Five days with Pebble

After months of waiting, my Pebble arrived Thursday. It sounds like I’m among the first to receive one, a matter of luck in my timing and choosing the black-colored model, which was the first go to mass production.

I didn’t have many expectations for the device – I’d backed it on Kickstarter because it seemed neat and I was excited to see hardware startups to pick up a bit of steam.

But after just five days of wearing it, I gotta say – this thing belongs in my life.

Second Screen

With the Pebble, I can check my iPhone without checking my iPhone. Spare me the first-world problems meme for a moment and consider:

Decorum

Sometimes I want to give the people I’m with my undivided attention. That means the phone stays firmly in my pocket. And as long as no calls or notifications come in, that’s fine. But once my pocket starts buzzing, my mind can start to run wild with curiosity. Is someone in trouble, or did a dumb tweet get faved by someone? That game can erode attention after awhile. With the Pebble, I can discreetly glance at my wrist without breaking the flow of conversation.

Good for walking

I spend a lot of time walking. Touch screens demand real attention, as you have to engage both eyes and fingers to use them. Kinda need my eyes for walking. Since Pebble can control any media app on my iPhone, I can keep the phone in my pocket and my eyes on the sidewalk ahead of me. The Pebble’s hardware buttons are large and meaty, very easy to operate blind.

This is worlds better than the remote controls included on some earbuds – back, forward and play/pause get their own buttons when Pebble is in music mode. If there’s any ambiguity about which track is playing, it’s quick and easy to glance at the Pebble’s screen.

Since Pebble is waterproof, it also makes it easier to use your phone – which isn’t – in the rain.

The best part about walking with Pebble – no more missed calls or texts when you’re out and about. With your legs in motion, it’s easy to miss the buzz of your phone. Pebble’s built-in vibration motor gives a nice kick to the wrist. Notifications display right on the screen, so you can make a choice about answering or ignoring without breaking stride.

Safety first

San Francisco is my favorite place on earth, but a reality of living here is sometimes you’ll walk through an area where you’d rather keep expensive things in your pocket. The benefits I’ve described above make it easy to interact with your phone even under circumstances where you’d like to pretend you don’t have one.

 

For me, having a second interface to my iPhone is proving to be pretty handy.

Quirks and needed improvements

Pebble is a good product, full stop. Pebble is amazing for a product made by a small team without VC funding. The build quality is first-rate, the software is reliable.

I found the stock strap to be a little chunky and, as it was thick rubber, it didn’t breathe very well. I replaced it with a nice nylon number for $12 on Amazon.

Out of Pebble’s hands is a bug in iOS that requires fiddling with notification settings on a per-app basis each time you reboot the phone. The tech that allows iOS to pass notifications along to Pebble and other Bluetooth devices was introduced in iOS 6 and its immaturity shows. Hopefully this flakiness is resolved sooner rather than later. But fuck it – I live in early adopter town, this is how it goes.

Entirely in Pebble’s control is the ordering of “apps” on the watch itself. I use two apps – a particular clock style I like and the music app. Switching between these two is cumbersome, requiring me to scroll up or down a menu to make my selection. Ordering apps by recency of use would solve this immediately. If you could re-order the system apps, that would do the job too.

Pebble uses a clever but proprietary magnetic connector for charging. This allows it to be waterproof, which is great news. The tradeoff is that there is one and only one cable in my possession that can charge the watch and, for the moment at least, there’s no easy way to get a second one for the office or travel bag. Pebble’s week-long battery life mitigates the pain I’d probably otherwise feel around this point, though.

Overall, it’s a love connection

I’m impressed. I love using it. At one point I forgot to put it on my wrist and I spent the rest of that day regretting it. I can recommend the pre-order for city-dwellers and techies. I’m excited to see what they do with their SDK, so I can start to build custom apps that run on the watch.

While there’s still a lot to do in Pebble land – most Kickstarter backers haven’t even gotten theirs yet – there’s a bright future ahead of this product.