The wearable tech fad is very close to getting huge right now. Far from simply strapping an iPod to your arm, the promise of a near-future populace adorned with Google Glass is an exciting one, albeit potentially expensive. For now, the trend towards Smart Watches is gaining ground with only a few to pick from. The Pebble began as a pretty bold Kickstarter campaign whose popularity prevents retailers from stocking more than a few at a time and tend to sell out quickly.
In a nutshell, The Pebble is a Bluetooth connected Smart Watch, easily paired to either an Android or iOS phone. Obviously, telling the time is its primary function and does so without needing to be paired, but this little wunderkind can also alert you of incoming messages, calls, display the weather, control music playback and even play simple games. They key to The Pebble’s flexibility is its open-source core and a budding developers community is guaranteeing no shortage of new apps and custom watch faces every week.
The device itself has a largish rectangular face, bigger than what you might expect, with three buttons on the right and one on the left above contacts for the charge cable. Each has a default function (home screen, scroll up/down, menu) but each can be tailored to the developer’s whim. Its face is a low power-consuming e-ink display with a backlight protected by a scratch and shatter resistant glass. A basic, rubber watch band is included, but can be replaced by most standard fitting bands.
The watch does need to be regularly charged with an included, though non standard, USB charge cable that attaches to the side of the watch using magnets. That said, battery life is excellent. Even after using one of the more power-hungry watch faces (time, day, weather, sun up, sun down, message totals), I’m still going 5 days between charges.
I realize how lazy it sounds enjoying the freedom of not having to pull one’s phone from their pocket to read a text, but I frequently leave my phone on vibrate and even in my back pocket, I’ll miss calls. It’s near impossible to miss your wrist vibrating, so I know when every email, text and call comes in. Notifications can be configured as you see fit, so if you don’t want to get buzzed every time someone likes a photo on your Facebook page, you can kill that function without losing caller ID displays or new emails.
For $150, it seems a bit much though. The buttons have a mushy feel to them and are a lot bigger than they need to be. The band is cheap at best (likely to keep the overall price down) so you’ll probably want to replace it with something a little more comfortable, if not stylish. The overall design favors function over form, resembling a tiny smartphone more so than a traditional watch. In other words, it’s kind of ugly.
The Pebble is not for everyone. Open-source loving tech heads will love the flexibility and customizable options, but it’s not a device you’re likely to find on your average Joe’s wrist. It’s the first of its kind and I’m sure future iterations and a growing competitive market will lead to improvements, but for now it’s a cool little geeky device for those with a little extra spending cash and a penchant for tech-toys. According to a recent press release, AT&T will start rolling out the watch as a carrier exclusive in their retail locations and online starting September 27, but Best Buy has had them for several months now.