Trying the Pebble
Published on 01 May 2014
I wore the Pebble for about a month.
The charger itself is magnetic but is a bit flimsy when attached. It's easy for it to be knocked off and to stop charging.
When I first opened the box, the Pebble wasn't charged but pressing any of the buttons doesn't give you any sort of "please charge" message that I'm used to on an iDevice. This was a bit confusing since it took a while when plugged into the charger to display anything leaving me wondering if I had connected the charger properly.
A fairly painless process going through the Bluetooth menu on the phone although it was slightly clumsy since:
- you start the process in the dedicated Pebble native app on the phone (which you have to download from the App Store first)
- switch to the Bluetooth menu in System Preferences to do the actual Bluetooth pairing
- Then switch back to the Pebble app to complete the process
After the initial pairing reconnecting was smooth and happened automatically. The device has a unique ID which appears in the Bluetooth menu that let's you identify it e.g. "Pebble 2BFD". The app also tells you whether it's connected or not.
In "watch mode" when the watch is showing a clock face, two of the physical buttons will flip through the installed clock faces which is a totally useless feature. I guess it's intended to be able to show off the futuristic watch faces to your friends, none of which are that nice. Although more can be downloaded from the Pebble app store.
The menu system was easy to navigate using the three physical buttons. Installing new watch apps (of which there were very few and none which I thought were useful) is done via the phone app. You browse the Pebble app store, choose your app and it's uploaded to the Pebble device.
The watch vibrated whenever I got a text message and displayed the text of the message on the screen. This meant that anyone glancing at my wrist could see my messages. When a message is dismissed there's no way to get it back.
The bigger issue is that for text messages at least, I found that I tended to read a message on the Pebble and then immediately get my phone out of my pocket to reply to the message rendering the Pebble part of the interaction useless. Perhaps it's useful for those who get messages but don't reply?
This might be a use case for email notifications but I'd imagine that the volume of notifications on the tiny screen would soon be overwhelming unless they were filtered by some sort of importance metric. It sounds like a recipe for more stress to me.
Notifications work with any app that triggers a notification on the phone. So, you can get notifications when anyone mentions you on Twitter for example.
When playing media on the paired phone, the Pebble displays the title of the item playing and allows basic playback control such as pause/skip. This was quite useful although most headphones have you covered with the pause/skip functionality.
The Pebble was running out of battery one morning so I left it plugged in and never put it back on. I found that getting notifications on my wrist was very distracting. I carry my phone in my pocket and it vibrates when I get a notification. Because of the greater effort to take it out of my pocket I can choose to ignore it when I'm busy but the Pebble makes it so easy to check it's difficult to do that.
The device itself is solid but not particularly attractive and the app-based approach means that it might become useful to me as people explore the balance of interruption and utility in new apps.