When a Pebble is not a small thing…

It seems like everyone is rushing to create, design, manufacture, and market a “Smart” watch.  The GERD likes watches. He had one of those LCD watches back “In the day”.  You know the one you had to push the button to see the time.  So, the GERD’s been geeking on watches for some time.  In the last several years it’s been difficult to find a good digital (“less than Smart”) watch.  I define a good watch as one that has several time zones, a countdown timer, stopwatch, and a display that lists day and date; a nice look, comfortable band, and a size smaller than a dinner plate is also desired.

With the explosion of “Tiny Technology” in the last several years, the poor old watch was left behind.  Computers, tablets, music players, and Blue Tooth headsets have all grown in capability while shrinking in size.  Your average 7” tablet has far more computing power than the Apollo Capsule that took men to the moon.  Where is the technological evolution for the watch?

Enter the Pebble… an interesting name for a really big technological achievement.  Leveraging existing technology in an innovative package, the Pebble will push everyone else interested in claiming a piece of this growing market to be better.  I read about this new watch several months ago because it was a “crowd sourcing” effort.  The developers obtained the needed funding (within six days, the project had become the most funded project in the history of Kickstarter) and produced the first prototype.

Those who invested were the first to get the new product.  However, the “little Pebble that could” was beset by some initial difficulties – some failed to work at all.  The Pebble team kept working, making improvements and released its first mass produced version in Jan 2013.  In May 2013, the Pebble team released the full Software Development Kit (SDK) which allows third party developers to write programs for the Pebble – this is where the success or failure of this effort lies – without aggressive third-party app support the Pebble is a nice looking but expensive ($150) simplistic watch.

During a recent road trip the GERD got his Pebble on after a visit to a Best Buy near Malbis, Alabama.  Finding these little jewels at a store has been difficult – until recently Best Buy was the only retailer to carry them (AT&T recently announced they will start selling them as well).  You can get them online, but the GERD was hesitant to invest blindly in a new gadget with a history of problems.

I’ve been Pebbleing for several weeks now.  It has a great, easy to see and read display; setup was a snap and it linked to my Galaxy S3 without a hitch.  I love the alert – the watch vibrates (quite strongly) rather than making a sound for incoming emails, instant messages, clock alarms, or anything else you set up.  No sound to embarrass you in a crowd (like those annoying phone ringtones!)  Battery life is rated at 7 days between charges – I’ve seen nothing to dispute that although the GERD does tend to charge his gadgets frequently.

The Pebble downside:  It has a unique charging attachment, violating one of the GERD’s Gadget rules.  Don’t lose it or you will be buying another one.  The Pebble lacks of some basic watch functions; stopwatch, countdown timer, and multiple time zone support (although when linked by Blue Tooth to your Cell Phone it changes time as your phone does in new time zones; in a stand-alone mode, you have to manually change the time.)  Hopefully the third party app developers will come up with these functions, or the Pebble team will add them in a future software update.  Speaking of third party apps, at present there are only a few apps, my unscientific review found approximately 100.  Some of these are pure fluff (fancy watch faces), some relatively useful (Calendar, agenda, SMS list).  Go to the Google Play Store to look for yourself if you’re pondering a potential Pebble purchase.

Bottom line: I like my Pebble, but I want it to get better.  Pebble Developers – Add those basic watch functions and keep the third party app developers working nights and weekends and you just may show Apple and Sony a thing or two!


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