buzz centered around “wearables”.
Everyday it seems there is a company or a new Kickstarter project devoted to some device we’ll attach to our body and connect to our smartphone.
There has also been a portion of the media and Wallstreet who seem to be demanding that Apple deliver us the “next big thing” or suffer the consequences.
What those are exactly are beyond me, but mostly, they seem to be centered around suffering the loss of marketshare in a category that has barely yet to develop a market.
Accepting the fact that “wearables” are a thing and that they are, or will become, a next big thing:
Does Apple need to get into the “wearables” category?
If they do, should it be with an iWatch?
What is a smartwatch?
If Apple is already late to the smartwatch party, so is everyone else. (source: The Verge)
Microsoft principal researcher Bill Buxton gave a talk recently to show off his “smartwatch” collection. Something he’s amassed over the last 35 years.
Orient Touchtone watch from 1976 had a “touch” bezel to activate the time display. Double tap the bezel for the date.
Casio AT–550 touchscreen calculator that you would draw the numbers and operators on the face of the watch to input them.
Most think a smartwatch today would use something like low power bluetooth to interact with and get data from a smartphone or other internet connected device.
Microsoft actualy had the SPOT (Smart Personal Object Technology) watch in 2004.
SPOT used MSN Direct, a FM radio-based digital service, to receive information from MSN services.
Part of what prompted my topic for this show was I used some birthday money to buy myself a Pebble.
Besides the fact that I just think the design and technology in the Pebble is cool
Low power Bluetooth
I also wanted to see what kind of benefit such a device might have for my daily life.
I think it’s easy to forget that while Apple often revolutionizes a product category, they very rarely create new ones. They do often change the rules though and they do that by looking for a few things:
How to bring a product to the category and make it infinitely better than what’s already in the market.
How can they introduce a product in the category that makes the consumer experience better and improves the lives of the consumer in significant and meaningful ways.
In short, as they said in their marketing to developers recently, “Why does the product deserve to exist”?
The process is not easy or quick, but I think very important.
I’ve said it before, Apple does sometime do what I call “public R&D”, but mostly that is something the competition uses.
So in a way I wanted the Pebble so I could see what many to be the best example of what many consider a Smartwatch is and should be.
The question I had was the Apple one, will it make my life better in any impactful or significant way?
Flawed or not I guess my main measurement for this was, does it replace or significantly improve any of the things I can do with just my iPhone alone
Backing up, just a bit. I should probably tell you about my impressions of the Pebble in general.
The packaging and unboxing was a very Apple like experience.
Downloading the App to my iPhone and setting up the device was easy.
Screen is easy to read indoors and outside in direct sunlight.
The design is simple and elegant.
Very light weight.
Buttons are a little “chunky” and hard to press at times
The USB charging cable is a magnetic connector. Doesn’t hold that tightly to the watch. No power “brick”.
Using the Pebble
Sometimes the glossy display is an issue
In sunlight there can be some strange iridescence on the screen
Has a light that can be activated by motion. Can be a bit short for texts and emails.
A variety of default watchfaces, and you can get more from the App.
I was confused when the only “apps” seemed to be watchfaces.
One of the main reasons I was re-interested in the Pebble was stories of a software update that brought GMail and IMAP notification support.
Notifications for texts (iMessage), emails, and calls.
A pretty strong vibration sensor lets you know when you get a notification.
When a call comes in you have a answer and ignore button
These are mapped to the buttons on the right of the watch
Icons indicate what does what.
Messages show up on the watchface and you can read them.
The buttons let you scroll forward or back in the message
You get the important details. Subject, from, body (abbreviated).
Can scroll though multiple emails.
You set up accounts from the App, and with IMAP they just auto configure based on hostname
All messages come in from all accounts that are set up.
Music controls, for the Music app.
Play pause, skip forward and back.
Notifications don’t always seem to be 100% reliable.
Need to have notifications set to appear on the lock screen, possibly have the app running in the background on the phone
They have a tip on the support site that they call the iOS “finger dance”. Basically going into notifications setting it from ‘Banner’ to ‘None’ and tuning OFF lock screen notifications then turning it back on and setting the notification back to ‘alerts’ or ‘banners’.
After spending over a week with the device here is what I’ve liked and haven’t
Being able to see who is calling or if I need to respond to a text without removing my phone from my pocket is great.
Emails is not the same, but likely because I get so many emails and many are spam. If I could filter which emails I get notices on that would be better.
There is no history and you can’t review old notifications
Main buttons are defaulted to changing the watch face. Often accidentally change the watchface.
Battery lasts several days even with heavy notifications. I’d say 2–3 days, site claims up to 5 days.
Can answer a phone call, but it can’t default to use speaker. Also caller ID doesn’t always work (know issue).
Light fades out too quickly for anything other than checking the time.
Software (apps) were hard to find and there aren’t many yet.